One of the most common problems I experience when talking with worship pastors/leaders is “how do I balance providing a worship experience that resonates with me and my team but will also be effective in reaching and engaging those who are far from God?”
I know for myself, I have a track record of trying to introduce songs that personally move me in an attempt to deliver an authentic experience but, upon execution, it ends up falling completely flat.
How do we as worship leaders create an environment that engages people no matter where they are in their walk with God?
Here are five pro tips in creating an engaging worship experience:
1. Alignment is everything
In all of our attempts to communicate the gospel, a typical Sunday morning is delivering one hundred different messages to our visitors.
Our unchurched guests are bombarded with bulletins and announcements, then expected to sing about aspects of the bible they have no context of.
For example, the blood of the lamb, or fire falling down. To the average joe who is simply looking for hope and a place to grow and belong this can be sensory overload, or borderline cult like.
Truthfully, the message begins as people pull into the parking lot. Everything and every environment communicates something.
To be effective, every aspect of Sunday morning should point people to one place.
Worship is only one facet that operates on Sunday. It is vitally important that the worship leader and the senior pastor or key speaker be headed in the same direction. The lyrics in our songs should disarm discouragement and be sensitive to our target audience.
2. It’s not all about you
I don’t know about you, but I’m confident that God moves all week long and not just Sundays.
When I first started ten years ago, I would lead worship as if i’ve waited all week to connect with God but when I would open my eyes nobody was following or sharing my passion.
Truth is, if you only eat one meal a week you are going to feel starved.
Our role as worship leaders is exactly that. To lead others in worship.
Music is only one aspect of worship. Our lifestyles day in and out should model a life of worship. We expect our music team to be personally worshiping throughout the week so that when Sunday comes, they are full and ready to engage.
The worship set isn’t about them getting their fill, its about them pouring out.
We are there to serve, not be served. Being in any position to lead others is a privilege and not a right or entitlement. Come prepared, take responsibility for your position and be ready to lead.
3. Deeper, longer, louder
Said the prophets of Baal.
4. But seriously,
Your length of set can be a cultural and theological barrier. When Elijah was facing the prophets of Baal and their god was not answering, his response was, “maybe if you shout a little louder, your god will show up”. Let’s not find ourselves trying to do the same thing.
We don’t need to do an hour of worship for God to show up.
Yes, Sunday is the time for corporate worship and we shouldn’t ignore that. However, if we expect and desire to have new-comers in our church, let’s not punish them.
God is not a car in the midst of winter in Canada, he doesn’t need to be warmed up. His name is Emmanuel which means “God with us”. If He feels distant it’s not Him who moved.
In relation to your lyrics being sensitive to the unchurched, be timely with your introduction of new songs and frugal with your song repertoire. By the time you are bored of a song, the majority of the congregation is just learning the lyrics.
Keep a limited setlist of songs that get the best engagement.
Cut the good for the great.
For us we have a three song setlist and 14 songs in our repertoire, that we change out as a new songs comes in. This enables our teams to prepare with excellence and its easy to follow for our congregation.
5. Don’t feed steak to babies
Life is spontaneous enough. Sunday mornings should be planned.
The reality of the situation is if you want excellence then you need to plan.
Do I believe the Holy Spirit needs to move?
I believe He moves as much in the planning process as in our Sunday services. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s imperative that you, as a worship leader have a personal worship experience during the week.
If God really wants to move He’s not going to let you stand in the way.
We need to get over ourselves in believing that we can control what God is going to do. Our job is to be good stewards of what we’ve been entrusted with.
So if God entrusts you with a newcomer on a Sunday morning, be mindful.
It’s like putting a four course meal in front of a baby. They don’t know how to even use the utensils and we expect them to polish it off and say thank you, then offer to help prepare the next one.
The church exists for mission.
The great co-mission.
We can’t create disciples if we aren’t reaching the unchurched. They don’t come out of nowhere. They are reached from the community, brought into the congregation and discipled into the core. Let’s do everything we can to ensure their transitions are as simple as possible.