Values and Practical Ideas For Leading Online Worship Services
These are both challenging and exciting times for the church! Every new movement in the history of the church has been accompanied by new music and new methods while the message never changes. Worship Leaders have been given a great opportunity to incorporate new methods to communicate the unchanging message of the good news of Jesus Christ. You are a history maker!
Leading worship, through the arts, is a very important part of the worship experience, especially for the online gathering. Referred to as the missing jewel of the Church, worshipping through the arts and singing together is a beautiful communication gift from God. Today, the serious Crises “everyone” is concerned most about is called the Corona Crises (The Crown Crises), not the Worship (The Crown Him With Many Crowns) Crises. However, the world is listening now, providing Worship Leaders a great opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
Just like other online platforms, producing the Online worship service is more like producing a television presentation than a live worship service. As Worship leaders, we need to keep using songs that speak the good news of Jesus Christ, be ourselves and serve the philosophy of ministry of our churches. Here’s a quick list of essential values and practical ideas you can apply as you prepare your online worship services.
Six Essential Values
1. Go for Engagement through celebration.
Artists in a small room can get too moody or melancholy when recording all alone or with one other person recording them. Intentionally think about CELEBRATION and Joy when leading. Speed up the hymns and songs sung directly to God and smile when appropriate. I think SINGERS may sing soft songs too slow when recording or trying to be reverent. Who said reverent songs should only be soft and slow. All true worship is reverent. Speed and dynamics are two different things. We gather to worship God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit. We celebrate the resurrection, not the death of Christ. Present as if you’re celebrating, not grieving.
“I was glad when they said to me,
Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
Psalm 122:1 (ESV):
2. Serve Others
As Worship Leaders remember, we are offering a worship service not a worship serve us. Be intentionally creative. God wants us to serve the crowd before our own personal or creative interests.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4
3. Be Clear
It’s always better to be clear than clever or cute. The goal of leading worship is CONNECTION, not perfection. We need to value authenticity over ingenuity when leading worship. God always does the miracles!
“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.” 1 Corinthians 2:1–2
3. Welcome Feedback
Ask for evaluations from your supervisors and quickly survey attendees/viewers, learn from critics and incorporate suggestions as appropriate. Learn from other models. Ask your team what might work and what may not work for your church.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; “ James 1:19
4. Avoid Self Promotion
Self-promotion is an easy trap when incorporating new methods. Avoid comparisons. Comparison has only two results: pride or depression. Most dangerous, self-promotion is a distraction from worshipping God. Statements like, “we’ve been using this technology for years and our church is so much more advanced than other churches.” Or comments like “Our worship team is working so hard to bring you these Livestreams to you every week.” These kinds of statements take the attention away from God. Avoid them.
“Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.” Romans 8:7–8
5. Content Requires Context
It’s an important strategy to match your music with the pastor’s message. Music can be used as a clarifier, taking the content into the context of the personal lives of the worshipper.
Not all songs need to be thematic, but it’s really helpful when the music matches the theme of the topic being studied. Rick Warren says, “People remember the music much longer than the pastor’s message.”
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16
Seven Practical Ideas
The two most significant barriers to having meaningful worship in the online service are musical leadership and the misconception that worship is synonymous with music. Biblical Worship is, of course, more than music and is not synonymous with it (see Romans 12). The essence of worship is faith: sound doctrine not the soundtrack! Biblical Worship is Faith Expressed! There are many ways to worship God without music. However, one of the most common, most beautiful, most effective ways to express faith corporately involves music. With intentional adjustments to our methods we can continue to connect our congregations to God using the arts while gathering in small groups online.
“Music is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” Martin Luther
To be effective in leading worship online it is necessary to quickly change our approach to how we connect our crowd to God. New media requires new methods. Here are some practical tips for leading worship, with music, online.
1. Calm Fears
If public speaking is the number one fear of most adults then public singing was overlooked in the survey! Most people like to sing but prefer to vocalize privately or in a setting where their individual voice will not be noticed. Getting people to sing with an online worship team can be a challenge. An affable worship leader encourages participation by intentionally gaining the group’s trust.
Being friendly, relaxed and likable will help calm fears about the “singing” part of the worship time.
Worship leaders should avoid making direct eye contact with the group members while singing words directed to God. Staring, in general, makes people nervous but during singing, it can be particularly weird. Picture singing the words “I love you, Lord” while staring directly at someone just five feet away from you. Direct eye contact is important when you are speaking to the group but will feel awkward to others while singing in a small setting.
Simple Rule: be caring without staring.
2. Choose Friendly
Use songs that are group friendly: familiar, well-liked and in sing-able keys. Singing gets better with confidence. Confidence grows with familiarity. Avoid using songs that are unfamiliar, hard to learn and difficult to sing. Another way to be friendly is to put the song in the right key. Most groups stop singing when the key is too high. This is because many people have to sing louder when they sing higher. Some can’t reach the high notes and most people become self-conscious if they hear their voices above the rest and will stop singing.
Simple Rule: Use familiar songs and friendly keys.
3. Control Volume
People follow voices! Be careful not to drown out the voices with your guitar or other accompaniment. There’s a difference between louder and energy.
Simple rule: Sing brighter and strum lighter. Your guitar can be louder than you realize.
4. Contextualize Songs
Participation will increase when the group relates to the song. The worship leader can share interesting facts about the song: what the song means to them personally, it’s scriptural reference or how it relates to the Pastor’s message or group study.
Simple Rule: Plan your speaking and be brief.
5. Connect Group
The goal of group singing is connection: connection with God and each other. Music is a language that speaks directly to the soul. The worship leader’s job is to make the introduction and then stay out of the way.
Simple Rule: Focus on connecting not performing.
6. Come Prepared
Know your music and sing from the overflow. The bible says, “If we are leaders we should do our best.” (Rom 12:8) The Worship Leader should know their music and words well enough that their leading is easy for the group to follow. Effective worship leaders are more than just skilled troubadours. The Worship Leader must have an authentic relationship with the Father, faithfully living a life of worship.
Simple Rule: Leading worship with music requires Spiritual and Musical preparation.
7. Continue Praying
Think of singing to God as a form of prayer. Don’t just play your songs; Pray them. People respond to sincere prayers, especially in an intimate group setting. Be aware of those you are leading while staying focused on the conversation with God while singing. Approach worship leading as more of a prayer time than “Special Music” or a mini-concert.
Simple Rule: Pray and Play.
Rick Muchow was the founding Worship Pastor at Saddleback Church, serving with Pastor Rick Warren for nearly 25 years. He’s helped train over 150,000 church leaders. For three years he served as the Director of Worship Practicum at California Baptist University, coaching students who are majoring in Worship Leading (ask him about scholarships) and he encourages local church worship teams, Pastors and Worship leaders.
Rick has been battling brain cancer for two years (2020). His passion for Worshipping God and training Worship Leaders keeps increasing. Download his latest book, Trusting123 at www.Rickmuchow.com. Find Rick on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @rickmuchow