If you are like me, you learned very little in college concerning teaching people to worship the Living God. We learned a lot about music, theory, singing and playing our instruments. I once even had a class on how to play a recorder. but never a class on how to teach and lead people in worship. My ability to plan a music service was excellent, but I knew very little about how to plan a worship service.
Many colleges are now teaching worship and how to prepare your congregation for worship, and I am grateful for the institutions that offer these much needed courses. I am speaking to those who have not had the pleasure of sitting under great men and women of God who are experienced in leading and teaching worship.
Have you ever woken up on Sunday morning to lead a well-prepared service only to find the people didn't respond the way you thought they would, or that they should have? This happened to me for the first six years of ministry. Each week I would prepare a "great" music service thinking it would help my people to worship better. It didn't. Nothing I attempted seemed to work. What was I doing wrong? Why weren't they participating? All kinds of thoughts would race through my mind trying to find the reason as to why people were not worshiping God. I had to learn some very real lessons that I hope you can use.
First, I had to look inward. Was I worshiping or leading music? What was the perception of what I was doing on the platform? I decided to video myself leading worship one morning. I wanted to see what the people were seeing. You know what? I was leading music. I was doing what I had seen done for years and years. A man standing in front of a congregation leading music. I knew all the motions and patterns to every hymn and had become fairly proficient at it. I found I could keep things together musically and design a service that flowed fairly well. After viewing the tape, I saw why I had failed. I was not worshiping. I was working hard to make sure things went well, that the instrumentalists were together, and that the key changes were just right. How could I worship when there was so much to worry about in a service? My mind was on the technical aspects and not on the Lord. That is partially what makes our position so difficult. We have to make sure everything goes well, and then we allow ourselves to worship if there is time left.
What was the solution? I had to become more proficient at preparing the service in order for the music to become second nature for me, I needed to commit the words to memory, and I had to know the service inside out so that I could spend less time worrying about the service and more time worshiping. When those elements changed, I found my worship became more meaningful. People began to comment about the worship services, and I began to see others attempting to worship and participate more. It was the first major step in helping others worship. I had to first become a worshiper myself.