Eat & Get Out: 7 Social Rules of Engagement for Worship Leaders

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The man behind the coffee counter bellowed at me, “I don’t have a sign that says ‘EAT AND GET OUT’ but I’m looking for one!” As I reached for my wallet, I judged his comment as more truth than sarcasm. His wisecracking smile couldn’t cover up his testiness with tourists trolling for free Wi-Fi in his shop. After quickly exchanging a polite laugh and a few bucks I settled into a corner booth. I watched for 20 minutes (while enjoying the free Wi-Fi) as each new customer (or victim) navigated the man’s ill-humor. His awkward social engagement had been undoubtedly shaped by years of rehearsal turned habit.

We become what we rehearse. Francis Asbury poetically shared, “Oh what people of God we ought to be; and grace can make us so!” Being shaped by God’s grace can be reflected in a simple hello or thoughtful action.

There are unwritten social norms like don’t text and drive, and let people out of the elevator before entering. Yet we all encounter these social faux pas on a regular basis. Full disclosure, my perspective comes as one in the crowd and not on the platform. I’m not a worship leader but I’m married to a great one. Here are common sense but often-missed 7 social rules to help worship leaders kindle greater engagement and build relationships in your congregation.

1. Smile and say hello. Say hello, smile, and invite people to join in worship. Worship leaders are greeters and should intentionally interact with the congregation. Smiling is everyone’s role on the platform regardless of their instrument or job description. Practice smiling even in rehearsal.
2. Prepare to speak. Prepare for transitions between songs just like the pastor crafts a sermon. Trust me, we all know when you’re winging it. Practice transitions in front of a mirror and during rehearsal, so you have liberty in the service for the Spirit’s moving.
3. Humility is attractive. Challenge any rock star or diva attitude in yourself and on your team that looks like selfish pride. It’s not always overtly obvious. It appears in small complaints like, “Why are they singing my part?” Humility needs to be trained and engrained.
4. Don’t be a robot in prayer. Corporate prayer is an act of worship. Use variety and creativity as you would in song selection. Repetitive offertory sayings like “bless the gift and the giver” reveal a lack of preparation if routinely repeated.
5. Look me in the eyes (without being awkward). Look at people in the eye and smile — not as performance but as an intentional act of blessing. Take cues from song lyrics that are written to inspire the people and look them in the eyes. It’s okay to lift your eyes to God in praise, but don’t leave your congregation leaderless for 15 minutes.
6. Know the lyrics. The song shouldn’t be new to the worship team when leading it for the first time. Teaching a new song requires that you understand it first. Familiarity multiplies confidence for you and your team.
7. Don’t chew gum. Just like you shouldn’t chew with your mouth open, the audience doesn’t need to be distracted by your wad of juicy fruit. This goes for everyone on the platform, singing or not.

Image attribution: nothwoodsphoto / Thinkstock

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Professional collaborator. Amateur chef. Being made new. Creative director @wesleyanchurch. I believe in simplicity and the power of transformational stories. Working in the world of non-profit design and brand strategy. Creating collaborative environments where worship and art dangerously expose hearts to receive God’s love.

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