You’re Not a Lead Worshipper

The term “lead worshipper” has been around for several years, popularized by some of the most well-respected song writers and worship leaders on the earth today. While I understand the intent behind this phrase, I believe that the unintended consequence of this approach has led to un-engaging worship experiences for many congregations.

Your role as the worship leader, first and foremost, is to create an environment where the people you are leading can enter into the worship of their Creator. Leading worship should be all about serving those you lead by crafting an environment that helps them worship. If I consider myself the “lead worshipper,” I will tend to put together services and set lists that are based on my personal worship experience rather than on creating an experience where the largest number of people can engage in worship.

For you, or for them?

Let me give you an example. Many great worship songs are being written today. I love these songs. I crank them up when I’m driving in my car, and many times I have to be careful when I do this because my eyes fill with tears, making the road hard to see. I have powerful personal worship times with these songs. The problem, however, is that many of these songs are not written to make them singable for a large majority of people. They work well for guys that are tenors … everyone else seems to be left out.

I’ve been a part of too many worship services where these songs are presented as a part of what is supposed to be a participatory worship service in the same key and with the same arrangement as they are in the original recordings. I look at the people around me as they struggle at first to sing along, and then ultimately give up and just listen. Can people enter into worship without singing? Of course. But don’t expect or encourage people to “sing along” or truly engage when you’ve placed the song in the best key for your voice, not for their participation.

Another place this approach can be seen is just in the songs we select. Many worship leaders today gravitate to newer choruses and newer arrangements of hymns. As worship leaders, we prefer these songs for many reasons—we’re sick of singing the old songs or they feel outdated musically. And I’m certainly not against new songs in general. But when you include a new song, you should pack some “old favorites” around it so that people can stay engaged in the service.

Create a space for worship

If I consider myself to be a lead worshipper, though, these considerations will rarely enter my mind and spirit as I prepare. Our worship team can really enter into worship well during rehearsal because we really like the new songs and we’ve got the vocal ability to really tear it up. If we think of ourselves as lead worshippers, we’ll expect to have a great worship service. On the other hand, if we think of our role as creating an environment where it is easy for others to engage, we would probably do things differently.

Create a space for people to worship. That’s your job, first and foremost. Make it as easy as possible for people to engage. You are there to serve them, not to create a worship experience that you personally enjoy. During your personal worship time, jam to all the new songs and put them in the key where your voice sounds best. When you’re leading worship, lean toward songs they will know and put them in the key where the majority of people can join in. You might be surprised at the sweet offering of worship that rises up around you. And God will be honored.


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Steve Finkill

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What say you? Leave a comment!

Ken — 01/29/18 11:00 am

"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?

Eric Olson — 02/05/13 7:04 am

This article is right on and accurate. Participatory worship is becoming a lost expression of Christ-Followers in our newer, contemporary churches. (I am part of one!) It is possible to be current, relevant and even "cool" and at the same time create an atmosphere that helps people engage. I might add that if participatory worship is a high value for a church, then Worship and Ministry must be more important than the music and the art. We don't have to sacrifice the music and the art - our Creator God lets us use them - but we must make them accessible to the non-musician and non-artist in the church service. It's a challenge, but well-worth the work. Thanks, Steve, for your well-crafted insight in this article!

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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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