A question that comes up often in worship leader conversations, especially from those who lead youth, is “How do I get them excited about worship when I’m not an “excited” personality type?”
In other words, many worship leaders are coached to “pump up the hype” so that the congregation will follow suit. Have you ever experienced a situation where you felt like the worship leader was doing hype for hype’s sake? How many times have WE as worship leaders forced a “put your hands together” or “lift your hands if you’re excited” or “sing it louder” into our vocal cues?
Now, hear me out: there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with encouraging our folks to be more expressive. There is absolutely nothing wrong with modeling and coaching outward worship expression.
Where it becomes a little tricky (and can be wrong) is when we try and manufacture energy for the sake of having a high energy environment.
Here are three thoughts to consider when approaching this aspect of leading worship:
1) Leading Worship should be AUTHENTIC:
People can see straight through “the motions” we go through to get more engagement if they are not authentic. As a pretty introverted personality, I have a hard time being the loud and excited cheerleader type when I’m leading worship. So, I don’t try and fake it. I just do what I do. I am what I am.
In between songs (occasionally) I’ll share a thought or a prayer. Yes, I give vocal cues, and there are times when I think (after the fact) that I just inserted a forced vocal cue because people were just staring. Nobody’s perfect! But what I’m learning, is that leading worship should be from a posture of experience. We don’t lead well (or at all) if we are not already plugged into a lifestyle of consistent worship (through prayer, study, fellowship, and musical worship).
People want to be led by someone who is genuine. Not perfect, but authentic.
2) Leading Worship should point people to things they CAN get excited about.
Instead of trying to “make” people clap or jump up and down with high energy songs or vocal cues, we should spend more time focusing on the things for which we can be grateful. We should turn our eyes to God’s promises for us, His great love for us, the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. When we just barrel right into a song and expect people to dive headfirst into joyous expressions of praise and worship, we miss an opportunity to actually help people focus on things they CAN get excited about.
Honestly, the arrangement of the song, the guitar tones, the synth riffs, and the drum fills are NOT what we should expect people to get excited about. Those are just tools to frame the REAL things.
There will be a small minority who are excited about musical worship. They will jump up and clap and lift their hands, singing at the top of their lungs. This is the exception. Most of us need to remind ourselves that “it is good to sing our praise to the Lord” (Psalm 147:1).
We need to help people see that they DO have reason to be thankful and that it’s OK to get excited about it. Most mornings when I lead worship, I remind myself of the simple fact that it is a beautiful day that the Lord has made, and we can rejoice and be glad! We can join our faith together, and join a universal family all over the world in declaring our praise to the One who loves us!
This comes out in a simple statement that sounds like:
“It is a beautiful day to gather together with family and friends to worship! Let’s join our faith and our voices and praise our God!”
It’s a simple call to worship. It’s not over-hyped. It’s just a simple statement.
3) Leading Worship is NOT about the type of performance where you become someone else.
A simple definition of performance is rendering music by singing and playing. That’s not the definition we’re talking about. That’s actually why we believe that to “perform” isn’t a bad thing. All worship musicians, singers, and leaders are performers by definition.
It’s the OTHER shade of the word performance that gets us in trouble. Putting on a play, a mask, acting to become (or portray) something or someone you’re not. We DO NOT want to be this type of a performer when it comes to leading worship.
You should never have to “fake it until you make it.” There might seem to be a subtle difference between. Acting in faith and faking it. But the two are VERY different. We should not feel any pressure to be something we’re not when we stand in front of God’s people to lead them.
However, we SHOULD be able to walk confidently in faith. If I’m not happy that morning, it doesn’t mean that I should fake being happy. It means that I should find JOY in Jesus.
If I’m not “feeling” like I am worthy to lead worship, it doesn’t mean I should put on an “everything’s ok” mask and fake it. It means that I should walk in faith and be reassured that apart from God I am NOT worthy, but through the work of JESUS CHRIST, He will work and lead through me by His Spirit.
If I don’t feel worshipful, if I’m distracted, I shouldn’t fake being enthralled in God’s presence. I should arrest my thoughts, take them captive and allow God to shape and mold me by His Spirit.
But Shouldn’t I “Be All Things to All People?”
In a recent forum post, someone conveyed that leadership felt manipulative because they used the “be all things” passage from 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 to justify “faking the energy” so that the crowd would be “led” well.
Being all things to all people doesn’t mean faking it. It means being effective for the Kingdom and finding and reaching people where they are. A better verse to use in encouraging and coaching this young worship leader would have been 1 Timothy 1:6-8 which talks about fanning into flame the gift of God that was received. It also encourages boldness (not timidity).
We should teach and coach our young worship leaders to be BOLDLY AUTHENTIC. To remind themselves to stir up the gift within. How do they do that? I think it’s simple. Remembering the promises of God. Being thankful for the things He’s done for us. Acting in faith and gratitude for the things He WILL do for us.