10 Things Worship Leaders Wished Everyone Else Understood

Andrew Stanley —  July 23, 2013 — 20 Comments

10 Things

When I’m up on stage, there are a few things that I wish I could just stop and say … but have never had the guts to:

10 – I’m probably going to forget the words at times … To “cover it up”, I’ll sometimes just make random vowel sounds until I realize what I’m supposed to be singing again.

9 – We’re probably not going to sound like those guys that you were listening to in your car on the way to church You’ll have to wait till that band tours through town to hear them.  But even then, you’re listening to a produced album (even if the album is “live”), we’re giving you the “non-overdubbed, not singing to tracks” version of these songs.

8 – When I back away from the microphone, sometimes its because I’m leaving a space for everyone to sing together … Other times its because I have to burp and I don’t want to rip it into the microphone.

7 – I know it’s the weekend and I know it’s morning, but chances are, I was up earlier than you today, so let’s all try to wake up a bit. I think we should all agree right now that what we’re doing is more important than the coffee you’re holding.

6 – There’s more to what we’re singing than just a list of songs. Have you ever realized that the songs we sing are actually thematically building on one another?  That maybe there’s a reason why we had everyone shouting out “How Great Thou Art!” only AFTER we sang about God as the creator of the universe?  When you tune out for a minute during the musical worship set, you might miss out on a truth about God that we’re going to be responding to in a couple minutes.

5 – I’m not here to perform for you.  I’m here to sing WITH you.  We don’t need the show to worship our God together in this way!  (If you’ve missed the conversations over production levels during weekend services, you can check it out here)

4 – I’m not intentionally doing “those things” so that I can receive “those e-mails” on Sunday afternoon (If you’ve been in ministry long enough, you know what I mean). We’re likely trying to accomplish the same goal. We might just be taking a different approach towards that destination.  We’re on the same team.

3 – Even though we can’t make you show up on time, musical worship is not viewed as optional around here.  For those who prefer the teaching over the music, hopefully you realize that there is the huge potential for teaching moments within the music set and the songs we’re singing. You may not feel comfortable joining in this way that may seem weird by our culture’s standards, but really, we’re declaring with our voices, out loud, that we are not God, He is Great, and we submit to His leadership today and forever.  Of COURSE it’s uncomfortable …

2 – When you’re walking in late, talking with others, or even just reading your program, you’re distracting more people than just yourself.  Those who are trying to engage might be pulled out of the moment by hearing your conversation or seeing you walk across the front of the room.

1 – It’s not my job to prepare your heart.  I’ve heard and have even agreed in the past with the statement that Sunday mornings are a glass of fresh water to take in to refresh you and energize you for a week.  Then we come back again the next Sunday to be filled up to be sent out again.  I don’t necessarily agree with this statement anymore.  Instead, I would be in the camp that says our hearts should be so full of joy and excitement for what God did in, through and around us all throughout the week that our Sunday mornings are a community celebration of joy over the goodness of God!  If you haven’t thought twice about what God is up to in your own life before walking in on Sunday morning, than chances are, you might not “feel” it by the end of the 15-20 minutes that I’ve got with you.

Now, I realize I’m preaching to the choir. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re involved in music ministry in some shape or form. The number of people that will read this that are never involved might be quite small. So, understanding that, let me ask you something …

Have I done everything I can to be able to expect these things of everyone else with a clear conscience? 

Have I practiced enough to keep the number of times I forget the words to a minimum?
Are we striving for excellence within our sound or have we given into the “that’ll do” mentality?
Are we leaving the space for people to hear one another sing?
Am I awake within 10 minutes of walking in for sound check? Did I have my coffee in enough time to wake up?
Are my set lists intentional? Am I telling a story throughout it? Or are they just a few songs jammed together?
Are we humbling ourselves to the point of being able to lead well on a stage? It’s not easy.
Am I following up with criticism and critique with grace and love?
Are we stepping out of our comfort zones to lead with a whole-hearted expression of praise?
What might I be doing that could be a distraction to those wanting to engage fully?
Am I showing up spiritually prepared? How am I responding to God’s work this week?

It’s not until we can answer THESE questions fully that we can begin to make these assumptions of others.

Andrew Stanley


20 responses to 10 Things Worship Leaders Wished Everyone Else Understood

  1. #8!!! I ALWAYS find myself having to burp when leading worship haha. No one else I’ve met has the same problem. I think it’s due to all of the water I chug before/during warm up that it catches up to me mid-set haha. Glad I’m not the only one.

  2. These are SO good! 🙂 Thanks!!!

  3. I think worship in so many evangelical churches has never been taught. What does biblical worship look like? What are the spiritual implications to worship. What are the physical elements to how we praise. (Reading Psalms there are 7 different hebrew definitions to the word “praise” translated in English.

    I’ve realized that for so many we fake it til we make it. And that’s the most frustrating part for me.

    As leaders and pastors we need to teach before we criticize these people walking late who have never understood the power in our worship.

    This is my original thought. As much as I feel you on the list. There is a deeper understanding of why we do what we do needed in the church today.

    If you want some amazing resources check out Ray Hughes.

  4. Faye Lavergne July 25, 2013 at 1:05 am

    Love it when you rant Paulo! I mean preach! I’m not in the choir. Always wanted to share a worship time with you at Woodvale!

  5. Wow. Thoughts I’ve had for years, and thoughts that never really occurred to me, mainly #1. Well stated.

  6. One question: If you’re not there to perform, why do you say you’re “on stage”? It may seem like I’m being picky, but wouldn’t that “not performing” thing have more credibility if the musicians were less noticeable? Seriously, does there have to be spotlights and dimmed house lights?

    • Fantastic point, Mike! We’re having that very discussion right here:

      Thanks for reading!

      • Thanks for the links. It’s a great discussion. I can tell you as both a pastor and musician that both of those trades are geared for the performer. No preacher hates performing and few musicians do. And there is our danger point. We often say (at least I do) that we don’t want the spotlight, but we are those who check our blogs twenty times a day to see how many have read it. I am the one who checks my podcast to see how many have listened. We have always highlighted musicians and teachers in the church. The problem today is that we have portable technology that makes it almost possible to re-create some of the marvelous sounds and looks of a concert. Some churches have given into this. The problem with it is it makes worship into only music and eschews the silent times. As you have pointed out in your “message of the stage” posts, the answer is probably to re-configure the sanctuary to take some of the focus off those in front. I am still exploring how to do this, so I welcome your ideas.

  7. I under stand the point of “Not Performing”, but we are up on a stage, or the alter delivering an emotionally charged message. It is easy to speak words from a page or OVH projector, but when that same message is sung or ‘performed’ it is more heart felt and pleasing to the Holy Spirit within.
    As far as “performance”, I hope that as a member of a worship team, my performance, or emotional inspired musicianship might spark an interest, or a joy that will bring that ‘First Time Church goer’ back a 2nd and 3rd time or even more. Become on fire for the lord through worship!

  8. Forerunner Ministries September 12, 2013 at 7:29 am

    Totally agree with the blog. I believe that being a worship leader is calling that comes with serious responsibility. We as worship leaders should be so prayed up and in tune with the Holy Spirit so that He will be able to lead us to sing just the right songs for the people that God has sent in the building for that day. God has given us this privilege to be used as His instrument to heal the broken hearted and to speak His words in song to someone who is so desperate to hear His voice. So in short…”If you ain’t prayin…your just playin.”

  9. I enjoyed your insight into worship and all that goes in to it. I love to worship with the music and be in the moment as they say. And you are right, those of us in the pew don’t always realize all the things you mentioned that are occurring. However, I’m a firm believe that if a person comes to church to worship and learn and fellowship, they will do all three. If it is an obligation that sends through the church doors on Sunday and not a desire to worship their God, then all the fancy lights and great sounds won’t matter anyway. Pure and from the heart is what the Lord desires. If the Worship leader has those two qualities then he can lead us into worship. Our society wants to many frills in their worship experience. I’m not against all that, in fact I love the contemporary music and the free flow of worship, so this is not really a negative statement I’m making. Just an observant one. I am a 65 yr. old Grandmother who loves to dance and shout with the best of them! LOL. Enjoyed your article.

  10. Really nice article

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