3 Ways Worship Leaders Can Encourage Congregational Expression

2. MODEL IT—When it comes to expression, you have to model what you want to see happen. If you’re on a guitar or a keyboard, plan specific moments in a song where you can free up your hands and model expression for your church. Showing people what to do can be more effective than telling them what to do. Think about those moments as you’re planning your service and running through rehearsal. Be intentional about it. The next step is directing your team to model it as well. One of my songs, “Alleluia (Our Praise Is),” has a pre-chorus that says, “Lift your hands to the One that you were made in image of.” At that point of the song I direct my band and vocalists to model that. If you have a choir, they are a huge model of expression. I’ve directed choirs behind me to model expression at specific and nonspecific times and it’s incredible to see it spread from the stage to the crowd. Expression is contagious. When you model it more and more, you’ll see a slow and gradual emulation of your expression take place in your church.

3. ENCOURAGE IT—Some people come to your service and they cannot wait to express their adoration to God. Others will come and they’re going to need a nudge. They may have come from more conservative, reserved churches or they may just be brand-new Christians. It’s funny how effective a timely nudge or encouragement can be in a worship set. As a worship leader, you need to understand HOW to encourage your church to expression. Learn to encourage them without badgering them. Prayerfully plan moments in your set to encourage your crowd to lift their hands or shout to God. If you do that during every song, then you run the risk of losing them. Timely encouragement will effectively bring a unity of expression to your crowd and will also create special moments in worship. Plan these moments at different times in a set. There are times when you’ll start a song with expression. There are times where you’ll end a song with it. There are also those moments during a song where all it will take is a quick “Lift your hands!” or “Shout to God!” Encouragement will nudge those who normally don’t express themselves to join the crowd.

Everyone gets excited about something. Shouldn’t we be excited most about God? I’ve jumped, shouted, danced and fist-pumped about a lot of things, but there’s nothing or no one more deserving than God.

II Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Expression is one of the biggest catalysts to freedom in corporate worship. When you stretch out your hands, dance, shout or bow down, you’re boldly proclaiming your love for God.

Worship always requires a sacrifice. Expression can definitely be a sacrifice of self, preference and comfort.

As the worship leader … it starts with you.

Teach it, model it and encourage it. It’s worth it.  

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Gary Durbin
Gary is the Worship Arts Director at Redemption Chapel in Stow, Ohio. He is also a blogger and a songwriter with a passion to serve the church. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children and have been married since 1999. You can follow him on Twitter & Instagram @garydurbin or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garydurbin.

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