Engagement. It's a word we use a lot when it comes to worship, don't we?
Because it's important. Corporate worship isn't about finding our own voice as worship leaders. It's about helping the church find theirs. Worship leadership is mostly about getting out of our own way.
As I've traveled the country this last year, there's many lessons I've learned about worship. What I've noticed about great worship teams and worship leaders is their effectiveness depends on their ability to help people feel a part of the experience. I've been in churches where the music is incredible but everyone is watching. And I've also been in situations where the music is horrendous and people are watching. It goes both ways.
The best teams? It's not always because of standout talent. Sure, a one-of-a-kind voice can light up a room, but that's not what we're after in worship. We don't want our churches to depend on a talent or ride the emotional high of songs. We want to lead them to spirit and truth, simple, pure, Christ-exalting worship that prepares them to worship in the real world.
8 Habits of Engaging Worship Leaders
Here's what I've noticed about the best teams and the best worship leaders:
1. They Ignore the Fear: Standing in front of a room is never easy. It brings a certain degree of anxiety, no matter who you are. But great leaders understand that their leadership isn't about them. It's about people connecting with Jesus. Therefore, they learn to ignore the fear and bring the boldness that the moment needs.
2. They Actually Worship: The best worship leaders don't just worship because it's their job. As cliche as it sounds, it has become a way of life. Expressive worship on stage isn't a show. These leaders cultivate a consistency of actually desiring the presence of God and looking forward to the corporate display of His greatness. The quality of their private worship outweighs the display of public worship.
3. They Have a Real Relationship With God: Great leaders are moved by the gospel. And it shows. Great leaders have a history in God and daily walk with Jesus that goes beyond ministry and performance. They read their Bible. They cultivate a life of prayer. Spiritual disciplines are important to them.
4. They Pay Attention to their Stage Presence: This may irritate you, but the best leaders are aware of how they appear. I'm not speaking from a fashion sense, though that is a common joke among worship leaders. Stage presence is important because we are leading people. And great leaders work on it. A great stage presence is expressing what the song says. If it's a celebratory anthem of praise, there is movement, excitement and energy. If it's a slow, intimate song of encounter, there is a different type of movement, energy and desperation. Many leaders look bored, distant and checked out. Others appear to be over-performing at a talent show. The best leaders are aware of their tendencies and work to become better.
5. They Are Open to Criticism & Feedback: This may be one of the most important. Effective leaders never settle or arrive. There's always something to improve. This teachability creates a light personality that is easy to be around. The opposite is also true. If you know everything, you stop developing, decrease your effectiveness, and are cut yourself off from people. Be open to your team's input, your pastor's input and your spouse's feedback. Don't just be open to it; seek it out.
6. They Are Constantly Improving Their Craft: I've noticed how great leaders are always innovating. They don't settle or get set in their ways. I've noticed this about my pastor. While he knows who he is and what he's called to do, he's always surrounded himself with younger leaders to help him stay current. The method changes, but the message does not. Worship leaders, always be learning new instruments, studying new approaches, writing new songs, utilizing new technology. It will keep you fresh.
7. They Use Vocal Cues: The best worship leaders don't just sing worship songs well. They lead. Sounds like common sense, doesn't it? But you'd be surprised at how many don't do this. One of the most practical ways to do this is to use vocal cues in your leading. You are more of a coach than you are a performer. A performer is concerned with their own activity on stage—nailing the part. A coach is concerned with the performance of the whole team. Start seeing your congregation as the choir you are conducting, the team you are leading. This will change the way you lead worship.
8. They Build a Team: You know what's probably most interesting about the best leaders? They aren't the most talented in the room. They've developed an emotional maturity and kingdom mindset that enables them to release others into their calling. They aren't performers, clawing at keeping their position. They make discipling, leading others who are better than them and guarding a healthy team culture. What's even more special is how these developing leaders look a lot like the main worship pastor. It's because there's a culture of development, and they are passing down what they know.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. What would you add to list of an engaging worship leader? Let's talk about it in the comments.
David Santistevan is a worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
This article originally appeared at davidsantistevan.com.
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