I’m having a coaching session with a worship leader today and she asked about three things many of us are asking as we launch into the (for many of us) uncharted territories of leading online. She wanted to know about:
- Authentically engaging and leading "living room" worship
- Best sound options
- Keeping other team members engaged
I’ll tackle number one in a sec, but first, here are some things giving me hope:
We were just able to partner with many other ministries in offering a free resource to churches through Pastor Resources. Can you find it on this page? (Hint: look for electric guitar lesson)
I love the spirit of prayer and possibility that I’m seeing rise up in the Church as She awakens and unites. One worship leader just wrote “There is power in worshipping this virus right out of this planet! Worship changes atmospheres and climates!”
I also just saw the Unite714.com movement that’s calling us to pray at 7:14 each morning and evening. They provide weekly prayer guides. Here’s this week’s guide. Isn’t this hope-giving? “Something amazing is happening! Pastors, leaders, churches, and individuals from around the globe are joining together — with one heart, one voice, and one prayer — to see the COVID-19 halted, lives healed, hardships mitigated, people come to Christ, and an outpouring of God’s Spirit.” Woohoo!!
Ok, so the navigation of uncharted waters of leading online.
I’m going to look at this two ways:
- How do I lead worship without my band, sound system, tracks, lights, etc.?
- How do I lead people who are likely wearing PJ’s and holding their pets on their laps?
You may be leading with a team, but I’ll address that in the second section.
First, just like always, you bring who you are to the moment of leading. I mean your relationship with God is your first qualifier to be a worship leader. The time you’ve spent developing that is often the measure of effectiveness when you’re in public.
But here’s the kicker. There are tons of things we can “hide behind” when we’re up front on a Sunday at church. When it’s just you and your guitar or keyboard everything is exposed: our singing, our playing, our leading. I’m sure there are lots of us that are really feeling uncomfortable with this. And it’s ok to start here!
See, I wish that every worship leader would’ve been tested in the fires of small group and youth group worship leading. Those experiences eliminate the glam, the overused “give Him a shout of praise” cheerleads, the leading of songs that are “cool in the car, but just not congregational.” They simplify it.
And in many ways, you’re suddenly a small group worship leader. Embrace it and its learnings. They’ll make you a more effective and relatable leader once this craziness blows over.
So here are some tips for those three areas:
- Our Singing. Take the classic advice of singing songs that are actually comfortable in your range. From a performance perspective, singing unmic’ed in your living room is very different. Compensate for it. This probably means you need to do the songs a step or two lower than usual.
- Our Playing. Have fun with this one. Think about it: you have no constraints of a band or of a track or metronome. Use it as a training ground for responsiveness. Pay attention to what God is doing and saying in the song and respond. But practice, especially if you’re used to a click dictating your tempos. Get the feel and groove right, or like everything else, it’ll be more obvious in this setting.
- Our Leading. Don’t draw attention to yourself by talking about how strange you feel. Don’t pretend everything is normal. Don’t trivialize what you’re doing. This is a global Psalm 73 moment. Verses 16 and 17 are where we find ourselves: “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God…” More than ever, genuinely lead your congregation into encounters with God by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And that leads me to those PJ worshipers you’re leading, who may be:
- Full of faith
It’s like every Sunday was, but now everything is MAGNIFIED. So be:
- Full of scripture
Of course, those are my opposites for the first list, but I hope it gives you an idea of the care and diligence with which to approach these opportunities. They might not have gotten dressed for church, but with great passion, they want and need to sing the songs of Zion, to rehearse the greatness of God, to declare what they believe, to fill their mouths and minds with truth.
This really is a huge calling for us as worship leaders in this moment. Let’s step up together!