As platform vocalists and instrumentalists, we need to disappear so all the focus is on God. Right?
As I learned more about our roles as lead worshipers on the platform, I realized that this statement sounds spiritual, but it’s kind of stupid. If taken to the logical conclusion, why have anyone upfront? We’d just need ‘worship DJs’ in every church’s sound booth.
As lead worshipers on the platform, our job goes beyond just creating the sounds that accompany our musical worship. We have a dual role on the platform: to worship God and to help others worship God.
The second part of that job description is one of the Seven Critical Commitments for Worship Team Members that we’ve been exploring for the last few months in this column. It’s number four: Engage with the Congregation.
The quality of our connection with the congregation is as important as the quality of our music. Our leadership isn’t just musical, it’s visual.
The quality of our connection with the congregation is as important as the quality of our music. Our leadership isn’t just musical, it’s visual. So let me give you three ways to better engage visually with the congregation.
MOVE THE MUSIC STAND
You can move it down and off to the side, or lose it altogether. There are two big reasons why doing this will help you engage.
It’s a barrier. A music stand is a visual black hole. The more you hunker down behind one, the less engaging you are.
It’s motivation. If I know I’m flying without my music stand, I spend significantly more time practicing. As a result, I’m more confident and freer to worship and engage.
The problem with this? When platform musicians—especially vocalists—get out of their music, what do they naturally do? They close their eyes. So we need the next way to engage the congregation.
OPEN YOUR EYES
The congregation can feel ignored when the music team has their peepers clamped shut. It’s a relational barrier.
People usually close their eyes because they’re timid or they’ve abandoned themselves in worship. And for many, if they did open their eyes, they just wouldn’t know where to look. So let me give you three places to look: over, out, and up.
I checked—it’s finally legal in your state. You are free to look at another person on your platform. So look over at your fellow team members. Give a nod of encouragement to the alto when she comes in with her part. Look over at the guitarist during her solo. Take a few steps toward the drummer during his Animal-esque, trashcan ending.
This on-platform connection helps to put the congregation at ease. When you look like you’re confident and enjoying yourself, that allows the congregation to relax and enjoy themselves.
The next place to look is out at the congregation. A great time to do this is when you’re singing songs ‘about’ God. “How Great is Our God” is an example of that. While we’re exalting God by singing of His greatness to one another.
But what about a song like “Great Are You Lord”, which is sung ‘to’ God? That’s a perfect time to turn our gaze upwards.
Now, God is everywhere—not just in the heavens. But looking up helps us experience and express the truth that God is high and exalted (Isaiah 57:15). Some songs contain both kinds of lyrics: ‘about God’ and ‘to God.’ So let the lyrics inform your gaze.
One caveat before we get to the third way to engage. Am I saying you should never close your eyes as a lead worshiper on the platform?
Definitely not. There are times when it’s both fitting and a beautiful expression of worship. But just remember that you’re not on the platform for your own personal worship experience. You’re also called to engage the congregation.
I promised three ways to engage with the congregation. We’ve looked at two: lose (or lower) your music stand and open your eyes. And the third?
Some team members need to have their heart inform their face that they’ve been saved.
Not all songs call for shiny, happy faces, so don’t plaster a phony grin on for the whole set. But if the song is a celebration of who God is and all that He has done, I think that warrants a smile. Just imagine, a smile from you towards someone in the congregation might be the thing that the Holy Spirit uses to draws that person closer to Jesus.
So engage with the congregation. Remove the barriers and interact with your church family. And remember, you don’t just lead musically, but you also lead visually.