The Five Essentials of Leading Small Group Worship

1Leading worship in a small group setting can be one the most terrifying experiences. Even for worship leaders who have no problem leading 1,000 people with a full band, being asked to bring your guitar or keyboard and lead 8 people can send them into a cold sweat.

Have no fear. Leading worship for small groups shouldn’t make you scared. These can be some of the most simple, sweet, and genuine times of worship. All you need to do is prepare, relax, and go with the flow. And a few more things too. Five things actually.

1. Choose familiar songs
Yes, this is an obvious one. But it’s worth repeating. Choose songs that you can be sure 95% of the room knows. Preferably 100%. This probably means rewinding a decade (or more) back. That’s fine. You want people to sing, right? You don’t want it to be awkward, right? Then choose familiar songs. Let them learn the new songs on Sunday morning. Or buy them all a worship CD and say you’re going to start singing some of those songs in three months. Seriously. Choose familiar songs even if it means you’re back in the 70s.

2. Choose lower keys
What seems comfortable in a big room with a big band and a sound system might not feel comfortable in someone’s living room. Generally, I drop most songs by a whole step when I lead worship in a small group setting. No one will complain. If they do, they’re crazy. Lower the keys so people can sing comfortably and not feel embarrassed.

3. Print out the lyrics
Don’t mess with a computer / cable / projector / operator / PowerPoint / table / screen / extension chord. Go old-school and print out the lyrics. The other advantage is that people will have a security blanket. You don’t want to give them a security blanket? Then they won’t sing. Lay down your idol of coolness when you lead for a small group. Nobody cares.

4. Shorter is sweeter
The small group leader says you can go for 15 minutes? Go 12. He says you can go for 10 minutes? Go 8. Leave them hungry and wanting more. Don’t leave them wishing you’d shut up. Build familiarity, trust, and confidence. Then (and only then) you can start adding songs and going a bit longer. I said a bit.

5. Take yourself lightly
You’re right in the middle of a sweet, quiet, gentle song and your 3-year-old runs into the room and says she has to go poo-poo. That’s hilarious, isn’t it? Yes, it is. It’s hilarious. So laugh about it. Put your guitar down and help her. Or maybe someone’s phone rings, or maybe you start the song too high, or maybe your guitar is out-of-tune. Laugh about it. You’d have a much harder time doing this with 1,000 people in the room. So prepare, relax, and go with the flow. Jesus is in your midst and he is loving every minute of it.

Any other suggestions from my small-group or small-church worship leading friends?

7 thoughts on “The Five Essentials of Leading Small Group Worship

  1. toddwright January 29, 2013 / 3:41 pm

    Great tips here…lowering keys is excellent advice for us. I love this blog!

    • Jamie Brown January 29, 2013 / 3:43 pm

      I love your blog too, Todd. Any fellow 90’s Carman-fanatic is a friend of mine.

      • toddwright January 29, 2013 / 4:04 pm

        Hey, hey, hey…wait a second. First the Carman thing, then the TBN piano twitpic. I thought you were Anglican, man.

        Lets write together soon!

  2. Rob January 29, 2013 / 5:58 pm

    …My baptist background makes me want to hate the change to your blog…but it looks good

    • Jamie Brown January 29, 2013 / 6:23 pm

      I figured that after 3 1/2 years it was time for a change! I’m biting my tongue and will not make any baptist jokes.

      • Rob January 29, 2013 / 10:16 pm

        It’s ok Jamie. I’m Evangelical Free now. My church will pour, sprinkle, or dip people. On a serious note, how many baptist does it really take to change a lightbulb? đŸ˜‰

  3. Jason Sessoms January 30, 2013 / 9:45 am

    This is by far one of the most practical worship blogs I read. Thanks so much for your desire to lead well and help others do so.

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