How To Be An Engaging Worship Leader

Featuring John Chisum Posted on December 28, 2008

I got kicked out of the high school marching band in 10th grade because I was always late for class. Band was first period and the director required everyone to be ten minutes early and to be in place and ready to go. Somehow I just couldn't get there early enough to have my trombone out and warmed up by 7:20 a.m. even though I lived right across the street from the school. They practically court marshalled me. I am scarred for life.

Sometime during that rocky period of my life I remember having one of the few heart-to-heart talks with my dad about the band and my accruing demerits. He was a music lover all of his life and he played guitar, fiddle, banjo, and mandolin quite well. He was very eclectic in his tastes and we heard everything in our house from Flatt & Scruggs bluegrass to Mahler symphonies. Being able to love all kinds of music was one of his best gifts to me. During that talk he said to me, "Well, John, if music isn't fun to you don't do it anymore."

I realize that we have to do a lot of things in life that aren't fun for us. We have to work to pay the bills. We have to take the garbage out. We have to mow the lawn. We have to go get a prostate exam or a colonoscopy. The litany of un-fun things we have to do as reasonable adults is lengthy, but leading worship and being a worship leader should never make that list. Worshiping God and leading others to know Him intimately should top the list of the most fun we can ever have in this life!

Somehow through that conversation with my dad I realized that the militaristic approach that my high school band director took chased all the fun of music away for me. Putting aside the fact that I was completely undisciplined in every area of my life, his goals in music were completely different from mine. He wanted to win awards for himself and the school by having a top notch marching band. I just wanted to play my horn and have fun.

I meet a lot of worship leaders who do not share the same goals as their senior pastors. For many leaders the fun went away a long time ago but they continue to march as best they can hoping that somehow, miraculously maybe, things will get better. Sometimes they do. Often they don't. How can we expect our congregations to enjoy worship if we don't? How can we be engaging if we aren't engaged?

The key is to remember the reason we got into this and to return to our First Love. If somewhere along the way its gotten harder to show up early and stay late, if we've lost the joy of loving God when we're home alone or in the car, if we've lost the fire in our bellies to see people light up in worship it's time to step back a little and regroup. Take a little time off or go on a silent retreat for a couple of days. Conferences can be good, but they may also be an opportunity to feel more overwhelmed as the hosts try to sell you on their products, etc.

Why not set up a worship spa in your home? I have a large closet in my office that is big enough for me to walk in and pray. When people are in the house I turn on music and go in the closet if I need to get away. I light a candle, get under my prayer shawl from Israel, read the word and pretend I'm Abraham Lincoln for a while. I ask God to return to me in love, life, hope, joy, and holiness. I ask Him to reconnect me with the calling He has placed in my life to lead worship. I ask Him to refresh my love for Him and for others. I've stayed in there for hours at a time. Once my wife thought I'd been asphyxiated by burning a candle too long in a closed closet.

Is worship fun for you? Are you flirting with burnout and need something to help you? You could go into your prayer closet. Or you could call me. I have a great conference with lots of products to sell.

Be encouraged. Live. Love. Lead.