I’m still young, but call me old school. Worship leaders should act professionally. And they should help their teams/bands/choirs/volunteers/crew act professionally too. There should an atmosphere of professionalism around the people who serve up-front and/or behind the scenes in a worship service, across the spectrum of worship expressions from traditional robed-choirs to casual rock bands. Why? Because everything we do preaches a message. And sloppiness, unpreparedness, franticness, and too-cool-for-school-ness all preach a lack of a sense of honor: honor towards the people in the room, and honor towards the One to whom we’re (hopefully) pointing. We become ineffective when we lose our love for our congregations, and we become loud clanging cymbals.
I’ve led in all sorts of environments. From very traditional (suit and tie, choir, organ, handbells, liturgy) to very casual (jeans and a t-shirt, band, loud, informal), and I’m not advocating or pushing one style over another. I’m a Psalm 150 type of guy, who believes that God can use anything (and any kind of music) for his glory, and who considers context to be key when deciding what kind of music serves a particular group of people best.
And in every context a worship leader could be called into to serve, that calling is an honor. And those people need to see Jesus. And that worship leader can do certain things to help them see Jesus more clearly, or on the flip side, do things to draw attention to him/herself. And just as performancism is dangerous in pointing people towards the performers, so too is a lack of professionalism.
A worship leader who keeps things professional:
– Is well-prepared, and expects (and helps) the people on the platform with him/her to to be well-prepared as well.
– Doesn’t rehearse when people are coming in to be seated before a service starts. He/she knows when to stop.
– Doesn’t address the congregation like they’re stupid, or like they’re his/her buddies from high school, but like they’re adults and worthy of respect.
– Doesn’t dress in such a way that causes him to stand out like a flip-flop in a sea of tuxedos, or like a bow-tie in a sea of cargo shorts. He can adjust here and there so that he doesn’t go against the contextual grain, so to speak.
– Knows his/her parameters. You’ve been given 20 minutes? Go 19 minutes.
– Treats the technical volunteers/team with respect… not like they’re his/her roadies.
– Keeps the platform tidy (cleans up cluttered cables, leftover pizza boxes from rehearsal, and puts cases in the back during the service).
– Cares about/works toward the success of an entire service, not just their “worship set”.
– Is a team player. You’re not the star, you’re just one of the parts of a body.
A worship leader shouldn’t put on a facade, or assume a cherub-like perfectionism when he/she stands before a congregation, but they should certainly take on a heightened sensitivity towards avoiding acting in a flippant or annoying manner. From the high-church/smells-and-bells to the low-church/rock-and-roll environments, the people entrusted with leadership should pursue modeling a confident, humble, prepared, and professional approach to their role, within their unique contexts. Relax and be yourself, but do so with a servant’s heart for the people in the pews.
Acting in a professional manner helps accomplish one of the primary goals of worship leaders: that we can decrease, and that Jesus can increase. It reflects our love for the people we’re leading, and it helps make sure that only clanging cymbals our people are hearing are coming from the drum set.