The best way to grow in effective worship leading is to get as much experience as you can. You can’t rush it. Small groups, large groups, nursing homes, vacation bible schools, funerals, weddings, retreats, and Sunday mornings. Over the course of weeks and months and years, you’ll find yourself growing. And, hopefully, you’ll always be growing in your skill. If you ever think you’ve “arrived”, you’re mistaken. You’re probably in danger of a really embarrassing couple of services until you come to your senses.
But while growing in worship leading takes time, there are certain “tricks” that long-seasoned and very-beginning worship leaders alike can employ, regardless of how long or how briefly they’ve been doing it. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and these are listed in no order of importance.
The placebo mic
Let’s say you’ve just arrived in your job. You’ve inherited some singers whose voices are more suited for singing in the car – with no passengers – than singing in public. Asking them to step down from the team will start World War III. Talk to your sound engineer (if he’s trust worthy). Tell him you want that singer’s voice mixed solo. So lo you can’t hear it. Problem solved.
“Thank you so much”
Here are some things you might hear after a service: “That was just wonderful.” “That was my least favorite service in the history of time.” “I wish you would do more Bill Gaither songs.” “You remind me of a young Neil Diamond.” “I think you should do this song I heard on the radio.” “I couldn’t hear that singer standing next to you.” Your response? “Thank you so much.” Add on a brief conversation closer like “That’s very helpful” or “I’ll talk to my sound engineer” before closing with, you guessed it, “thank you so much”. Then repeat as needed until the person leaves.
Master your “I meant to do that” face
So you forget to do the last verse. You start off in the wrong key. Your string breaks and you have to switch guitars. You start to play your instrument but the pastor hasn’t finished talking. You sing the wrong words. You start a 4/4 song off in 3/4. Whatever your mistake is – unless it’s glaring – keep trucking. Act like you’ve got everything under control and you meant to do that, and 95% of the people won’t notice.
Less is more
I did a post on this a few months ago – but I’ll summarize it here. It’s better to leave people wanting more than to leave people begging you to stop. I’d rather end a set one song early than go one song too long. I have a hard time listening to my own advice on this one, but I try.
Don’t do too much new stuff
One new song: people will give it their best shot. Two new songs: people will try to muster enough energy to learn it, but won’t enjoy it. Three new songs: you’re pretty much on your own. Err on the side of choosing songs that the bulk of people will know. It will build capital and trust that you can then lean on and draw from when you teach something new.
You don’t have to say much
Don’t stress over what to say at the beginning, how to transition between songs, what to pray at the end, or what to say in between lines. There are really only two things you have to say: First, “let’s stand together and sing”, and second, “you can be seated”. If you’re comfortable saying more, and what you’re saying is helpful, then go ahead. But if you’re just not comfortable saying much, then don’t. Get them to stand, get them to sing, then get them to sit down.