Cameron Sprinkle is “the Creative Guy” on our staff. Worship, video, graphics, skinny jeans. All that stuff. He’s also incredibly thoughtful and well spoken for an artsy type. He adds so much to our ministry and he is friend. He’s shared here before and I’m excited to have him contribute here again.
Catch the rest of the Rookie Pastor Paternity Leave Series.
Sometimes I hear from people who are struggling to connect with their worship leaders or music ministry.
“I think their timing/rhythm is just always off or something”
“They seem really arrogant”
“They keep picking songs I’ve never heard”
“They sing off-key a lot”
“It seems too show-y, like a concert”
“For some reason, I just don’t like him”
Ok, so no one has ever actually said that last one. But I can tell sometimes when people wish they could just say that.
As a worship leader myself, I’m both a huge critic and a huge defender of fellow worship leaders. On one hand, I have a very high musical and integrity standard for worship leaders; on the other hand, I have a high level of sympathy for my brothers and sisters who have the privilege of trying to musically serve a diverse group of believers who have a wide range of spiritual maturity.
- Pray for your worship leader or leaders. And mean it. And prepare to be humbled.
- Have them over for dinner. Get to know them and their heart for Jesus. If, as suspected, there’s no substance there, at least you’ll know for sure, and you’ll know more about how to pray for them. And if there IS substance there, your spiritual unity with them created by your mutual passion for Jesus will go a long way in helping you connect with them during worship.
- Examine yourself and make sure that you aren’t expecting the worship leader to give you what you won’t work for yourself–an encounter with God. Are you making personal, intimate encounters with God a priority throughout the week? Are you acknowledging him in both the majestic and mundane moments of your life? I believe the more you do these things, the less easily you are distracted by your preferences in worship music.
- Connect with and pray for fellow believers. Corporate worship comes alive when you’re in touch with what God is doing in your life and in the lives of those around you. A song like “Stronger” by Hillsong means something completely new after you’ve consistently prayed with and walked with someone who is struggling with addiction in their life.
- Realizethat the fact that you “can’t worship” to certain songs or settings says more about your need for grace than it does about your worship leader’s ability to pick songs or create stage designs.
- If you don’t like a particular song melodically or musically, try just reading the lyrics and meditating on what they’re really saying. How many times have you sung “He wraps himself in light, and darkness tries to hide” without really allowing yourself to contemplate how awesome and beautiful that is.
- If you’ve got a problem with a song lyrically, ask your worship leader what it means to him or why he chose that particular song. I had a guy once tell me that he didn’t like the song “Marvelous Light” by Charlie Hall because he thought the lyrics “Lift my hands and spin around, see the light that I have found, oh the marvelous light” were silly and meaningless. I told him of how the verse lyrics so accurately described the transformation that God did in my life when I was at college at Ball State University. I told him that I think of the way God rescued me from depression, loneliness, and addiction and set me inside a beautiful community of believers and friends, I am overjoyed to the point where I do, in fact, want to lift my hands and spin around! And if you think that’s an overly dramatic response to God’s love, then perhaps you have not fully allowed yourself to experience His love.
- Sing louder! You know why you’re so easily picking out all the musical mistakes? You’re looking for them! When you sing, you hear less of the band. Simple, right? But seriously, when you truly participate in worship, you don’t notice near as many flubs or flaws.
If after doing these things you truly think your worship leader is a phony, self-absorbed, arrogant jerk, talk to your lead pastor or executive pastor. Then continue to pray for that person.
Lastly, just remember that everyone has to develop at their craft or gift, and that your worship leader has to develop their craft or gift publicly, every week. I am grateful that I was given opportunities to develop as a guitar player, vocalist, and worship leader. I look back on some of the things I said between songs, some of the songs I chose, and some of the tempo/timing/transition train wrecks that I engineered, and I’m so humbled and grateful for the people who allowed me to lead them while I was learning.
Be gracious, and keep your eyes on Jesus. Leading people in worship is a lot harder than you think it is, and your worship leader needs you in his corner.