Leading worship, like public speaking, amplifies our worst habits. Nervous ticks and verbal pauses are amplified when we step onto a stage. Here are seven tips to help you refine your stage presence:
The best way improve at anything is to do more of it. If you’re leading weekly, chances are you’ve got all the practice you can handle. But if you’re on a less frequent rotation, look for other opportunities. Look for supporting ministries that need a worship leader like youth, men’s, prison, or other midweek Bible studies. Volunteer to lead your small group in a song or two.
2. Memorize the lyrics
Proclaim has a great confidence monitor, but you shouldn’t need it to remember the words. You should know the words. You should be free to look around the room and make eye contact. If you’re singing off sheet music, your ability to lead the song will be greatly inhibited. Do the work of memorizing lyrics, and you’ll be amazed how much more comfortable you feel on the stage.
3. Manuscript your transitions
Hopefully, you’re planning ahead of time how you’re going to move from song to song. If you don’t, that’s a good place to start. The Holy Spirit can lead you just as effectively when you have a plan as when you don’t, so script out your transitions. Get every word exactly in place, so nothing is left to chance. If God intervenes and places a thought in your head, feel free to follow it. But don’t use the Holy Spirit as an excuse to be haphazard.
4. Volunteer in the children’s ministry
If you can lead 8- to 10-year-olds in worship, you can lead adults. Be prepared though—kids don’t mask their responses like adults do. You’ll know right away when something you said went over their heads, or when a song doesn’t resonate with them. You might even hear one of them say out loud that a song is too fast or too high.
5. Limit the downtime
Few things on earth are more awkward than the 15 seconds it takes the guitarist to move their capo down three frets. One single 15-second delay multiplied by 300 people makes for a full 75 minutes of wasted man-hours. If a room full of standing congregants is waiting on you, through dead airtime, you need to do something different. Time is gold. Treat it like a precious resource.
6. Open your eyes
If you lead from a guitar, you don’t have to wonder what to do with your hands. You do have to figure out where to look. Some of us default to the reflective, closed-eyes approach. It feels like it looks fine, but it can appear disengaged and aloof. It also limits your ability to observe crowd response. Keep your eyes open; let the audience peek through the windows to your soul. It might be uncomfortable—vulnerability usually is.
7. Watch video of yourself
You might be surprised to discover a nervous tick that you didn’t know you had. Yes, it will probably make you self-conscious for a little while, but ultimately you’ll be a better, more polished worship leader as a result.
Have you done any of these? How did it go? Tell us in the comments.
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