SMALL GROUP WORSHIP LEADING HINTS
especially for guitarists
There is no biblical record of worship leaders in the New Testament church. Some compare worship leaders with the Old Testament priests, yet scripturally every believer is a priest today. A worship leader does not act as an intermediary between God and the flock. A worship leader just heads to the water where the sheep can drink for themselves. As a worship leader, you are really a kind of teacher, a teacher that uses songs and brief moments of sharing, scripture, and prayers to teach through example how God's people can come to Him. A good worship leader gets things started and then gets out of the way!
Prepare a song list. It's ok to deviate from the list, but have one ready. Keep your list easily visible (e.g. tape to top of guitar).
- Play through the list beforehand to make sure it flows.
- Do keys flow into each other - songs in same key or ascending keys? If not take a slight break between songs or do a modulation.
- Does it have a theme(s)? Does it flow thematically?
- Themes in worship - as varied as the paths of life. Examples:
- Victory March - proclaiming and sharing in Christ's victory over Satan, sin and death.
- The Cry Of Repentance - confession and turning to God.
- Call To Commitment and Action - let's get serious and roll up our sleeves!
- Adoration - worshiping Jesus at His feet.
- High Worship - coming before His throne, declaring "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty."
- Use a variety of songs:
- Not too many old songs, not too many new.
- Hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs.
- Beware of too many "me" songs or whiny songs.
- Flow: upbeat to mellow or mellow to upbeat.
- Don't use songs that you don't know thoroughly.
- Be sensitive to the musical abilities of the worshippers.
- Is the key in a comfortable range? Many songs are written in "performance" keys and should be lowered 2 or 3 half-steps for group use.
- Can the selection be easily sung? Some require a full band.
- Use modulations for variety in repetitive songs.
- Provide lyrics if you can, unless you are doing very well knows songs. Put together a song sheet of your favorites or get song books. Always provide lyrics on new songs.
- Taking requests:
- If you are flexible enough and know enough songs.
- Easier as you get use to each other.
- It's alright to say "NO" or "later" - you are the leader.
- Teaching new songs: one per worship time max. Reinforce it by doing it again for the next couple sessions, then let it rest awhile.
Be Early. If we are late, we tend to be less sensitive and more likely to rush through songs and not share what we originally intended. Also, guitars need time to reach room temperature.
Make sure your instrument is in tune. It should be an aid to worship, not a hindrance!
- Electronic tuners are great when time is short and money isn't.
- Good strings? Old strings can make a guitar nearly untunable as well as dull sounding. Replace strings at least every few months. Wipe them off with a cloth after use. Phosphorus strings have a longer life than just bronze. Of course its always nice to have spare strings handy, just in case. Buy mail-order for best price.
Make sure your heart is in tune.
- Take your sin seriously. Moral failure affects your worship time.
- Get any differences within your group settled beforehand.
- Keep your heart flowing in worship continuously. Don't expect to worship with a group if you don't spend time alone and also seize the other moments of the day to spend with Him.
Enter worship yourself. How can you "lead" people in worship if you aren't worshiping?
- Enjoy His presence. Have fun with His people!
- Let your face know the condition of your heart!
- Be bold: Start as if you own the place! You are the leader, so lead. Enter by faith, through His blood.
- Be humble: times will be good, times will be hard - it is not you. Don't take yourself too seriously. The Holy Spirit gives anointing, not you. Avoid a "performance mentality".
- Be real: don't get "religious". Be natural, not churchy.
- Be sensitive. Great musicians can be lousy worship leaders and great worship leaders can be barely musicians. Some professional Christian musicians can't lead worship at all. Yet some people with horrible voices and poor rhythms, by grace, are able to encourage groups to worship. Sensitivity to God is much more important than musical talent.
- Don't go by feelings. The Lord often touches other's hearts, even though yours feels unmoved. Sometimes worship leading is like hacking through a dense forest with a machete, and sometimes it's like reaching that clearing where the sun is shining. But if things really are not going well, just end early. You don't have to live up to past expectations.
- Beware of formulas. Just because something worked well one week, it may not the next. Don't try to put God or His Spirit in a box. Don't trust in the flesh.
- Please God - not man. Be sensitive to the requests, desires and complaints of the saints, but keep things in perspective. You can't please everyone, but you can please God.
- Don't worship worship, worship God! Keep the object of our worship in clear focus. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
Sharing: use a short word from Bible reading, what the Lord has shown you recently, your journal, what you read in a book that touched you, or an experience. Often it is better to just sing without saying anything.
- Have a definite point. Don't ramble.
- Your message should flow into a song or out of one.
- Highlight or explain biblical concepts in a song that may not be obvious in today's culture.
Selah - pauses, meditation times. Often it's nice to just be silent and wait on the Lord. Or you may continue to play your instrument without singing.
Advanced Worship Techniques: All the following depend on improvising a melody and singing to the Lord during a predictable chord progression. Most people are terrified at the thought of doing this, but it can be great with groups who are very comfortable with each other.
- Musical Prayer/Songs of the Spirit - sing the prayer on your heart to the Lord, improvising a melody.
- Psalming - sing scripture, especially a Psalm to the Lord, again improvising a melody.
©2004 Roy Osborn
Copy freely for non-profit use.