Monday, December 18, 2017

Small-Group Worship - Have the Right Expectations

If you want to lead worship effectively at a small group meeting, and to keep it up for the long run without burning out your musicians or yourself, you need to get your expectations right. Many small group worship leaders try to reproduce what they hear on Sunday services or on the 'worship' albums available at the Christian bookshop, because they think this is what worship is supposed to be like. And it is this wrong idea that has frustrated many small group worship leaders and caused them to miss the joy and blessing of praising God in a small group setting.
These are the expectations you should embrace in order to consistently lead worship effectively in a small group setting.
1. It takes time for good things to happen
Allocate enough time for the people to let their hearts settle down into praising God. You may have heard stories about gifted worship leaders who bring about God's manifested presence with the very first words they sing and the first chord on the piano or guitar. What you may not have heard is that often times there were months and months of groundwork laid, either by the worship leader personally or by other worship leaders who came before.
So be prepared to allocate time for good things to happen. If you give 4-5 minutes for each song, you can expect to unify the praises of the people in about 12-15 minutes, 20-25 minutes is even better. And persevere in this for 4 to 8 meetings. This, of course, assumes that you are doing other things right as well.
2. The people need clear direction and guidance
Many worship albums do not have the worship leaders giving clear direction to the congregation. Two reasons: it does not make for a slick performance; and it is not necessary for the people singing in that recording because they've heard the same song the same way umpteen times. And if your church worship leaders emulate such worship albums, you'll not see them giving clear directions to the congregation either. This is really ineffective, but in a larger church there are usually more musicians and back-up vocalists to cover it up. You are not going to get away with this in a small group.
So give the people clear directions. Prompt them with verbal or vocal cues so they will know if you want them to sing the verse again or to repeat the chorus next.
3. You do not have to entertain the people with new material
There is this unspoken assumption in charismatic circles that any leading of the Holy Spirit must be something new, fresh and exciting. If you just reinforce the same themes and songs you heard used in your church Sunday services, there may be people who think you are counting on formulae, routines or rituals instead of depending on the leading of the Spirit.
"But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness." (1 Tim 4:7 NKJV)
This is one aspect of godliness that many do not address: it is something we exercise through constant use and repetition. We do not grasp something with our hearts when we read or hear something once. Often we need to be exposed to something (a theme or a song) many times before it really sinks into our hearts and changes the way we think and live.
So do not be surprised if after seriously seeking the guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit about the worship theme or songs for your small group meeting you do not get any radical ideas but believe you are to repeat either the songs or theme of your church's most recent Sunday service. Remember that, in the Bible account of the calling of the prophet Samuel given in 1 Samuel 3, we learn that the voice of God often sounds so similar to the voice of our spiritual leadership. Sometimes what the Holy Spirit wants us to do is just walk along the direction our church leaders have taken.
These three expectations are not glamorous or very exciting. But they are the expectations that enable us to serve effectively in a small group worship ministry in the long run, and without burning out. Embrace them and see how much simpler worship ministry becomes for you!

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