Ever wonder why your people just stand there and watch worship instead of entering into it? Are you hearing more complaints than kudos on your worship leading? Is your Lead Pastor beginning to say things like, “Our people just aren’t worshiping like they used to…”? If you answered YES to any of the above, read on. I think I have some things that could help you avoid some issues that may lie ahead and help you take your congregation even deeper in worship over time.
Aside from making sure your own heart is in a place of surrender and worship to Jesus, I’ve found that there are at least three very practical things you can do to take your congregation even deeper in worship. They may be simple, but sometimes they’re hard to remember and we can get sidetracked with the latest worship trends and fashions, ultimately missing out on some great worship moments.
First, drop the Green Room Syndrome. I’m not sure where it started, but walking out on stage like you’re Chris Tomlin at Passion or some rock star as service begins is a distancing mechanism you don’t need. Keeping yourself backstage until service starts only creates a chasm between the stage and the pews or chairs, so I recommend you and the team mill around for thirty minutes or so before service starts, if possible, to mingle with people coming in and minister to them BEFORE you try to lead them in songs. If you’re waiting till right before service starts to do your major praying for the service, you’re already too late. Drop the Green Room thing, Get out with the people. Love them. Serve them.
Second, sing what your people love to sing. I’ve made this mistake far too many times (and I apologize to all who suffered under this in my ministry). Lifeway creates all kinds of wonderful songs and worship resources, but not all songs and resources are right for your people. Use the ones that work the best and you’ll get a better response. Instead of resisting “traditional hymns,” look at them as a way to open your people’s hearts to newer expressions and use them often. As the saying goes, “Every mile of victory is won an inch at a time.” Forcing new songs on your church doesn’t help, even if it’s what you really want to do. Be sensitive. Sing what lights your people up and then help them love some new things with patience and have some grace for where they are.
Third, seek total agreement with your Lead Pastor on what worship looks like for your church. There’ve been times I found myself at odds with leadership on styles and function of worship. It didn’t go well for anyone. As a creative leader, I’ve had some strong ideas that I had trouble letting go of because I knew they were going to be “awesome,” but the pastor didn’t agree. Sometimes I’ve gone ahead and sometimes I’ve acquiesced. The times I’ve gone ahead have all ended up in a bad way. No matter how creative, cool, modern, or hip I thought I was being, disagreement with leadership is a very bad idea. Humbling ourselves and seeking complete unity with our leaders is the only way to go, even though it means dying to some of the fun things we might want to do. Get in agreement. Seek unity. Pursue love and that will spill over into the congregation as they see you working side by side for the common good. In the end, the pastor is the real worship leader, not you.
Working even a little each week on these three things will sensitize you to the hearts and needs of the people in your congregation and begin to open them to newer expressions of worship as you honor the ones they already love. Unity is our mandate from Jesus (John 17) and it honors Him when we honor the leaders He has placed above us. Take your congregation even deeper and become a better leader as you practice these three things each week.
John Chisum is a long-time Christian music business professional, ordained minister, songwriter, publisher, and worship leader. He is the former Director of Song Development and Copyright for Integrity Media, and the former Vice-president of Publishing for Star Song Communications. John has managed dozens of professional Christian songwriters such as Paul Baloche, Lynn DeShazo, Gary Sadler, and many others, and has had over 400 of his own songs recorded. Along with his business career, John is an internationally respected worship leader and has traveled over one-million miles in ministry worldwide, while constantly serving in local churches over the last 30 years. He holds a Masters of Arts in Worship Studies from Liberty University. John and his wife, Donna, have been married for 36 years and live in the Nashville area.