At every stage of a worship leader’s ministry – when he’s first starting out at a church, when he’s attempting to change something, when he’s in the middle of a difficult season, or when he’s just faithfully serving a congregation for the eighth year in a row – building and maintaining trust with the congregation is key to his effectiveness.
A worship leader will be stuck spinning his wheels until he earns the trust of the people he’s been called to serve. Here are some practical suggestions of ways worship leaders can do this:
Watch What You Wear
It actually matters a good deal what you wear when you’re up front. If you’re underdressed, you’re running the risk of sending the message that you’re disrespectful and/or immature. If you’re overdressed, you might inadvertently come across as unapproachable. If you wear clothes that are inappropriately tight, or distractingly designed, you’ll become too much of a focus. Try to dress safely, predictably, and even boringly. If most men are wearing ties, then you should wear a tie. If most people are in jeans, you should be in jeans too. Dress appropriately for the congregation you’re leading. It will show them that you’re professional.
When You Can, Share Meals
If you’re leading worship at a service or event where a meal is served, seize that opportunity to sit down next to people you don’t know well and strike up a conversation. It will show them that you care, and it will help you get to know the people you’re leading.
Be There Consistently
It’s hard for a congregation to learn to trust a worship leader when he or she hardly ever leads. Regular, weekly, consistent leadership allows people to get used to your style, your voice, and your personality, and it lets you develop a relationship with them. It will show them you’re dependable.
Show Them You’re Safe
This is especially important when you’re first starting to lead worship at a church, or leading worship for a group of people who have never seen you before. Once you demonstrate that you’re not going to do anything crazy, that you’re prepared, and that you know where you’re going, their defenses will come down. It will show them you’re stable.
Anticipate Their Anxiety
Worship leaders can’t (and shouldn’t) attempt to read the congregation’s mind – but we should always be putting ourselves in their shoes and anticipating where they might start feeling anxious.
For example, I know that on a typical Sunday morning at my church, people are used to singing for about 20 – 25 minutes at the beginning of a service. There’s no reason for me to explain this every week. But if on a particular Sunday we wanted to have a longer time of singing that lasted for 40 – 45 minutes, it would be wise for one of the pastors or me to say something about why we were singing for longer than usual. If we didn’t, people might start to wonder after half an hour if we were ever going to stop!
Anticipate the congregation’s anxiety so you can help dissipate the congregation’s anxiety. It will show them you care for them.
I’ll share some more ways to build trust tomorrow.