A Practical Primer on Presence

When it comes to participating in a worship environment where I’m not leading or playing, I wrestle with a lot of distractions: Does the band sound right? Is the mix good? Are they playing the right parts? Are they tight and cohesive or does it feel like they’ve never played a single note together? Do they look like they’re enjoying the worship time or is it a chore and a bore? Does the team (and the leader, for that matter) look nervous or do I feel like they know what they’re doing and where they are going? Am I being led somewhere?

Some or all of these questions aren’t necessarily consciously thought, but more perceived. And yet, I believe all of them can be addressed by a worship team as you prepare!

So that this article doesn’t take up the whole magazine, I want to talk specifically about how things look from the congregation’s perspective and some practical ways to improve their experience on Sundays.

GET RID OF BARRIERS

People want to feel included in the worship experience, drawn in, and invited. How would they feel if you were hiding most of your face? You already have a guitar strapped on, and maybe a microphone stand. . . and that huge pedalboard. Adding a music stand is just one more way the congregation is excluded and pushed away.

Practical Tip #1: Have someone stand in your place and walk out to the middle of the auditorium. How does it look? Does it feel inviting or isolating?

CONTROL YOUR AREA

If you played in a rock band at your local club, you would be almost expected to step forward for a guitar solo at some point. In the worship environment (especially when there’s lighting involved), I tend to see that, even if it was encouraged and needed, a guitarist couldn’t move out of their position for a number of reasons. Maybe you’re tethered to a personal mixer of some kind, or surrounded by wedge monitors. Whatever your scenario looks like, find a way to move out of your little box. This is especially helpful when it comes to team interaction.

Practical Tip #2: Route cords to the side or out of the way so you could move off your grid. Standing in one place the whole worship set isn’t somehow holier because you stood still.

PRACTICE MOVING SO YOU KNOW HOW

Ok, this is one that I am completely stealing from my good friend, Tom Jackson, but it bears repeating: if you don’t practice moving, you won’t move. People may not know anything about music, but they’re excellent readers of body language. If you seem uncomfortable on stage, everyone in the audience who is trying to connect with God will see you and be uncomfortable for you. Hillsong did us all a huge favor when they introduced what I’d like to call the “Holy Hop.” It gave us all something to do that wasn’t dancing but was more than just standing still – I love it! But there’s more to a worship set than just one kind of song, and there should be more to you than just lifting your hand in a particularly worshipful moment or hopping up and down on the fast songs. If you felt like you needed to step back, do you know where to step to keep from falling over and landing in the kick drum?

Practical Tip #3: make an X on the stage where you normally stand, then spend all of your rehearsal figuring out how NOT to stand there. Where can you move that gives you options?

SHARE THE JOY

Experiencing a great worship time is not unlike seeing a great band in concert. The execution of the music is excellent, but there’s another part to it as well: everyone looks like they’re having a good time! When we stand on a platform to lead worship, we don’t come dreading the experience – or at least, we shouldn’t! – but we come with an expectation of enjoying ourselves in the doing of it. It SHOULD be a joy. We are playing for our King, so enjoy yourself! Laugh, shout, sing, dance (or Holy Hop!) out of the JOY that you get to experience as a result of the way you serve.

Practical Tip #4: Since you already know the songs you’re playing (ahem – you did already learn the songs, right?), look around at the rest of the band. Smile at someone. Make eye contact.

Hopefully, if you apply some of these things, the end result is that you as a musician feel more comfortable on-stage, and that helps the people you lead in worship each week to be more comfortable and able to engage with our Heavenly Father more easily as we worship together!

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