What A DJ Taught Me About Leading Worship

I had tears coming down my face. In fact, I almost had to pull over. The song on the radio had taken me to a place with Jesus of nearness and love. I was singing right to Him…to the very last note.


Have you been there?


But then, my moment was shattered. The DJ burst on the air giving THE NAME OF THE ARTIST AND SONG, THE STATION CALL LETTERS, AND THE PROMISE OF MORE MUSIC…AFTER THIS! It’s like he wasn’t even listening to the song. He clearly didn’t know where I had just been. It felt insensitive and violating.


Now to be fair, DJ’s listen to the same rotation of songs over and over and over, and this DJ may have been prepping a news report, been engrossed in a separate conversation off air, or been rushing back from a bathroom break unintentionally ruining my moment. So I get it. But he definitely didn’t DJ like a listener.


Here the translation. The worship leader didn’t lead like a worshiper. When we get to the end of a song and our congregation is having a moment with God, do we hold their hearts carefully by how we segue to what’s next? Whether that’s another song or another element, this is a moment where we can increase the distance between us and the congregation, or bring us together.


Are we as leaders and teams like insensitive DJ’s who break into people’s moments?


A little planning, empathy, and sensitivity in the moment can transform these times into something meaningful, where God’s work can continue without distraction. Here are a couple of thoughts to get us there.


  • It’s not about you. Classic advice, right? We get so caught up in the nerves of pulling off a song that we say stupid things…things that no one else was thinking about, until that moment. In the same way that telling a story can feel like it’s about me or just about the story, when we’re in worship we’re always trying to help people see God, to enable the revelation of God. We want to direct attention off us and to Him.
  • Hear it from the congregation’s perspective. Before you are in the moment, listen to where your heart is at the end of the song (when you’re worshiping through the list in preparation). Whether it would be silence, a scripture, a comment, craft a segue or musical interlude that supports this.
  • Carry their hearts. I think we are carrying the hearts of the worshippers as we lead them. Week after week, we do things that either build or erode trust. People won’t follow us if they don’t trust us. And this is a sacred trust!
  • Write it down. Even the most seasoned worship leaders occasionally get fumbly, awkward, unclear, or unhelpful. Writing it down beforehand helps avoid this. You don’t have to read it, but going through the discipline of writing it forces you to get concise. (And every pastor reading this just said “Thank you!!”) In fact, I just heard a leader named Jim Lovelady talk about having “10-second teaching moments” as segues. Brilliant!
  • Join the moment. We are to be with the people we’re leading. The more we can be in those moments with God shoulder-to-shoulder with the congregation, rather than having this aloof posture as leaders, the better. This is your spiritual community. Be together in meeting with God.
  • Sing it like it’s the very first time. Never let it get old. As we sing our testimony, as we sing the Gospel, let your soul be awakened. Veteran worship leader Kent Henry once said “I tell my soul ‘Soul, this is the very first time you get to lead worship!’ every time before I lead.” Stay awestruck at the work of God in your life!
  • Don’t be ruled by the clock. I know you may have three minutes and forty-two seconds for this song, but just an extra five seconds can do wonders to how the congregation experiences it. Don’t be so wrapped up in the schedule that you miss the whole point!


I hope this helps us create spaces where our congregations can meet with God without interruption and distraction.