In our work with churches around the country, there is a growing understanding that church leaders need to ‘pastor’ our gatherings through a worship experience, rather than simply lead songs. We get to provide the connection points to deepen the collective worship experience.
Think for a moment about a meaningful worship moment you’ve experienced. Odds are it wasn’t about the lights and the cameras, but about tuning into God’s presence and surrendering to it.
People in the same room respond to different things in different ways. The music, the sermon, and the technology can all contribute to a great worship experience. These are all valuable and necessary tools and we need to strive for excellence, but without the presence of God, a worship experience will always be lacking.
Below are 10 helpful hints in becoming an effective Pastor of the ‘Experience’ as you lead your community into deeper worship together:
- Experience Pastors watch and listen
God will move in many different ways in our gatherings. We can plan, rehearse, program, and produce – all good and necessary. But first, let’s watch and listen!
C.S. Lewis said, “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.” Put Jesus first. Invite Him to open your eyes and ears to how He’s already moving, and participate in that.
- Experience Pastors need the gift of authenticity (read 1 Thessalonians 2:3-5)
People can sense when you are genuine, so genuinely love and care.
- Be the same on-stage and off-stage
- Let your love for others sound louder than anything you play or sing
- Abide in the Spirit
- Experience Pastors take the temperature of a room
Be aware when people are ‘with you,’ and make a shift if you need to. One of the greatest joys as a worship leader is having a ‘hand in glove’ relationship with your teaching pastor (or lead pastor). You prepare the room for the message, hand it off, then get it back in even better shape and continue to steward it well.
Earn the ‘right’ to lead and engage the room through verbal transition and other creative elements. This will increase engagement, and yes, help them sing!
- Experience Pastors know their people
Invite your band to find their testimony/their story in the song set and find YOUR story in the set! Challenge yourself and your team to connect with those in the room pre-service. This creates meaningful connection and breaks down the ‘stage barrier.’
- Experience Pastors Prepare
Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. How much are you practicing and preparing to lead?
Invite God to move just as much in the planning as in the gathering.
- Learn music
- Learn transitions
- Learn the order
- Be the most prepared
St Augustine said: ‘He who sings prays twice’…prepare and pray!!
- Experience Pastors flow
Be obsessive about flow!
- Have a healthy mix of vertical and horizontal worship, i.e. songs that are inclusive, sing of our shared faith journey and of who God is, and songs that are personal and sing as prayer.
- Have a healthy mix of ‘known’ anchor songs with new material.
- Be intentional in how you introduce new material. Not too much, not too little.
- Don’t be afraid of ‘cutting and pasting’ songs – i.e. mashing up verses, bridges, and choruses of different songs that work!
- Map the worship experience with effective placement of high-energy moments, balanced with tender worship moments. This helps curate the worship experience well.
- Experience Pastors think about connection points.
- Have a diverse stage ethnically (where possible) and generationally. Incorporate all cultures and demographics, and use multiple worship leaders.
- Use songs and scripture readings that incorporate the cultures/languages of those in the community.
- Be aware of appropriate dress. You don’t want distractions, so balance authenticity and individuality with what’s appropriate.
- Be aware of choosing keys that people can sing in!
- Experience Pastors shepherd the flow through verbal transitions
Don’t ‘over share’ or talk too much. Let the songs speak for themselves. If you have to explain the song, then maybe it’s the wrong song. Be inclusive in your language. Be sensitive to unbelievers. Give people permission to reflect. When telling stories of answered prayer, give voice to unanswered prayer. Be sensitive to different people groups, i.e. single parents, victims of abuse, childless couples etc.
- Experience Pastors invite input and evaluation
Embrace honest feedback – it’s how we grow and become better at what we do. Also, collaborate with the teaching pastor to enhance cohesion.
- Experience Pastors are true to themselves
- Have the same voice onstage and off.
- Embrace who God created you to be.
God wants to speak and move through you in your local church community just as powerfully as he does through any popular worship artist. We have the same access to God and His life-changing presence – it’s NEVER second hand!
Let’s lead in faith, carrying the gift of hope. But most of all, let’s lead with love.