Sometimes all you have to do as a worship leader to make it easier for people to follow you is know when to say some simple words. People will follow a person they can trust, a person who makes them feel at ease, a person who is looking out for them, and a person that is trying to make it easy for them to follow along.
Here are some examples of small words you can say that will make a big difference:
“If you’re able…”
When I’m leading music for a healing service, or a service where I’m aware there are people who can’t stand up and need to remain seated, I’ll say “if you’re able to stand, why don’t we stand together to sing”. You might use this phrase when you’re aware of a person or larger proportion of people who can’t participate with the majority of people. It helps them feel cared for, and it won’t bother the people to whom it doesn’t apply.
“If you’re comfortable…”
Obviously you don’t want to use this one all the time. But used intentionally and sparingly, it can help people if you say things like “if you’re comfortable, perhaps you want to open your hands in a posture of surrender to the Lord” or “if you’re comfortable, let’s clap our hands together as we sing”. You might use this phrase more often when you’re leading a reserved group of people in expressions of worship that might push the envelope a bit.
“We’re going to learn a new song…”
When I was first starting to lead worship, I used to introduce new songs by saying “I want to teach you a new song”. My youth pastor told me this was a bit annoying. It put the congregation in a position of being my students as opposed to my fellow-worshippers. Try phrasing things in a way that puts you all in the same boat.
“Let’s continue in worship…”
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard a worship leader get up after the sermon and say “let’s worship” or “now we’re going to worship”. News flash: the whole service should be seen as an act of corporate worship. The singing is one form – it’s not the only form. Your congregation will be served and your pastor will be honored if you phrase things in such a way that paint the whole service as being worship.
“Let’s sing that first verse again…”
Your congregation/lyrics operator/worship team can’t read your mind. If you know you’re going to go back to the first verse or back to the bridge, tell them that’s what you’re going to do, and give them the first three or four words.
“This song might be new to you…”
If you taught a song three weeks ago and haven’t done it since, you should treat it like it’s 90% new. Consider saying “we’re going to sing a song we learned a few weeks ago. It might be new to you, so we’ll sing the first verse a couple of times, and you can join in as you’re able”. The goal isn’t to baby people or say so much that you get in the way, but just to acknowledge that you know the song is new but that you’d really like them to sing.
“You can be seated”
If you’re the one who wraps up the time of singing and people are supposed to sit, you might as well tell them. If this isn’t an issue for your congregation and they just know when to stand and when to sit, that’s great. But sometimes people do appreciate being told what to do. Few things are more awkward in a service than half the people sitting, half the people standing, then those people sitting, then everyone being asked to stand again, etc.
A good host is mindful of how his guests are doing at all times. A good usher is there when you need him but invisible when you don’t. A good tour guide shows you the amazing sights and keeps you from wandering off, but otherwise gets out of the way. Sometimes being a good worship leader just means doing little things well, and those little things flow from keeping the people that you’re leading in mind.