There is no question that how we lead worship can greatly influence how people in our church perceive God and how they approach him in worship. We?ve all been in a service where the atmosphere feels very dry and the worship team just doesn?t feel very engaged.
After reflecting on my experience and after developing my own worship journey over the years, I have theorized that there are two main items with which worship leaders should be concerned: the message, and the response to the message.
Generally speaking, churches are good at conveying the message. Evangelical worship songs often have powerful, relatable lyrics that speak the truth of the gospel and reveal the dimensions of God. The problem is that we don?t always ?sell? what we?re singing. Often we are so focused on the overall execution of worship that we neglect the most important thing: the weight of our words. We sing that God has set us free. We sing that He is alive. We sing that he has removed all of our shame. We sing that His praise will ever be on our lips. But how do these messages affect us as worship leaders and worship team members? Are we making ourselves physically available to their impact?[quote]We don?t always ?sell? what we?re singing.[/quote]
These are messages of hope and encouragement, but all too often on our platforms they are met with countenances reflecting indifference or a lack of confidence. Wouldn?t it be better if we were able to display the messages we sing on our faces and our bodies? Wouldn?t it be better if we could wear our worship? Wouldn?t it be awesome to create a space where people feel free to smile, to dance, and to extend their arms to heaven?
Please understand, I am not suggesting that we manipulate our congregations into worshiping by jumping around like we are at a nightclub. But if we set out to sing declarative songs, we must really declare them with all we are. There isn?t any value in our lyrics if we don?t look like we believe in what we?re singing. Our response to the message is just as important as the message itself. From that perspective, I?d like to suggest some practical steps that will enable you as a worship leader to take the body language aspect of your worship to the next level.
Come to service prepared.
Your music should be second nature. It goes without saying that when you step on the platform to lead worship, you should have nothing on your mind but what Jesus has done for you. Know the music and know the weight of the lyrics. If you aren?t leading any songs, you must still know the lyrics of the songs front and back. You aren?t performing; you are being used by the Lord to speak to His people.
Aim to fully utilize the space around you.
No matter how small or large your stage is, there is always a ?box? around you that you can use. Mentally mark out the space you can use, and seek to use every part of it while you lead.
Worship through that rehearsal.
I find that if I don?t worship during my rehearsals and sound checks, it?s difficult to just ?turn it on? during service. This is especially critical if your rehearsal happens on the same day as your service.
Make eye contact with other team members when leading.
Don?t act like you don?t know each other on stage! Let your personality and how you joke around/converse with each other show on stage. This is a guaranteed way to break barriers and make the band feel part of the congregation.
Spend time with each other as a team outside of worship.
Organic chemistry doesn?t just happen. It takes relationship building and communication.[quote]Organic chemistry doesn?t just happen. It takes relationship building and communication.[/quote]
Spend time with the Lord.
People can sense inauthenticity. The more time you spend with God, the more personal your relationship with Him feels. Conversely, the less time you spend with Him, the more manufactured your experience will feel. This is guaranteed to spill out on stage (for better or for worse) every time you lead.
Spend time worshiping in the congregation.
Get to know how it feels to worship God as part of your church without having to worry about how other people are responding. This will afford you more sensitivity to what your church experiences every week during worship.
Don?t get discouraged if you don?t see people respond.
A shift in how your congregation worships takes time, and sometimes it doesn?t look like what you might expect it to. Don?t get caught up in concrete goals like wanting your church to keep clapping through an entire song or wanting your youth to jump like crazy during that Young & Free tune. Your primary goal in all of this should always be to make them feel safe and give them the go-ahead to enter into God?s presence, just as you hopefully do.
What to avoid:
Lastly, I?d like to address the most common pitfalls I?ve seen when people attempt to employ more body language into their worship experiences. Here are some things you shouldn?t do:
Don?t manipulate the congregation.
Have you ever seen those people on the side of the road who wear restaurant mascot costumes and dance while holding up a sign? I have never looked at one of those people and thought, ?Man, he/she must love his/her job!? They almost always look miserable and sweaty, and you can spot it from a mile away. Do not move around more just to see a response from the congregation. The goal here is to produce authentic body language as we display our hearts? response to the message. Focus on the message of the song and the implications for your life. This will organically display a lifestyle of worship to your congregation and make them naturally want to join your party.[quote]Focus on the message of the song and the implications for your life.[/quote]
Don?t neglect the atmosphere in the room.
While we must always push our congregations to go deeper in their worship, sometimes the congregation is not in a crazy celebration mood. Maybe a loved one has passed away. Maybe a current event has people very worried. That?s okay. Make sure your heart is in a place to physically respond to what God has done, but ask the Lord to direct you in how to respect your church in every worship experience.
Don?t try to be someone else.
Sometimes I catch myself saying, ?Gosh, I really love that one thing Joel Houston does when they drop into the chorus!? Then, I proceed to do it to try to look cool. I?ve realized that when I try to pick up on someone else?s mannerisms, I rob myself and the church of the worship I have to offer. In the same way, I don?t want a church full of clones of myself. No one can and no one ever will worship like you can. Be comfortable in your own skin.[quote]No one can and no one ever will worship like you can. Be comfortable in your own skin.[/quote]
My prayer is that these steps encourage you to utilize body language in your worship experiences as a way to help people feel safe to enter God?s presence.