When I was just starting out as a singer in a worship team, a lot of focus was placed on being the ‘lead worshipper’. The intention was to lead by example and worship God fully while leading others. The thought was that this would be so infectious to the congregation that they would be drawn into their own worship experience as I was having mine in front of them. As I have grown in my leadership and developed my own understanding of what worship leadership looks like, I feel myself moving more and more away from this lead worshipper idea and more towards being a servant worship leader.
I believe our main function as worship leaders is to facilitate a space for the congregation to interact with God through our spoken and musical leadership. I personally find it difficult to focus fully on worshipping God while at the same time managing all the aspects that go into leading the congregation.
A blessing of our role is that as we serve, we remain connected and involved in worship, and are being sensitive to the Holy Spirit as He prompts and guides us. But the guidance we are looking for should not be for our personal worship, it should be for the good of the congregation that we are serving.
I realize the tightrope I am walking on as I write this, but I believe that we have many worship leaders who can be focused on their personal worship at the expense of the congregation that they are meant to be serving. An example could be if we lead with our eyes closed for a majority of our time in front of the congregation, we automatically cut out fifty percent of our feedback from the congregation. I am not saying don’t close your eyes as a worship leader but I think that as servants, with an intent to be working with the best interests of our congregations in mind, being able to receive feedback from that congregation is essential to doing our best. In these moments of leadership, the worship time is not about us. We are the facilitators. We need to balance being involved and in tune with the worship going on around us while also being conscious of the practical matters of leading a band, playing an instrument or singing, listening to the Holy Spirit’s direction, thinking about our next transition and a host of other things that pop into your head as you lead.
Leading by example is excellent. Letting people see that you are openly worshipping as the worship leader is not confined to the stage you lead from. Worship happens every day in the world we live in and it is there that your congregation sees as much, if not more, of the way you truly worship. Being an active and positive member of the congregation you lead can give you as much license to lead the worship time as any musical ability you possess.
As worship leaders, we need to take care to find our own space to worship God and not rely on our time in front of the congregation to do that. If we truly desire to be servant leaders then our attitude to this time will be different and our attention will be split in a way that allows us to focus on others. Make sure you find time in your daily life to worship and connect with God. It is out of this time that you will hear from Him and will become a better leader because of it.