Leading Worship Without A Microphone


In my opinion, the primary function of the music ministry in our worship services is to do our best to create a distraction-free environment where people can experience and glorify our loving, living God and the life-changing power of grace through His Holy Spirit. At our church the mission slogan is: “Evangelize Seekers, Edify Believers and Glorify God”.

The question is: “How do we best accomplish this?” Is the answer as simple as having great musicians and singers and then letting God take care of the rest? I think we all know that answer is only half true. Yes, God will take what we authentically and humbly offer and use it for His purposes and glory but every church has the people they have and unless you hire out, you’re not always going to be blessed with the most gifted musicians and singers on the planet.

The good news is that whomever we have, whatever level of talent we, or they, may possess the playing field of worship leading is surprisingly level. To be a “great” worship leader we don’t need to be a great musician or a great singer. The reality is that we don’t ever have to step up to the microphone. (One caveat here: we don’t want to create distractions during worship so do you and your congregation a favor – if you utilize only one or two singers on any given Sunday, choose the best available to you!) Moving along…there is one prerequisite we DO need to have.

We need to be a great worshiper with the ability to communicate the love of Jesus and what He has done in our lives to those we are ministering to. There are a lot of definitions of what a “great worshiper” is and there are a lot of people a lot smarter than me who have done a lot better job writing at a deep level about the spiritual and theological qualities of a great worshiper such as authenticity, humility, brokenness etc. For the sake of argument, I’m assuming that we all realize this and are constantly striving to make these qualities part of our ‘worshiper DNA’ so I don’t want to get into that now. I would, however, like to focus a bit on what being a great worshiper may look like on Sunday morning…without a mic.

More and more, it seems, worship teams are singing less. What I mean by that is, although we may have several singers on stage during our worship time, we don’t necessarily need to have everyone singing everything on a microphone all of the time.

To me this is a welcomed change. All too often when we have groups of people singing unison all on a mic during, for example, the verses of a worship song, it becomes too homogenous and watered down. To me, the intimacy of any given lyric gets lost in translation when there are too many people on microphones singing the same thing. As a result, the potential power and impact of the song suffers. There are many exceptions to this but, again, that’s not what this article is about. It’s about what to do as a worship leader or worship vocalist when we’re not on a microphone.

Following are four things to consider.

1) Sing away

I want to emphasize that just because we’re not on a microphone doesn’t mean that we should stop singing. Quite the opposite. Praise is praise and God still hears us. Also, when we sing off-mic it cues the congregation to sing too. Otherwise, they may think that whoever IS singing is soloing and they shouldn’t participate. If I am the only one singing I often ask everyone in the congregation to sing along with me. Simple phrases such as, “Let’s sing together” or “join with me” will give permission for the church to sing too.

2) Instrumental breaks; they aren’t just for musicians anymore

During times of an extending intro, outro, transition or instrumental solo, simply rest in, bathe in and enjoy His presence. This will look differently on different people. The point is that we can still engage in and communicate a spirit of worship without words. Often I will pray out loud off-mic during these times just thanking God for something He is doing in my life or at the moment. Sometimes I pray for the congregation as a whole or individuals in our midst who I know personally that need healing, comfort, strength, revelation, revival etc. Sometimes it’s best to just “be still and know….”. It’s OK to engage with the others on stage. There’s nothing wrong with an acknowledging smile to those around us that says; “Hey, isn’t it great to be worshipping God all together?”

3) Understand that being heard isn’t as important as being humble

Leading worship is less about singing and more about communicating. If our understanding is that in order for me to lead I need to be heard, we’re missing the point. The real reason we’re there is to help people engage with God, to show what our
relationship with Him means to us and offer to take them, through the music, to a place where it’s no longer about us but all about Him.

4) Reality check

If we behave or express ourselves differently off a mic than on a mic then we need to examine our intentions. “Why am I doing this? Oh, yeah, to show others that the God we serve and sing about is awesome and worthy of our praise!” In fact, I find that when I’m not “on-mic” I am freed up from the responsibility of singing well and I can focus totally on worshipping well.

This is just something I’ve been thinking about lately and is only my humble opinion. As C.S. Lewis says repeatedly in Mere Christianity; “if it doesn’t help you, then forget it.”

Patrick DeRemer
Founder, PraiseVocals.com