Three Principles Young Worship Leaders Can Learn From Successful Bar Bands

July 28, 2011 — 8 Comments

I believe that any young worship leader should be required to be the frontman for a bar band for a year before they are ever allowed to lead on stage.

I don’t really believe that.

Ok… I do. A little. What I mean is this…

Most young worship leaders expect a congregation to be ready to worship, instantly engaged, and fully passionate from the moment the worship leader steps on stage. When the young worship leader doesn’t experience that – when they experience reality – they are often frustrated. The young worship leader then tries to alleviate that frustration by doing one or more of the following things:

  1. Encouraging the congregation about their need to be “ready to worship.”
  2. Trying to get people to engage by forcing them to “clap along.”
  3. Lecturing the congregation about how they need to be more demonstrative in their worship at that moment.

I’ve been guilty of doing all of these things at one time or another during my career. However, as I’ve grown older, I have come to realize that there are some important principles to be learned from the successful bar band. First, they don’t expect that anyone will listen to them. They know they have to be good enough that people will want to listen. Secondly, the successful bar band realizes that they need to fully commit to their performance – whether or not anyone is listening. And third, the successful bar band realizes that ultimately, if they are committed to excellence in their music and their performance, eventually people will not only listen, they will engage.

A young worship leader would do well to remember three important things from the bar band:

1. You need to earn the right to be heard.

Just because you step on stage and you are ready, it doesn’t mean anyone else is. It’s like likely that the worship leader has been there for an hour or more prepping, rehearsing, and doing a sound check or run-through. The people who are coming to be led weary. Perhaps they’ve been on the road or at work. Maybe they’ve just gotten out of bed. They may have gotten in an argument with their spouse on the way to church. Their reality os different from yours. You need to earn the right for them to listen to you through your thoughtful, faithful, musically excellent leadership. Don’t expect them to engage right away. Which leads us tho the second point:

2. You need to fully engage (without expecting anything in return).

Even though your congregation might not be ready right at that moment to engage, you still have a great responsibility as a spiritual leader to engage fully – and to do so without expecting anything in return. You are called to be faithful in leading worship. You are not called to judge what is going on in people’s hearts. Maybe they’re not clapping or raising their hands (or even standing). Does that mean they are not connecting with God in worship? Who are you to judge that. You are only called to be faithful with your side of the equation and to lead with excellence and passion. Which brings us to the final point:

3. You need to remember the Charles Wesley Principle.

Charles Wesley said “If yourself on fire and people will come for miles around to watch you burn.” Do the hard work in rehearsal and the even harder work in your quiet time. Burn with passion for the living God and the people around will catch fire with you.

Do I really believe that every young worship leader needs to front a bar band? Not really. But I do believe that when young worship leaders (and everyone in up-front leadership roles) put into practice these three principles, they will experience great success in their ministry.

Pat Callahan

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I'm a picker. I'm a grinner. I'm a lover. And I'm a sinner. I make my music in the sun.

8 responses to Three Principles Young Worship Leaders Can Learn From Successful Bar Bands

  1. Great post Pat. You hit the head on the nail in many ways. I have found myself at times wanting the congregation to engage more and wanting to edge them to that place. I seem to be able to rest when I have fully submitted myself to the authority of Jesus in my life when I'm leading. When I'm not fully submitted I'm looking at myself and wondering if there is something I should be doing better to get people to sing. Thanks for the reminder!


  2. Dude, great post! Seriously! Would you be open to my forwarding this to Russ (the TWC Editor) for re-publishing in the near future on TheWorshipCommunity.Com?

  3. This reminds me of the conversation Chad and I had on our way home from church last Sunday. We were talking about how we were both totally into the music and worshiping God through that and how we cannot get discouraged when we look at the congregation and they are all just staring at the stage.
    Great post Pat. Glad to have you back in the blog world šŸ™‚

  4. I really appreciate the point in number 2 about not judging who is engaged by outward expression. As one who is in the audience (don't really like that term, sounds to much like I'm their to be entertained,but…I suppose that's a topic for another blog), I have heard many a worship leader talk about how the congretation is engaged or not, and often it has to do with the "noise" level. If a lot of people are clapping then they are engaged. I even remember a worship pastor saying he wished he could get the adults to worship like the kids did in their worship time. I think the danger of this is mistaking enjoying good music, played well for true working of the Holy Spirit. I can be clapping and shouting and whatever at a rock concert, but does that equal worship, of course not. I can be very quiet and seemingly uninvolved and be deeply and profoundly moved. You just can't always tell. Give me the freedom to worship God in the way He leads me and God will impact my life through you.

  5. Thanks, Kim. You make sone great points. I have wondered, though, why I can seemingly get more fired up for a football game than I can about a great church service. But that's on me!

    Thanks for joining the conversation!

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