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:
- Encouraging the congregation about their need to be “ready to worship.”
- Trying to get people to engage by forcing them to “clap along.”
- 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.