There’ a simple pre-flight checklist that I try my best to go through every time I lead worship. None of these things are all that complicated, but it helps each service go smoothly and minimizes distractions. Ultimately, as worship leaders, our job is to connect the congregation to the heart of God, and the more we can do to minimize ourselves and maximize our focus on Jesus, the better.
Memorize your lyrics and chords.
We live in an age of prompters and confidence monitors. These should not be a crutch. You shouldn’t be reading the lyrics to the songs during the service, and you shouldn’t be lost in your chart while trying to lead the congregation. These things take time, and it’s time you’ll have to put in throughout the week before you arrive at your church. Glancing down at your chords or lyrics for reference during the music set is fine, but you should always be comfortable stepping away from those things. It’s almost impossible to engage your church body when your eyes are glued elsewhere.
Warm up your voice.
Unfortunately, worship leaders often have the disadvantage of singing first thing in the morning, which is almost never the best time to sing. Take some time before the service and before the rehearsal to warm your voice up. There are lots of great exercises out there to help you. Sometimes I use the ones from this video. Sometimes, I just sing scales. Sometimes I pick just the lower verses from a song on the setlist and just sing those. But don’t start singing cold.
Drink water. Coffee is not enough!
Your voice is controlled by muscles, and like any muscle, it needs to be properly hydrated in order to function at its best. It’s better to drink room temperature water as cold water can actually shock your vocal cords into tightening back up again. Coffee doesn’t hydrate you adequately. You might need it to wake up, but drink water to wake up your voice.
Check in with the person running lyrics.
If you’re running lyrics on a screen somewhere during the service, make sure you check in with the person who is running the computer during the service. Try to have the lyrics as close to being in order as possible, including copying/pasting the choruses as many times as your going to sing them. This doesn’t mean that there can’t be spontaneity or flexibility during the service, but you should always be as prepared as possible on the front end. Not having the lyrics available or having the wrong lyrics on screen is always distracting for the congregation, and you definitely want to minimize that.
Tell your team members how much you appreciate them.
Most of your worship team are likely volunteers who freely give their time, and they should know that you’re grateful for the work they put in. A simple, “Thank you so much for serving with me today,” can go a very long way towards building your team and pointing them to Jesus. Sometimes, it’s good to do even more than that. Consider writing a Thank You card to one member of your team each week or a $5 Starbucks card. Let your team know that you love them and that their efforts are appreciated.
Pray with your entire team.
This includes the media folks, the sound engineer, lighting, camera operators, and musicians. All of them have devoted the time to be there, and you’re all a part of the same team with the same mission. Take the time to ask if anyone has any specific prayer needs. Be personal with your team. Be compassionate with them. Pray God’s richness over their lives. Give thanks to God for them.
Pray for your congregation.
We never know what kinds of needs, situations, and desperations are going to walk through the door. Pray that God will prepare the hearts of those about to attend the service, that he would begin to soften their hearts to His voice and His presence. Pray for salvation, for changed lives, for altered destinies.
Pray for your pastor.
Whether or not you’re physically with him when you do it, cover your pastor with prayer. Pray that your pastor will be able to effectively teach, discern, and communicate. Pray for your pastor’s family. Pray for encouragement, inspiration, and boldness. Pray that God will use the sermon to plant seeds in your congregation’s hearts and that those seeds would grow into rich, beautiful harvest.
Consciously set aside your personal distractions and focus on Jesus.
Worship leaders are people too. We have crazy lives, crazy families, crazy jobs. But the worship service isn’t the best place to ponder the week you just had or what you’re facing in the week ahead. The worship service is time to focus on the goodness of God. Remember, ultimately, we worship God because of who he is, because he deserves it! He deserves our full attention, our full energy. If you’ve got something pressing on your heart that you can’t shake, pull a member of your pastoral team or an elder aside and ask for prayer. Orient your heart towards Christ so that you can help point others to Him as well.
Tune your instrument.
This is especially important for my fellow guitar players out there. Tuning your guitar mid-service is distracting to both you and the congregation. If you have to tune during the service, you want it to be minimal adjustments, so make sure you’re whole instrument is in tune right before the service starts. Don’t assume that because it was in tune during practice, it’ll be in tune during the service. This should be the very last thing you do before every service. If you don’t already own a good tuner, do yourself (and your congregation) a favor and get one!
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