In a conversation last week, I was told by someone who is a recent addition to a church choir how much they appreciated being “upfront” during Easter. This person had discovered that as a worship leader you must reorient your approach to worship in order to be both participant and leader. It is easy for those who are in worship leadership to become doers of worship. By that I mean that a leader can often find themselves in a place of making sure worship is right for everyone else and miss their own opportunity to worship.
I have often been asked, “how do you do it each week?” Truth be told, on occasion it can be hard to worship as “the Pastor.” Just like those in the pews, there are mornings where I’m tired, sick or distracted. I believe that these moments have a profound negative effect on the worship of the whole community. A Pastor who is not worshiping becomes more like an emcee or motivational speaker than a spiritual leader. When worship leaders and participants are united in the communion of the Holy Spirit, something truly blessed can occur.
Now, the responsibility to be “spiritual and worshipful” doesn’t just fall to the worship leaders. A pastor can be immersed in the Spirit and well prepared through study and prayer, but the congregation has an important role in making worship powerful and Spirit-led. The congregation can either make or break the Pastor’s worship experience as well as their own. So here are five ways you can help your Pastor worship:
1. Come with great expectations- Worship leaders benefit from congregations that participate in worship with a sense that God is going to do something special. As a worship leader, it can be very hard to lead people into an experience of God if the people are simply attending and not expecting an interaction with God.
2. Be on time- It can be very difficult as a worship leader when the congregation is late. This of course causes all kinds of questions to be present in the worship leaders mind. “Are they coming?” “Do they care?” “Are they alright?” Being filled with these concerns right before worship can really cause the worship leader to be less than spiritual. I will confess that over the years I have been in ministry more than once I have began worship with a “chip on my shoulder.” Remember, all worship leaders are sinners too.
3. Be interactive– There is nothing more challenging to worship leaders than the blank stares some congregations return during worship. Feedback during worship helps the leaders know if the Spirit is moving. This feedback can be both positive and negative. If you like a statement, shake your head or smile. If you think the Pastor just said something “heretical,” give them that face that lets them know you’re not so sure of what they just said. Pastors and other worship leaders put a great deal of their personal spiritual energy into what they do, and knowing that what they are doing is having an effect is an affirmation of what they pray God is doing through them.
4. Put announcements in the bulletin– Pastors, worship teams, music directors and everyone else who plans worship, seek to make everything in the worship work together in harmony. Our staff spends a great deal of time and energy on crafting services in which the individual components complement each other. Too many or last minute announcements not only cause the hoped for synergy of the service to be interrupted, but unless the announcements are in print, it really won’t be effective.
5. Don’t jump the worship leaders before worship– Nothing can disrupt the worship experience more than being “jumped” the morning of worship. It can be hard enough to be a spiritual leader on days when harmony and love are the prevailing wind. Being attacked prior to worship, or given a concern that is beyond the leaders current control, doesn’t help. This can be anything from toilet troubles to issues with how the Session or Pastor have handled a situation. I have tried to steer “business” issues to other times than Sunday morning because a Pastor who is concerned with an issue like a toilet, can’t focus on worship.
6. Pray for them– Perhaps the most critical way you can help your worship leaders truly worship is by praying for them. Ask God to be present in their lives and that the Spirit will guide them before, during and after worship.
hi- good column as always, thanks. i have a slightly different view on this– since there is a lot of pressure on pastors, music directors, choirs, etc., wouldn’t it make sense to make the worship service more participatory for the congregation, rather than having all the focus on the “worship leaders?” as you know, i like the idea of the pastor interacting directly with the congregation during worship, asking questions and having the congregants talk with each other and then share with the entire congregation. or somehow finding some other way for people in the pews to truly participate and not just spectate.
don’t get me wrong, i think your sermons are great– but i find myself wanting to have more of a feel for a true congregational experience in worship, with less of a leader vs. them kind of thing, which is the traditional way of doing church (except for Quakers of course, and maybe I’m leaning more in that direction…).
of course good orderly presbyterians will probably hate my thoughts on this, just thought i’d share : ).
In general I agree with you. The point I’m trying to make today is more about the reality of where we are not where we would like to be. Like it or not, we are in a place where the “congregation” leans on the leaders during worship. One way start to change this is to help folks realize that they have a responsibility in worship as well.
I also hope to remind churches (this is an issue regardless of size, denomination or demographic) that they need to think about how their actions have repercussions. I pray that folks don’t realize that when they tell the Pastor off just before worship or argue with them it hurts the worship service. This isn’t to say the disagreement isn’t important or that Pastor’s can’t be wrong, but we need to think about when we do this.
We need to partner with the Spirit, not against it.
Amen, Pastor! And you know that you’re always welcome at Sunrise Hunter Mill on Thursday mornings 10:30 for our interdenominational service. I am so blessed to be among those folks and could probably get lazy and skip on Sunday mornings because of Thursdays. But then the Spirit nudges me out with great expectation. Worship is worship and is not necessarily assigned a day. Who said, “Let all you do be an act of worship.”?
For Marilyn: How about sermon talk backs after worship for discussion? This might especially work during summer single service.
I think one way to help people realize exactly what goes on as a worship leader is to encourage more people to get involved AS a worship leader. And to perhaps make it easer or some how more inviting/less intimidating to do this (though I admit I have no idea how exactly to do this). Perhaps have some new, different opportunities to participate in the service? That means we also have to realize that not every idea will work and be ready to accept the failures with grace.
I also think people don’t realize exactly how much time goes into worship preparation. Perhaps an outline of what the staff does each week, how far in advance Barbara selects the hymns so that the music complements the message of the day. The art work on the bulletin covers. None of this happens by accident, and unless you happen to be hanging out in the office on a weekday you would never know.
I have been encouraged to see some new folks trying out roles as lay leaders, and even audio folks. I think that when you have a responsibility in the service, no matter how great or small, you take greater notice of exactly what goes on and as a result on the Sundays when you are “just there to worship” – you approach worship with the manner you reference above – esp. the 1st 3 bullets.
Marilyn – as for your desire for more interaction. My thing with that is I feel its more appropriate for smaller groups. For one, how would you feel if you were a visitor and showed up and were expected to discuss an issue during the service? Second – I would feel that the stopping/starting involved in incorporating that kind of interaction would be disruptive to my sense of worship. But I am also one of those who takes a deep breath when we do the “mosh pit of love” and who never claps. I think that’s the challenge that a lot of folks in the pews don’t get. Especially in our congregation, we are so diverse there can never be a service that gives everyone everything – but if you approach the service using some of the things Geoff mentions above, you can get something out of ANY service.
Well now, just how long does moderation take? I sent this 23 hours ago? 🙂 Is anybody out there?
Sorry Eleanor… I thought you were a registered user who doesn’t need approval. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.