Have I really written 26 installments already on leading worship?!
Oh, friends.. as I write this, it is an ungodly hour of the night, but as I’m sure you know, when creativity strikes.. ha! My mind is in a million different directions (First, struck again with the amazing significance of the band’s title “Jesus Culture” — like, seriously, what is a Jesus-culture, and is my heart cultivating one? Second, supremely floored by the song “All is For Your Glory” and those lyrics!! Third, desiring taco salad.)
I am blessed to have the opportunity from time to time to lead worship at various churches as a special guest, and I must say, it is a different experience than when leading at home. Here’s a couple pieces I want to share with you about what I’ve learned is important when traveling and leading worship.
1. You’re there to serve.
“He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). Jesus has asked us to serve. It is exceptionally (and unfortunately) easy for artists to slip into a conceited diva temperament, especially when you realize you are being “booked” at different venues. But God 100% opposes the proud. He literally works against the proud. With this in perspective, understand that you have been given a very special privilege of investing into God’s people.. Don’t ask for water at a specific temperature, or request that you absolutely must fly first class, or.. you get the idea. No divas allowed—the only star here is Jesus! Roll up your sleeves, smile, and get to serving! Humbly wrap cords, graciously accept whatever food is offered, ask if there’s anything you can do to help—whatever Jesus would do!!
2. Interact with the church.
I tell our worship team all the time (especially those that travel with me), “Let’s not have an I’m-with-the-band attitude.” Don’t lounge unnecessarily in the green room, make a mad dash for the exit as soon as you’re finished, or exclusively chill with only your band. Take time to be intentionally kind and pastoral to the people you’re ministering to. Does anyone need prayer? Could anyone use a hug? Can you help carry someone’s things to his car?
3. Employ strategic song selection.
Get in touch with the worship pastor, or senior pastor if directed to do so, to touch base on what songs that church is familiar with. As I have blogged about extensively, song selection is critical. If every single song is an unfamiliar one for the church you’re a guest at, people will have their eyes locked on the screen lyrics instead of locked on Jesus. Trust me, it would not be unusual (and would be appropriate) to ask for the song repertoire of a church, and if you do, then choose mostly from it. Again—because we’re there to serve—ask the Holy Spirit, “What songs will serve this church well?”
To give you an idea: when I’m in doubt and I have no leads to go on, I usually fall back on a few classic hymns like “Amazing Grace” or “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” and blend in a few very well-known ditties like “Revelation Song” or “Mighty to Save.” These are songs the majority will likely know.
I know I’m really emphasizing this point, but let me tackle this from a pastoral point of view. Suddenly having a bunch of unfamiliar faces on the platform can be jarring for your church (I know, I know.. but it’s true!), but it will help to make your church feel at ease if they are able to think, “Oh, hey, these are familiar songs that we usually do!” I am always very grateful for guest worship teams we have into CityReach who respect this and want to take care of our church just as much as I do—so I try to do the same when I’m leading away from home.
4. Be familiar with the flow and style.
Some churches have a very structured setting while others are more free-flowing. Understand from the worship pastor, or senior pastor if necessary, what is appropriate and expected from you. Remember, and I can’t stress this enough, you are there to serve! I read an interview of Kim Walker-Smith once where she said that although she usually sings in tongues while leading worship, she will refrain from doing so if the leadership asks her to. That’s submission—and that’s the best attitude to have.
5. Arrange any technical details in advance.
This one is so obvious that many (including myself once or twice!) forget about it!! Arrange in advance how many microphones you will need, if you need to bring along your own direct boxes or cables, what instruments will be provided (drums? keys?), and so on. You know as well as I do that such details are important!
Well, friends, those are 5 tips for guest worship leading, and I pray this is a resource for you!
For those of you that lead worship in various churches, what are things that you have learned? Or if you are a worship pastor, what do you wish guest worship teams knew before leading at your church?