When it comes to the role of a worship leader in any given church, we don’t all have the same philosophy of ministry. The job descriptions are as varied as doctrinal statements. And, so are the personalities and preferences of the worship leaders themselves. Some approach the role as “I’m standing up there to set an example of worship.” An extreme example of this is the leader who runs through song after song with his eyes closed, not giving any attention to the rest of the people in the room, and just hopes that they want to do what he’s doing. Others approach it with the thought “I’m up there to lead others in worship.” An extreme example might be the pro-active leader who tells everyone, every Sunday, to raise their hands in a song that mentions this expression of worship… or clap in a fast song… or… well, you get the picture.
With either mentality, we can not separate our role from the people we are responsible for leading. We have a primary responsibility to effectively engage others in worship – to set a tone that is hospitable, safe, and inviting.
We must remember that the overwhelming majority of those gathering in our buildings on Sunday mornings are not professional musicians. They are not soloists. They are not confident in their vocal abilities. And, yet, in order to fully participate in worship, we ask them to sing – like they mean it – loudly enough for their neighbors to hear them. (Can you feel them cringe when they walk in the door?)
How can we make this a pleasant experience? How can we encourage them? How can we better invite them in?
One small thing that will have a huge impact on our congregation, is eye-contact.
I recently had the opportunity to be a guest worship leader at a church I’d never stepped foot in before. Without having been introduced to the congregation, I led two of the songs in our worship set. I was aware of the fact that the church body had no idea who I was or why I was a part of the team that day. Even though I didn’t go through the “During this song, I want to invite you to…” spiel, I deliberately made eye contact with every corner of the room as we all sang the first song together. I looked at them. All of them. Of course, their eyes were on this stranger standing in front. They watched me. And, I took every opportunity to smile back, as if to say “I’m glad I’m here and I’m so glad you’re here with me. Let’s do this together.” I needed them to know that I wanted to connect with them. That I wanted them to participate. That I wanted to serve them. That I wanted to help them worship.
So, I looked at them.
By the time we began the second song, they were trusting and ready to deeply engage in worship with me. They didn’t know my name. They didn’t know where I lived. They didn’t know why I was there that day. But they knew, for that brief moment, that I was leading them in worship. And they followed.
Let me encourage you, whether you’re the head Worship Leader at your church or an alto in a choir of 80 members, look at those that you are asking to follow you. Let them know that you are aware of their presence. Connect with them. Invite them in. They will better follow. They will better worship. And you will better lead.