Equipping and Empowering Worship Leaders Worldwide

Join the Collective

Worship Leader Stage Presence

hwl-stage-presence-large

You might think it odd that I’m addressing stage presence in a worship leading context, but all too often I see worship leaders struggling to maintain a leading presence for their congregations. It might be a confidence issue, or they worry about getting in the way of God and “humble” themselves too much, trying to become invisible. Unfortunately, this can actually become a distraction. Our congregations need us to fulfill our role with authority and confidence so they can worship effortlessly.

So how can we be confident, while still honoring God with humility? Here’s some things I have learned:

Eye Contact:

There are certainly moments when closed eyes are appropriate. But excessively closed eyes can create an invisible barrier between us and the congregation. A friend told me once, “Our worship can still be personal without being private.” That’s the key: communal worship is not a time for us to close off from the people we are leading. We are there to worship together! Incredible personal connections are made when we make eye contact – it engages people, helps them feel known and loved, and communicates a shared feeling. It helps us draw closer to God together.

Stance/Posture:

Have you ever been led in worship by a person who seems afraid or uncomfortable on the platform? It’s uncomfortable for everybody and can create tension in the air. Open yourself up to your congregation: stand up straight, facing front and sometimes tilting left or right to physically address every person in the room. This stance is engaging and conveys confidence. Don’t deny the authority God and your community have given you. In addition, people need to see our visual cues for where the song is going. Most people in our congregations are not musical and don’t feel things like musicians do. We need to guide them well with our body language.

Visual & Verbal cues:

We may have heard songs like “Mighty to Save” a hundred times and could lead it in our sleep, but there will always (hopefully) be people in our congregations who are new and need some guidance. If we do a good job communicating where the song is going, we eliminate distraction and it’s easier for everyone to focus on worship. Giving some quick & simple cues can help people follow along and this builds trust between you and the congregation:

Visual: Use of hand gestures to signal when we invite them to sing, stepping back from the mic during instrumental breaks, emoting through our body language when appropriate, raising our hands or clapping to encourage others to do the same, etc.

Verbal: One option is “vocal lead-ins” – singing/saying the first couple words of the next phrase to let people know what to sing next. You can invite them to sing by saying things like, “Let’s sing that again.” or “Raise your voices with us.” Also, you can communicate what’s happening – “Will you stand and sing with us?” or “We invite you to sit and rest to soak in these words.” Develop some ideas ahead of time that feel appropriate for you and your congregation.

Personal Connections:

Don’t be afraid to talk, pray, or lead a meditation in-between songs when appropriate. Don’t be afraid to share why you chose a song and what it means to you. Don’t be afraid to be authentic on the platform. Our congregations want to worship deeply, but we may need to teach them. Find ways to help them experience songs in such a way that they don’t go home saying, “That was a cool song!” But they go home saying, “God spoke to me through that song.”

Feel it out:

Be attentive to the congregation and their needs. If you sense in any moment that worship needs to go differently than your original game plan, don’t deny that feeling. Sometimes the congregation is so caught up in worship, that it would be a disservice to end a song early. Conversely, maybe you’ve totally lost them – communicate with your band to end a song earlier than planned. It’s sometimes good to leave people wanting! Prepare music as best you can during rehearsals, but be sensitive to the congregation throughout the set, figure out what their needs are, and be willing to improvise. Congregations can sense when we are connected to them, and this again builds trust and confidence in us.

I used to be a hesitant, eyes-shut, closed-off kind of worship leader, but was inspired by a dear friend to try leading in this way. Everything changed for the better. Once I began opening myself more to the congregation and addressing their needs (still with my deep desire to facilitate worship), I began to see God work in new ways. I received affirmation that people were connecting more, not with me, but with God. And that, after all is the goal.

Honor the authority you’ve been given, find the balance of confidence, communication, and humility, and lead well, friends.

I would love to hear feedback on this, and I encourage you to check out www.expressiveworship.net to dig deeper into some of these concepts and utilize their resources that have helped me so much. 

Related Posts

20 Responses to “Worship Leader Stage Presence”

  1. Excellent first post, Katie! Looking forward to seeing more from you. God bless.

  2. Jack Arreola Lopez October 10, 2014 at 12:21 pm Reply

    “Honor the authority you’ve been given, find the balance of confidence, communication, and humility, and lead well, friends.”

    I appreciate your post Katie. I’m a current junior at a university, and this post connected well with me and my friends who lead our school in chapel. Thanks!

  3. Shawn Charlene Garner October 10, 2014 at 10:52 pm Reply

    Super information. Thanks for sharing.

  4. As a “new” worship leader, I’ve been helped tremendously by this! I can’t wait until the next rehearsal to practice these tips and share with the rest of the crew. Thanks!

  5. Love this – I actually think it’s one of the most neglected areas of worship leading. If 60-90% of communication is non-verbal, why wouldn’t we do everything in our power to express our belief in what we’re singing/leading? Thanks for sharing!

  6. Scissor kicks are also a must.

  7. Awesome post! Something else I’ve noticed that kind of irks me during worship is when the worship leader is using inappropriate facial expressions during a song. Like having a big smile on the face when singing about our sin or death and conversely looking super serious or even sad when singing about the joy of God. We need to always be aware of what we are singing and how we communicate that visually as well as vocally.

  8. Great word Katie. I hope to see you guys again someday. Blessings on your ministry!

  9. Wonderful post! I particularly like the importance of “reading” your congregation….being sensitive to knowing when changes need to be made….and exhibiting this spirit of flexibility and sensitivity to God’s Spirit. It is a WL trait that will encourage your vocals and instrumentalists to follow, and do so without letting even the best plans get in the way.

  10. Every person on stage is leading someone. If you’re excited about what God is doing in your life, it shows. If you’re in the valley, it shows. And if you’re in the valley but know God will see you through- scissor kicks…

  11. Thank you for your willingness to pass on pertinent info, Katie. Although I am a little long in the tooth, i am always looking for any ways to improve leading worship. Thanks again for ministering to the rest of us. Your brother in Christ

  12. Excellent post!! Great job!

  13. This post is a great resource not only for myself, but training up and coming leaders within our body. You explained everything really well in a very easy to understand way. Thank you Katie!

  14. Wow, thanks for putting all these thoughts in the concise form of a blog article. Quick, shareable, helpful tips as a one-stop for those looking to increase stage presence without decreasing God’s presence.

  15. I have walked through this myself. Your advice is right on target.

  16. Thank you Katie for such deep but at the same time simple postings. Truly learnt a lot. Wished you could delve further into the statement
    “Our worship can still be personal without being private.”

    God bless.

  17. Great article. Platform presence is such an important thing for not only the Worship Leader but the entire Worship Team.

    I recently found a video that Gateway Worship made about platform presence and it has been an incredible resource to help myself and my worship team grow in this area. Check it out:

    http://worshipteam.tv/videos/platform-presence-gateway-worship-gateway-worship/

  18. Great article for sure…Just wanna briefly state that I believe preparation is key in letting one’s self go while worshipping Sunday morning. How does one make eye contact or close their eyes or move around if their eyes are glued to a chord chart? They don’t.

  19. Thank you!!! Learning to soar and not fly to high or to low, but balance is the key as a worship leader! Thanks again
    -Latisha

  20. We are in the beginning stages of transitioning to a new worship arts pastor, the current one is retiring. One of the criteria we are looking for is someone that can lead the congregation through the service, not just have the ability to sing a song well vocally. The points that you mentioned, along with understanding how to make smooth/appropriate transitions between songs and other elements of a service are vital in keeping the congregation engaged throughout the service. It is something that some people have a more innate ability to do, while others need to rehearse and practice it more to become more comfortable with it.

Leave a Reply