We probably all agree that worship leading is serious business. We want to lead well, edifying God’s people as we glorify Him in our gatherings. But even if our liturgy is gospel-centered, we can hinder the worship of our brothers and sisters if we’re guilty of these things:
1. Being practically unprepared to lead
This one is pretty simple: know your music, and know it well. And have your music clearly marked with any key changes, etc. If you don’t have it memorized, make sure you have your music organized and easy-to-read in front of you while you’re leading. If you’re fumbling through your chords and lines while leading, your congregation is surely going to be distracted. This will be a hindrance to them in focusing their individual and corporate attention on the One who is most worthy of praise. Avoid drawing any unhelpful attention to yourself. Which brings me to number 2. . .
2. Drawing attention to yourself by dressing inappropriately.
In this regard, it’s not necessarily best to let everyone’s individual conscience be their guide. Have clear guidelines for your whole worship team. At my church, the pastor’s guidelines include:
“As worship leaders, you’re a representative face for the church. Your particular visibility communicates a lot about the church and the community. We don’t want to lay out any weird expectations, but we want to make sure that we send the right message visually. “Dressing down” can say that we don’t care about putting our best face forward, and “dressing up” can say, “LOOK AT ME!” What we want to do is dress in such a way that:
• Communicates to the church, “We’re glad you’re here.”
• Honors men and women
• Doesn’t distract from the gospel message of the songs and texts.”
3. Acting like a rock star
It’s not helpful to anyone in the congregation for you to give your best rock star performance during gathered worship times. Save that sort of showmanship for other arenas and stages. We serve our people best when we point them to Christ, and not to ourselves. We are not to be performers seeking our own fame and glory. We are servants, the redeemed of the Lord, seeking to glorify and make much of Christ who saved us.
4. Being Swept Away in Personal Worship Ecstasy
It is good and appropriate for us to abandon ourselves completely to the Lord in worship. This is not about that. This worship leading mistake is about being swept away in our own personal worship experience while we’re supposed to be presently leading our congregation. Instead of leading them, we leave our congregation in our heavenly dust with mouths agape in wonderment at what just happened to the worship leader.
It’s okay to encourage your congregation to openly and extemporaneously express their worship to the Lord. Just try not to check out of the room while you’re leading.
5. Making A Bad Transition Between Songs or Liturgy
Sometimes we worship leaders feel it’s necessary to segue between songs and/or liturgical readings and prayers in order to avoid any potentially awkward silence. But we shouldn’t be afraid of or avoid the silence. Although most of our congregants will be somewhat uncomfortable in this silence, it’s good for us to practice times of silent reflection. Intentionally leaving room for this between songs can be very helpful to our congregations.
On the flipside, if we awkwardly force an extemporaneous prayer or fumble through a hasty reflection in order to avoid “awkward” silence, we might actually distract our congregants and leave them scratching their heads wondering what we just uttered and how it was relevant to our worship service.
If you prepare thoughtful and relevant transitional prayers and reflections (whether scripted liturgy is used in your services or not), you can help your fellow worshipers to ponder more deeply the gospel you’re singing and declaring together. The bottom line is to be thoughtful and prayerful as we prepare for our worship services, including transitions and moments of silent reflection. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you in this.