Heard and Not Seen
Q: How do you address issues of stage presence without seeming as though you are more concerned about appearances than authentic worship?
A: The worship leader exists to support the function of worship and guide the worship team. We need to teach our worship teams how to encourage the congregation to worship. Stage presence during worship is an important part of that. There are three core areas when teaching stage presence.
1. Clarify the worship team's purpose. We need to be clear about the purpose of our lead worshipers in congregational worship. Our role is to connect the congregation to God, then stay out of their way. Your church's philosophy of ministry, including the role of worship, should be taught and reinforced at every worship team meeting, rehearsal, prayer, before and between services. Constant, gentle, clear reminders are necessary to keep the team on track. It's not something that can be communicated and established in a single one-time meeting.
2. Eliminate distractions. There are countless distractions that can occur onstage. Inappropriate movement is distracting. The best policy for movement is to move only as needed. Nervous movement is also distracting, so you should address the actual causes. Try to eliminate movement that doesn't fit the setting, and coordinate all movements.
Rehearse entrances and exits. Make sure people know when and how to walk on/off, as well as where to go and how to get there. You may even put tape on the stage to mark team members' spots when there are many changes.
For churches that broadcast or tape the service, the director/producer needs to visualize movement and instruct everyone. No one on stage should ever cross a camera angle, such as behind the pastor.
Personal appearance can be a distraction. Every member of the worship team should be putting the focus on God. The worship team should appear as an ensemble; attention should not be drawn to any individual.
Lack of confidence can also be distracting. This can spring from several causes, including being unprepared, lacking skill, or being afraid of being in front of people. Singers and musicians must know their words and learn their music. Songs not well rehearsed are uncomfortable to sing and a hindrance to team members trying to lead the congregation.
3. Be authentic. Emotion is a powerful communicator, and forced emotion is a powerful detractor. Ask the worship team to think about their relationship with God and let the music filter through that. Ask them, "How has God changed your life? What does this message mean to you?"
As opposed to performing a song, we need to make the song a vehicle for people in the congregation to express their personal relationships with God. Think about those who are receiving the message and how important it is that they understand that God loves them, that the Holy Spirit can change their lives, and, most importantly, that he is worthy of worship.
Christ's presence in someone's life will be their greatest treasure; nothing else compares to that. An effective worship leader spends more time worshiping off the stage than on it.
Rick Muchow is worship pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.Copyright © 2006 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.