If you’re wondering how to be an effective worship leader, I have a few thoughts on some things you could stop saying. So this is a post in which a crusty old curmudgeon rants a little about annoying songleader banter. Don’t take this too seriously, except maybe do.
How to Be an Effective Worship Leader…or Not
10. Are we ready to have fun this morning?
The answer is, “Probably not.” The truth is, when this is your welcome at the start of the music time, it tells me where your head’s at. Nobody goes to church to have a bad time, of course, and I’m sure plenty of people go to “have fun,” but is this the point of worship? Is “having fun” where you want hearts directed as you lead people to exalt God? No, it’s where you want hearts directed when you’re just trying to “crush your set” or “rock it out for Jesus” [see #5]. “Are we ready to have fun?” is just slightly worse than this next common opener:
9. How’s everybody feeling?
If I wanted to stretch to justify this statement, I could say that what you’re asking the congregation to do is self-reflect on their spiritual condition and present their real, whole selves honestly and submissively to the glory of Christ as you lead them in adoration of him. But my guess is that 9.9 times out of 10 what you’re really trying to do is get people to say, “Woooooooo!”
8. You can do better than that!
Or some other form of nagging about how we’re not singing or participating to your liking. It’s never really on my mind at a church service to think of ways to impress the worship leader. Similarly shaming is:
7. I can’t hear you!
Well, maybe turn the volume down. We can’t hear us either.
6. [Introducing a hymn] Here’s an oldie we dusted off.
Please don’t apologize for leading us in the rare song that is theologically rich and doctrinally solid. Apologize for not leading us in them more often!
5. “Rockin’ worship.”
Please stop. I know you’ve got a good drummer and amps that go to 11, but referring to church music as “rockin’”—or using the phrase “rockin’ it out”—is somewhere in the category of fanny packs and duck-face selfies.
4. Lord, we invite you to be here.
This is the worship leader’s equivalent of “asking Jesus into your heart.” I think I know what the phrase means, but it reveals something about our thinking related to worship. For instance, is it true that God is summoned by our worship? Or is it actually the other way around? He calls us—we then respond in worship. God isn’t a genie and worship isn’t like rubbing a golden lamp. Nor is he a cosmic butler to be summoned. Don’t invite the Lord into a space like he doesn’t already own it and isn’t already there.
3. God showed up.
Again, I think I know what is meant by this phrase. It can be a way of saying “we felt emotionally touched during the music time,” which can be an OK thing—it would be weird for Christians to never feel engaged emotionally in worshiping God—but it can also be a way of equating emotional reactions with God’s presence in an unhelpful way, in a way that inadvertently communicates to people that when they don’t feel good, God must be absent.
2. Let’s give God a hand.
Translation: I would like to hear some applause.
1. Turn to your neighbor and _____________.
Ok, as far as how to be an effective worship leader, there’s really nothing wrong with this approach…but as a socially awkward introvert, this kind of instruction is a huge heaping bowl of panic attack soup.