Something frightening has been going on probably since the beginning of "worship leaderdom"... It has plagued nearly every worship leader at one time or another... It's like a disease that has spread rapidly and almost unknowingly amongst us!!! Okay...let me explain....
Hi, I'm Ryan Bailey and I am a worship leader in Fort Worth, Texas. As a believer that happens to be a worship leader, it is my heart's desire to be as authentic as possible. I want to be the same person ON AND OFF the platform. When I talk to someone after I lead worship, I want them to feel as if they already know me because I was transparent and real as I led. But there are some things that get in the way of that. One of those is something myself and a fellow worship leader friend of mine like to call "worship leader voice."
Worship leader voice is this alternate, inorganic, plastic, and sometime "super-spiritual" voice that we as worship leaders get when we lead. It can happen when we speak during worship, prayer, a vocal prompt, or a transition between songs. If you are like me, worship leader voice is your weird voice that seems to take over the second you step on the platform. It's like you have an alternate voice box that takes over. What is that?! Ahhh! As I sit here typing this I wish I could record my worship leader voice for you so you could hear it, but I'll do my best to explain it to you.
My worship leader voice is a cross between an 8-year-old girl, Stevie Wonder, and a hot air balloon...it's breathy to say the least. Some people seem to end all their sentences as if they are questions. Some have angry preacher voice. Some act like they just sucked the air out the balloons at Party City. Some people always sound like they are constantly on the verge of tears. This goes for add libs as well. I'm pretty sure Matt Redman is the only person who can say [insert Redman voice] "blessed be your name today Lord God!", and sound perfectly natural. I don't know where the voice comes from, but if I'm not careful, it comes around in me more often than I would like to admit. :)
People want to know you. The real you. If your voice sounds different on the platform than it does off of it, people start beginning to ask what is up with that.
My encouragement to you would be to use words you use in every day life and speak them as though you were talking to family and friends. After all, that is what you congregation is! Let's do our very best to break down the barrier between platform and congregation that creeps in. Let's be authentic followers of Jesus who lead His Church in authentic worship of Him.
Here are some helpful tips I've had to learn to keep our own voices from being a distraction:
1. Recruit an honest friend: Find someone you trust who loves you, and give them permission to call worship leader voice on you!!! Ask them to point it out when you use it. The more you are aware of it, the easier it will be to get rid of it.
2. Watch yourself lead: If you have the ability where you lead worship to watch videos of yourself leading, as painful as it may be, do it! It will only make you better.
3. Lastly, think before you speak: Make a concerted effort to think not only about what you are going to say, but saying it in a normal, conversational tone. This may sound like a no brainer, but a lot of us just start talking and don't even think about it. So do what your mom taught you: don't let your mouth outrun your brain.
Ryan is a worship leader at Pantego Bible Church in Fort Worth, Texas. She and her husband Chad have two beautiful kids. She is involved with EQUIP worship conferences. To learn more about their family and their church, see the information below. Thanks to Ryan for being a part of the conversation.
The contemporary leadership conversation is full of great lists of directives and “how-to’s.” In this entry, my goal is to share what NOT TO DO as you lead your teams. By talking about this short list, we can all remind ourselves about the importance of pursuing authenticity in our relationships. (Know that these three “authenticity killers” have been thoroughly field-tested by the author and guaranteed to undermine your credibility!)
1. Look away when people are talking to you
By doing this, you are telling the person in front of you that either you are a. in a hurry and don’t have time to waste on them; b. not the least bit interested in what they have to say; or c. you are really interested in talking to someone else in the room. When is the last time you concentrated on the face of the person you are talking to? There is a big difference between talking “with” someone and talking “to” someone. Authentic leaders make it a point to look people in the eye and blur out the background.
2. Use a game face
The masks we wear around people can take on a thousand shapes. Some wear the “stone cold and unaffected by anything” version. Some wear “the life of the party” edition to keep the energy level in the room up. Some, by default, put on the “wallflower face” in an attempt to avoid talking to anyone at all. Introverts and extroverts alike need to frequently self check and make sure that you are not “operating your gifting” to the extreme. Introverts need to have adequate “alone time” before they do “people time.” Extroverts need to free themselves from the need to work every room and enjoy some one on one moments with the people God brings into your path. Leaders who fake it can be recognized from a mile away. Wear the face God gave you. Be who you are when you are alone AND when you are with the team.
3. Be a robot
Robots are perfect. No emotion. Just strong. Why do we strive appear as such? Because, nobody can trump perfect. Nobody can criticize what you don’t reveal. I’ve found that “tactful vulnerability” can engender huge amount of trust and build community in your group. Don’t be a fountain of self-disclosure; just let the ones around you know you are human.
Have you known what it is like to be led authentically? How did that person do it?
Have you ever risked “being real” with your team? What happened?
Proverbs 26:23 “Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart.”
When we talk “worship through song”, we divide our content into 2 broad categories. Songs either fall into the PARTICIPATION bucket or the PRESENTATION bucket. Both are used in our worship service and both have amazing strengths.
Have you ever been in a worship service where the leaders began to exhibit “too deliberate a smile”? Things can go south in a hurry. We’ve got to be life-givers on- platform; leading with our whole bodies...but...it might be better to take it down a notch or two on the happy gauge…
I’m not advocating constantly full portions of cold-hearted, melancholy introspection; I am saying that worship leaders have to be made of deeper stuff. Don’t settle for plastic mimicry. I know the word “authentic” has been used so much in church circles it has been worn threadbare. But, it is a true axiom for us in how we do our lives on and off platform.
I would like to advance the notion that leading the worshipper to PARTICIPATE personally with God during times of worship is the center of the target. The more you and I disappear, the better we do our job.
Use PRESENTATION songs to set tone, amplify a message point, or bring a group in. Then, in wisdom, see if the Lord might lead you to authentically turn the corner. Release the group to PARTICIPATE with one another and with their Creator. Back off and let the Lord do His thing.
Rock stars have their place. You might be one. Right on! (said by Brett Younker, Passion City Church) The platform of the worship leader is just different. Teaching people how to connect in worship through song is the ride of a lifetime, and might just bring you and your congregation more joy than covering a cool song. Take time to know the difference between the two. Pray that He would allow you to be a leader whose passion for God sparks participation in others.
Please comment below on a worship service where you witnessed the power of participation over presentation.
Welcome to the new edition of my blog. I had chosen last week that today would be the day to re-launch this online entity. Little did I know I would also be leaving the funeral service for a dear friend and encourager as well.
I heard again today how important it is to live life on purpose and try to make your spirituality something tangible for the people around you. It is what my friend Stacy did with his life and I am forever grateful for his encouragement and influence on me.
So, it is in his honor today that I continue marching down this awesome road of challenging people to lead with poise, purpose, and passion in all they do.
Welcome to stephenandstar.com.
Chris Farley might be at your church next weekend...sort of.
I promise there is some application for us in here some place...just let me finishing wiping the tears out of my eyes. I cry every time I see this. So…
As worship leaders, we can completely leave members, regulars, visitors, guests, and first timers behind if we plan worship services that aren’t accessible. By accessible, I mean, worship gatherings that lack handles and don’t give everybody a chance to grab on tightly. While presupposing that worship services are to and through the Lord, there is a communal/social element of united groups that has to factor into our planning.
The mandate of every believer is to love God and love others. A way to love others is to learn to speak their language. Worship leaders direct the congregation vertically to look at the Lord, we also direct them horizontally to declare Him to the people around us. This might mean spending a few extra hours each week getting to know who you are serving.
Once you understand who you are serving, you are going to begin planning better worship services. Not only will you be leading familiar content, you will also be bringing your congregation along to new places of expression through new music.
One of the understood axioms on our team is to use the 80/20 rule. This means that during any given gathering, people will be singing 80% familiar songs and 20% new or unfamiliar songs. I find that the average church attender is not as familiar with the “latest & greatest” worship tune that has just hit the air.
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is introducing too much too fast. Once I hear a great song that I think it going to be immediately accessible to my church, I want to throw it in Planning Center and start singing it! I’ve found it best to hold off for a few weeks or months and let the song “bake” in me in my times of private worship before “going public” with it.
I guarantee your congregation will engage more quickly if the are singing something that doesn’t really depend on the screens. Once engaged in what the Lord is saying to them, they will be more likely to adopt to songs that might express their hearts to God in a fresh words.
The question for us is how to know when a song if familiar enough to be placed in the 80th percentile?