I’ve been pretty blessed. A lot of significant music opportunities in my life have been “right place, right time” kind of moments. I’ve had the opportunity through knowing the right person or being on staff at a large church that was a frequent concert venue to be able to open for some great artists including Starfield, Avalon, Downhere, and Tree63.
These bands are all fantastic and have accomplished a lot over their careers. I was honoured to be able to share a stage with them. I’d like to share with you a few things that I learned from those experiences as I think they could help you if you’re someone that, like me, has been tricked into getting up on stage in front of hundreds of people every Sunday.
yikes…it’s freaky when you think about it
Connect With Your Audience
I’ve learned that you should never assume that your audience is just going to “come with you” if you’re on a stage in front of them. As an opening act the audience is almost never there to see you. They are there because they’re fans of the headlining group. Maybe your parents or your girlfriend are in the audience but other than them you need to quickly win over every other person in that room. Tricky. But that’s kind of like our church context too. Thankfully no one is there for the worship leader. But it’s still your job to connect with them, engage them, and direct their focus to Jesus. They become the choir instead of the audience. So how can you engage them?
- BE HUMBLE – If you are humble they will learn to trust you quickly.
- BE INTENTIONAL – Speak clearly and have your thoughts prepared ahead of time. Lead them through your songs giving explanation when needed and help them understand why you are singing that particular song (if it’s a central song in your set).
- BE EXPRESSIVE – You’re not in your living room practicing your set, you’re in front of a lot of people, on a stage. Allow yourself to express the emotion of each song in your performance/leading. Is it a fun song? Then move! Is it a thoughtful song? Express that. Some might disagree with me here but I find it’s the best way to help others connect with that song.
Being in an environment where you can learn from someone with more experience than yourself is a great way to learn. I learned a lot just by watching Starfield interact with their audience. They are very relaxed on stage and as worship leaders themselves are a great example of humility as well. It’s evident that they desire to point people to God at their concerts. And they are good for a reason…
- They’ve practiced a ton
- They care about excellence because it’s going to help people connect with the music and ultimately with God
- They prepare what they’re going to say
The bands that win and keep fans are the ones who make themselves available after concerts to interact with their fans. Now please here me on this, I don’t NOT want to propagate the idea that worship leaders should be viewed as celebrities in their churches. It makes me sick when that happens and goes against my rule #1 for being a worship leader, which is humility. What I mean here is that as a worship leader, pastor, teacher, whatever it is; you are part of your local church. You are called to be in community, to be available to pray for others and encourage others as you chat in the foyer on Sundays. Don’t go hang out in your green room (and if you have one maybe ask yourself why you have one). This is your church family. We’re in this together.
How do you connect with your audience?
How do you keep learning from those better than you?
How are you making yourself available to your congregation?
Thanks for reading!