Worship leaders, we’ve put together the definitive fashion guide for you as we enter into the new year. We know that choosing which upbeat praise song or what key to do your closing response time can take a lot of planning and energy, so we’ve put together an easy-to-follow step by step action plan to help you in choosing your wardrobe for leading worship.
You can also use this guide to help steer your “don’t-tell-me-what-to-wear” or “I’m-expressing-myself-through-clothes” worship team members in the right direction when it comes to presenting themselves in an appropriate fashion before the congregation. Maybe you’ve got some older members who think that pastel plaid pants are the right choice. Or maybe you’ve got some younger members who think skin tight skinny jeans and pointy elf shoes are appropriate. Or maybe you’ve got some folks who think dress casual means a halter top and a cowboy hat.
It doesn’t matter. This is a one size fits all approach to worship leading fashion that will have every single member of your team, youngest to oldest, looking the way they should when it comes time to come out of the green room, maintenance room, storage closet, hallway, or whatever space your church has set aside for your worship team to prepare in.
When that first note is played or sung, you’ll want to make sure that you and your entire team are wearing these…
Worship leaders and those leading worship should be compassionate towards the people they are “leading.” This word means to feel a deep pity or sympathy towards. In fact, this particular word carries with it a strong imagery of being moved in the “bowels” or, simply stated, to be moved within the depths of your being to help someone.
Do you want to help the people you are leading? In your congregations are many different people who are at different points of a journey of knowing and becoming more like Christ. It’s our great privilege to use music to a) point people to who God is through direct vertical worship and b) serve them in teaching them about faith and their own walk and how it relates to the Body through songs of truth and Scriptural proclamation.
Make sure that you know that your place in the Body is a role that exists to help people express their worship. Worship leaders don’t make people worship. Worship leaders create spaces for people to join together to corporately express their worship. The gifts God has given worship leaders aren’t for their glory, but for His. Pray that your gifts inspire people towards God! You want people to see you and know you for wearing compassion that comes from the Lord!
Worship leaders should be filled with kindness. But this isn’t just your everyday garden variety of kindness, though, this word kindness means to be useful, gentle, and pleasant. The imagery this word carries is that of something that provides benefit and is suitable for use. In other words, we as worship leaders are to be a benefit to our faith families. We are to be useful.
Do people benefit from the spaces that you create through music? Is the time of musical worship helpful to them? Does it build their faith? Does it increase their understanding and awareness of who God is and who they are to Him? Do they understand that collective singing and worship is beneficial to them?
To be kind, in this sense, means that you are in tune with their needs. It means that you honor them by providing a suitable space where they can express their worship. If your worship sets are filled with the latest modern rock worship anthems and your congregation prefers simply arranged traditional hymns, what use are you to them? If your congregation appreciates acoustic guitar driven folk music and you only present electronic synth and drum loop oriented pop music, how does that benefit them?
If we are to lead well, we should prefer our congregations above our own preferences. Sometimes, but not every time, this means crafting worship music times that are built around setlists that are not our personal preferences. If this is happening, and you are doing this from a true heart to serve them, then you’re being beneficial…you’re wearing kindness. And that never goes out of style, even if the songs you’re singing were written in the last century.
Those leading worship should also seek to wear humility. Be humble. The word in this sense means to be low inside, to possess an inner lowliness. The imagery that is attached to this word means to be not far from the ground. It carries this shade of meaning with it: the person who depends on the Lord rather than self.
This is not a beating up of oneself, but a moving oneself out of the way. Typically, humility carries with it the idea that one is humbled so that God can be exalted, and as a result one’s worth is also exalted because it is a true worth (determined and bestowed by God).
This doesn’t mean hiding away or making oneself unavailable to be useful. It means understanding that the gifts God has given us are for His glory and when we defer to Him He exalts. A worship leader that helps faith families express their worship with authentic and sincere compassion and kindness will have true worth.
Jesus was gentle and humble in heart. Even as The Son of God with all the power in the universe available to Him, He deferred to the Father over and over again.
We, too, should continuously depend on the Lord rather than ourselves. When you begin to understand and live in the notion that God has given you talents and skills to use to bless Him and to serve others…you’re wearing humility. And wearing humility is like wearing an infinitely stylish outfit, it never goes out of style.
If you’re responsible for leading your community in worship, then gentleness should always be in your wardrobe. It should be something you strive to be always wearing. This word comes from a word that means meekness. But not the blue-eyed, blonde-haired, soft, wimpy Hollywood Jesus kind of meekness that for some reason has associated itself with the word meek. This meekness is powerful. It means to express power with reserve and strength. It’s a “gentle strength.”
Gentleness means to believe what you believe is inspired by God. It means acting on that belief and inspiration. To be a “gentle” worship leader you should be inspired by God to lead your family. To be inspired by God in your leadership you should be connected to God. To be connected to God, you should spend time with God.
The power that is available to express this gentle strength comes only from divine intervention. It’s not something you can drum up. Trying to operate in power apart from the Holy Spirit only brings pride and death. The gentle worship leader does not push or drive his faith family where they don’t need to go. She doesn’t build a worship set based solely on what’s popular or what she likes.
This gentle leader asks God to inspire his or her actions and expresses leadership with a gentle strength. Lead, don’t push. Inspire, don’t annoy. Be gentle, because Jesus was gentle. Wearing the latest scarf or hipster hat doesn’t make you a better leader…wearing gentleness does.
Worship leaders need more patience. This word means long-suffering or forbearance. These are fancy words that mean waiting a long time before expressing anger. Specifically, as it relates to a Believer, it means relying on GOD’s long-suffering and forbearance. Only God can produce this divine “waiting” within us.
When Mr. Traditional Hymns Guy comes up to us and scolds us for not doing enough Fanny Crosby songs – we should wait. When Miss Prophetic Free Flowing Worship Lady comes up to us and criticizes our worship sets for being too “planned” – we should wait. When Mr. Too Cool For School wonders aloud why there are “uncool” older folks in our band – we should wait. When Mrs. I Can’t Hear The Pipe Organ Over Your Guitars tells us every week the music is too loud – we should wait. When Pastor So and So micromanages our setlists – we should wait. When Elder So and So thinks we should do this or that – we should wait. When the committee says no or yes or whatever is the opposite of what our hearts feel inspired to do – we should wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.
Wait for what? Sit around and be a doormat? Absolutely not. See the above item for how to wear meekness.
We should allow God to produce patience in us. When we are too quick to act, too quick to respond, too quick to anger, we allow the enemy a foothold. Seeds of bitterness can take root and grow up quickly. Resentment can set in and change our worldview. Our outlook can become tainted. But, when we are patient we have opportunity to honor those we disagree with.
These are all negative examples of when someone comes to criticize or bring feedback that we don’t agree with. But there are other examples where we need divine patience. When we are mentoring and coaching up young musicians and singers who will be learning how to lead worship. Some of the most frustrating times I’ve experienced in my years of coaching young worship leaders have also been some of my most fulfilling times. Those times where I just wanted to give up and quit eventually became times where God produced great fruit – in my life, but especially in the life of those I was working with.
Wear patience. It’s always in style. In fact, in this busy day and age of convenience and quick gratification, when we see a timeless, classy item like patience on a person, sometimes it can catch us off guard. Be patient. Allow the Lord to produce patience in you. Ultimately it’s that divine patience that produces the good fruit.
DRESSED IN THE BEST
So there you have it, these items from Colossians 3:12 never go out of style. If you choose to keep these in your wardrobe, and to remind yourselves daily to put these on, you will be the best “dressed” worship leader in the room. But hey, it’s not a competition, we ALL should be dressed in the best! And these things which are all gifts from God are fruit that is produced when we recognize that being a worship leader, being a Believer, even, is all about learning who we are in God. These wardrobe items are all available to use because we are IN Christ. Sometimes we have to just open our eyes and receive those things that are freely available to us. Sometimes it requires learning and growing, taking steps to allow God to produce fruit.
Russ Hutto is the Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church, where he mentors, oversees and helps lead Family and Student worship environments. He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community and at HighestPraise.com.