Creative Elements to Worship - Part 3

By EXW Staff
June 27, 2023

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Part 3 of 3 by Steve Miller

Here are the rest of the over 70 creative elements that you can add to your services from Steve Miller.

44. Control the environment. Although they're sometimes unavoidable, such distractions as mosquitoes, excessive heat or cold, or a competing band in the next room can make worship almost impossible. For retreats and conferences, know your setting before you arrive.

45. Weed out distracting mannerisms. The difference between how we perceive that we come across and how we actually come across is often dramatic. Our adult worship leader put mics on stands to stop a lot of distracting things the singers did with the mics. Since we're blind to most of these mannerisms, we must listen carefully to focus groups of youth and adults who'll be honest with us. Occasionally video yourself leading worship to see how you really come across. It's humbling, but good for us.

46. Distinguish between "performance" and "worship-leading." The functions of teaching or celebrating or worshiping may require different techniques. For example, a drum solo may be great for an evangelistic band that's communicating the gospel, but may be inappropriate in a worship service. On the other hand, if the other band members direct their attention to God in praise for this person using his talent for the glory of God, it may be entirely appropriate.

How do you decide? By asking representative members of your target group. (I know, this is beginning to sound like a mantra. But no apology. It's critically important and generally neglected.) I personally don't like the rest of the singers turning around to look at a musician who's doing a solo during a worship set. If the solo is directed to God, why not have the vocalists either close their eyes to concentrate on God or lift their eyes toward heaven, or look at the picture on the Power Point? This keeps the focus on God rather than the soloist.

Lead with Excellence (Col. 3:17)

47. Keep improving your musical skills. Sincerity isn't enough. If God's given you a gift or talent, you should employ it with excellence. Playing the wrong notes at the wrong time at the wrong speed out of tune at the wrong volume distract from worship. Concerning excellence in worship, Eric Ball (USA) states:

"This is increasingly important in a youth culture expecting a high level of excellence, since they see it in the media around them. This is another reason there should be some adult influence in the praise team, particularly in the early stages. Eventually as students gain competence and maturity they can lead the team alone or with little adult intervention."

48. Don't let musical shortcomings discourage you. Balance the last point Maj. Russell Chun's (Turkey) observation that in some settings, it's okay to start out with raw talent and "grow in front of the audience. Making a joyful noise is what is important." Paul David Cull (Brazil) echoes this: "To us at the moment musical excellence isn't the priority. It's amazing how much the Holy Spirit can 'show up' when we're using such simple equipment (no band, a CD player etc). I'd love to have a professional quality worship group but not having one certainly hasn't prevented the Holy Spirit from moving powerfully among us during our worship times."

49. Make the hard decisions about worship team members. Sinful attitudes such as pride short-circuit worship. If a leader won't confront sin and deal with it, the worship will be hindered.

50. Practice as a band enough to where you know, trust, and understand one another musically. Like any other worthy endeavor, leading in worship requires much hard work.

Dress Appropriately

51. Make sure that your clothes communicate what you want to communicate. Again, ask your youth what they think of the way you and other leaders dress. Like it or not, we make statements to them with our clothes. A worship team dressed in black, complete with eyebrow rings, colored hair and tattoos would certainly distract a traditional adult church crowd on a Sunday morning.

Has it occurred to you that a worship team dressed exclusively in the latest preppie Ambercrombie clothes could be just as distracting to alternative kids? The leaders' outfits shout that this youth group isn't for alternative, or perhaps even that Jesus isn't for them. If you minister to a mixed group, you may want band members representing different subcultures.

52. If you're doing a performance to communicate truth, outlandish dress can communicate positively to certain crowds. In my opinion, it's appropriate in certain performance contexts. If you're leading in worship, you'll want to dress in such a way that your appearance doesn't deflect people's gaze from Jesus to you.

Pay Attention to Musical Technique

53. In a band, sometimes less is more. When solo keyboardists join bands, they must realize that they no longer have to carry the entire musical weight. On many songs they may need to play only simple chords or a simple melody line to blend with the other instruments.

54. If you have more than one vocalist singing in unison, choose voices that blend over voices that are uniquely solo.

55. Keep learning your instrument! If you can play only by reading music, learn to read chords. When you can play with chord charts, try to learn improvisation and playing by ear. The more ways you can play, the more valuable you are to the team and the more flexibility you have.

56. Work hard to achieve excellent sound. A poor speaker system or poor technician can ruin the hard work of the rest of the band.

Don't Neglect Spiritual Aspects

57. Prioritize prayer. If God doesn't work through the team, if He doesn't draw the group to Him in worship, no amount of work or technique can make it fly. Pray during practice. Pray before the event. Challenge a team of people to pray during the event.

58. Shepherd your team. Love them, send regular e-mails and make phone calls to check up on them. Ask for their personal prayer requests, pray for them, then follow-up on them. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. If they know you care, they're more likely to respect your authority in rehearsals and forgive your mistakes.

59. Invest spiritually in your team. Worship leader Cynthia Cullen has team members read slowly through a book on worship and discuss a chapter at meetings. Marian in Slovakia started his worship band out of his discipleship group. Take responsibility for their spiritual growth.

60. Trust in the work of the Spirit. I recall one body builder in my youth group who always looked too cool to worship. His head was almost always down, appearing bored. I was shocked when his mom said he'd told her how much he loved the singing! That girl with the heavenly expression may be thinking of her boyfriend. No matter how the worship time looks or feels to you, trust God to work. Applying Bill Bright's definition of successful witnessing to the realm of worship, "Successful worship is leading praise, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and leaving the results to God."

Don't Interrupt the Flow

61. Keep from breaking up the worship. Often, it takes me two or three songs back to back before I get other things off my mind and focus on God. When services do a song and an announcement, another song and a testimony, another song and the offering, I may never experience a spirit of worship.

62. Keep an instrument playing in the background when speaking between songs. Often, introducing a song or leading in a prayer or explaining some aspect of worship is entirely appropriate between songs. By keeping an instrument playing in the background, transitioning to the next song (use transitional chords), you keep from losing the continuity.

Warning: Some leaders work hard to perfect their music, but give no thought to their transitional or introductory statements. Prepare ahead to avoid aimless rambling.

63. Give it enough time. Again, it takes time to turn my gaze from the cares of the world to the look full at the beauty of God's face. One or two songs won't make it happen. Give yourself enough time to experience true worship.

64. Don't go too long. The optimum length of the praise time will differ from culture to culture and group to group. A large group celebration time in one youth group in Columbia, South America, may last hours.

Steve Sjogren pastors a very successful church in a denomination that traditionally spends a long time in worship. One day he brought a stopwatch with him to observe the adult men. He found them growing restless and bored after 20 minutes of song. Thus, he limited his singing in that morning service. Longer praise times could happen in services where more people were spiritually deeper, or other factors prevailed.

65. Realize that time is relative. Einstein discovered that time isn't absolute. A person going the speed of light experiences time differently from the person who's stationary. What Einstein didn't discover was that in a church setting, time flows differently for the leaders than it does for the congregation.

Tons of pastors lose their effectiveness by going 15 minutes past their congregation's attention span. A pastor is into his message. The adrenalin is flowing. He is standing, moving around. To him, 40 minutes goes by like 15. For the audience, sitting stationary on a hard seat, the 40 minutes seems like two hours.

The same goes for worship leaders and their congregations. Ignore this phenomenon to your peril. Some will object, "But I just go as long as the Spirit leads!" But from my experience, it's easy for leaders to confuse the prompting of the Spirit with their own feelings. The great preacher Spurgeon once said,

''It seems odd that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves should think so little of what He has revealed to others."

Shouldn't we take into account what our youth feel the Spirit is saying to them about the optimum length of the worship time?

66. Kill the dead time between songs. After 5 dead seconds, youth start to talk. At 10 seconds they move about to visit others. At 15 seconds, spit wads fly. You lose not only the dead time, but the recovery time trying to get their minds back on worship. Preparation is your key to killing dead time. Music must be in order. Everyone knows what comes next.

Introduce New Songs Wisely

67. Don't introduce too many new songs in one service. In a week long camp, you can teach more songs because you'll be together so much. By the third day they'll be singing lots of new songs with gusto. In a weekly meeting, introduce too many new songs to your peril. Although we need to constantly introduce fresh songs, most worship leaders I know restrict themselves to one new song per service.

68. When introducing a new song, have a soloist sing through it once. Then, bring the congregation in on the chorus. Sing it through a couple of times.

69. Use it for several weeks before deciding if it works. Some songs take time to catch on. Watch the worshipers to see if they get into it. Ask the worship team. Ask an honest, select group what they think. If they don't like it, drop it, no matter how much you like it. Use the same system to try out your original songs.

70. Constantly look for great songs. Have some of your youth get ideas by listening to Christian radio on nights that feature youth music. Go to the local Christian bookstore and listen to samples. Network with area youth worship leaders to find what their youth love. Find other praise music information on sites such as . You can find guitar tabs from sites like Rockin' With The Cross at .

Carefully Select Your Songs

71. Again, choose songs in a style of music and poetic style that match the musical language (heart music) of the people. What moves you is less important than what moves them.

72. Understand the subtle differences between the heart music among different sexes and different ages. In my area, the children tend to like pop, like Brittany Spears, or their parents' "oldies" music. The boy's tend to grow out of this in middle school, gravitating toward either mainstream rock, rap, country or alternative. If you choose songs that sound like the Back Street Boys, you may alienate your high schoolers. Choosing worship songs that consistently use gushy words like "lovely," "beautiful," and "precious," may embarrass your guys.

73. Make sure that the words are Scriptural. Songs are powerful. We repeat them over and over in our minds. The burden falls on us as leaders to ensure that they communicate truth.

74. Do the songs have to match the theme of the spoken message? The singing is not simply a warm-up to the message. Worship through song has value in its own right, and can be considered separately from the message. Yet, if a song can either prepare the people for the message or reinforce it afterward, why not use it?

Never Stop Learning

77. Never get satisfied. About the time that you get comfortable, the culture will change, leaving your worship irrelevant. Keep rethinking your music in the light of cultural shifts. Keep striving forward to the next level of excellence.

76. Regularly observe other ministries. You're not the sole recipient of God's blessing. Find out what He's up to in other ministries. Learn from them, both from what they're doing right and what they're doing wrong. If you're tied up on the days when most youth ministries meet, challenge others to visit around occasionally and bring back ideas.

77. Read extensively on worship. Study those who have gone before you. Study your peers. They can set you way ahead. Better to learn from others' mistakes than your own.

78. Attend worship seminars or listen to the cassettes of the seminars.

79. Study the Word. Would you rather your youth drink from a stagnant pool, or from a fresh stream? As a bible study leader said to the Christian band "Truth," "God won't use you publicly until He tutors you privately." There's so much to learn about worship, and about the awesome Object of our worship. The more we stand in awe of Him, the more those near us will become fascinated with Him.


Keep coming back to this list, adding your observations as to what enhances and hinders worship in your setting. Make it your own, review it regularly, and allow it to pull you out of your comfortable ruts.

Go to Part One

Steve Miller wrote "The Contemporary Christian Music Debate," and collects youth ministry resources at . Copyright Steve Miller, August, 2002, Acworth, Georgia.

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