5 Big Ideas for Every Small Group Worship Leader

As a small group worship leader, your role is no less important than the main stage worship leader. You are creating space for God and you are helping to form people as they worship. After 25 years of leading worship, many of my favorite memories are leading songs to groups of 3-10 people in a living room.

There is so much to say about this critical role in the Church, but here are some unique points I stress to every new small group worship leader I train. Five practical ideas for every small group worship leader:

1. Set a Mood  

Worship leadership has more than just songs and singing to consider. Think about the physical space. Working with your host and group leader, get the couches, chairs, and lighting best for the group (this might be different than the normal layout). Try to face as much seating as possible pointed away from the entry point(s) and face chairs towards one another. Dim, or turn off the overhead lights, turn on some lamps and light some candles.

BIG IDEA: A small group worship leader helps create a physically inviting and worshipful environment. 

2. Stand Opposite the Main Entry Point of the Room 

In order to minimize distraction for the group, consider standing facing the main entry point to the room.  People facing you will not be as distracted when people arrive or step out. Since it’s a small group just one person making a move will cause focus to turn to them. Do the best you can to help folks avoid distraction.

BIG IDEA: A small group worship leader strategically places themselves in the room to help remove distractions. 

3. Sing With Clarity and Boldness 

Leading songs without amplification has unique challenges. There can be crying babies, coffee grinding, and kitchen chatting competing with the focus. Try to articulate and be clear with every word and phrase.

Be clear and direct at the beginning of each phrase; sometimes I put a little rush on the first syllable. This is a subtle but important factor to small group singing that can help people engage the lyric more fully because everybody will better anticipate the first word of the next line. Use your body and facial countenance to lead into each section. Consider cueing the ensuing lines, especially in the beginning of the songs.

BIG IDEA: Sing lyrics with conviction and confidence, often times in front of the beat. 

4. Plan Songs With Simplicity and Repetition in Mind 

Some worship songs are more lyrically dense than others. Assuming you are not projecting or handing out lyrics*, consider choosing songs that have less overall words. Here are some approaches:

  • Use songs that have melodic and lyrical anchors “Great are You Lord, Great are you Lord”
  • Start with the chorus and repeat it.
  • Repeat verse sections. Repeat chorus sections.
  • Consider dropping whole sections of the song if they are too wordy or complicated.
  • Leave intentional space in the songs. Breathe.

*I would discourage the temptation to set up screens, powerpoint on TVs or handing out song sheets for small groups. What did the church do for centuries before printed sheets and electricity? Can you connect with those historic roots and turn off visual media?

BIG IDEA: Choose and arrange songs for your small group that are simple and memorable. 

5. Sing Really Soft and Really Loud

One of my favorite parts about small group worship is the invitation explore volume dynamics in worship. You can simply strum a chord once and start to sing without constantly strumming. You can and should lead “fast” songs, don’t be afraid to be loud together! Within songs, you can make verses whisper while choruses explode. As long as you are INTENTIONAL and CLEAR, people will follow.

BIG IDEA: In a small group, allow your musical worship to be both loud and soft; use your instrument and voices explore every dynamic possibility. 

 

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring through music. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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What the Vineyard Can Learn from Liturgical Streams

Reclaiming historic worship elements for modern services

When I walked into a Vineyard church in 1994 my mind was blown. On a Friday night, the room was full of expectant people singing TO God. Coming from Presbyterian roots, the only time we gave this expression of exuberant praise was at summer camp! For the first time in my life, I learned of the power of the Holy Spirit through an extended, uninterrupted time of singing.

Fast-forward a couple decades and the “5 songs + sermon” model has become the standard “liturgy” of the modern church. Outside of our empowered ministry prayer times, you would be hard-pressed to see what makes a Vineyard Church distinct from many evangelical church models today.

I believe that as a movement, a time has come for us to pause and reconsider the way forward in worship, both musically and sacramentally. What did we fail to carry forward as a new movement (started in the late 1970’s) that can be reintroduced with care? Here are a few practical ways worship planners in the Vineyard can consider and implement elements of liturgical form in our services:

 

1. Eucharist (celebrated weekly)

Avoiding mindless, heartless repetition is a common reason many Vineyard pastors say they don’t want to lead their congregation to the table on a weekly basis, favoring to do it once a month or less. It begs the question why we sing, preach and offer prayers repetitively? Are these features any less special because we repeat them over and over? Are we increasing demand by planning scarcity?

A weekly invitation to feast on Christ is a beautiful picture of our Kingdom theology (God is here, now). In the meal, we are reminded that His active presence is with us; it is a vibrant and visceral picture that embodies all the senses while engaging everyone on the same level. Creatively and enthusiastically inviting our people to the meal more frequently might be the greatest discipleship plan we have.

  • Church planter, Luke Geraty recently submitted an excellent paper on Sacraments to the Society of Vineyard Scholars, check it out HERE.

The 7 Minute Worship Team Check-In

Transform your culture through care

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. –  Romans 12:10-13 

Band rehearsals are not usually super fun. Many times they are in the early hour or after a long day. Musicians and tech teams are all arriving with a variety of emotions, experiences and energy levels. Yes, your job as a worship leader is to get the band on track musically, but there is actually something more important that should PRECEDE music making.

Before your next rehearsal do this one thing and it will transform the culture of your volunteer worship ministry.

As the leader, arrive earlier than everyone else. Do everything administratively and technically possible to make the stage ready (print charts, check audio lines, etc..). Musicians will arrive and get set up. Once you and your bandmates have monitors solid and are ready to rehearse….

STOP EVERYTHING AND DO THIS… 

Drums, Drumming and Church: Podcast Guest Appearance

I recently sat down the Drummers Weekly Groovecast Podcast. We talked drums, drum, ing and church. Worship leaders, drummers, and pastors should check it out!

Four Behaviors of a Thriving Worship Ministry

Lessons From Churches from 50 and 5000.

Over the past 18 months, I have served fifty-plus churches as a worship team trainer and guest worship leader. I’ve noticed some interesting trends in worship ministries that are healthy, growing, and happy. This post has little to do with the quality of liturgy or congregational worship experience, but it’s more a peek under the administrative hood. It is not exhaustive, it’s just a list of markers I have noticed.

FOUR behaviors of thriving worship ministries:

1. THEY CONSISTENTLY (and uniformly) SCHEDULE THEIR VOLUNTEERS 

Most churches have multiple worship leaders. If you have three worship leaders and three different ways of administering bands, you will drive your volunteers crazy. There should be one system that everyone adheres to. If possible, try to implement the SAME system across the board for all volunteers so families can serve in multiple areas of the church without confusion.

  • Pick a System – There are several ways to let people know when they are serving at church. Planning Center Online is the king, however, you can also look at worshipteam.com and others. You might use a mix of online tools and simple PDF attachments to email. Your system should have a way to communicate seasonally (1-4 months at a time), weekly (hey, you’re on this week), and the day of service (hey, you’re on today). Provide schedules at least 1 month before the start of the schedule. (i.e. the January schedule is emailed November 30th etc…).
  • Do not avoid creating a system because one volunteer doesn’t use email or Facebook. Those people either need to yield to the agreed method or you can build a secondary system for them. Either way, there should be a system to reach everyone.
  • Once a healthy method for communication is in place, don’t constantly change your methodology. You will build trust with consistency, which is measured in years, not months.
  • Raise heck when your system is ignored or amended by well-meaning, creative people. Consistency breeds faithfulness (and more drummers).

Screaming on Saturday, Singing on Sunday?

During my college years, I had three musical gigs outside of school which all involved my vocal cords: church worship, a jazz trio, and my heavy metal band. People asked me all the time how I screamed and growled one night while angelically singing the next morning. I never really had the right answer, until now. Dr. Krzysztof Izdebski of San Francisco’s Pacific Voice and Speech Foundation, reveals his new findings in this video below.

Similar to heavy metal singing, leading worship vocally has some unique, admittingly differing peculiarities. 1. For many, it’s the only time they sing. 2. It’s typically happening before noon. For these reasons and others, it’s good to understand how the voice works and how we can maintain it for the long haul. Check out this video about heavy metal singing; the hope to get us thinking about (and visualizing) some science behind our voice.

Vocal training is one of the most requested classes when I coach worship teams. If you haven’t already, download the FREE $200 Vocal Lesson from the sidebar on my website.

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring through music. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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Worship Leader Bootcamp June 27-30, 2017

Worship Leader Bootcamp includes 30+ hours of premier heart, mind, and skill training over 4 days in Nashville, TN June 27-30, 2017.

Go HERE to find out more and register

 

6 Strumming Tips for the Acoustic Guitar

The acoustic guitar is a wonderfully complex instrument with countless harmonic and rhythmic variables that can affect the overall mix of your band. Having played with over 30 worship teams in the past year, there is perhaps no greater musical dysfunction than the overplaying acoustic guitar player. If you play acoustic guitar in the worship band this video is for you:

 

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring through music. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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My 12 Go To Apps for Worship Leading

Increasingly, I find myself pulling my phone out before, during and after worship gatherings. Not so much to update my social media, but for reference and support as a worship leader. Here are 12 helpful apps (admittedly, some of these are only shortcuts to websites that I save to my home screen) that I am using consistently in worship ministry.

1. ESV Bible

As worship leaders, we need to keep the word of God close to us. The ESV is the version of the Bible my church uses, so I keep this app handy. This particular app is free, well designed and functional. Some traditions might discourage reading from a phone on the stage, but I have found that it’s nice to have an illuminated screen and reading from a device models a great use of technology. Additionally, it models what real life might look like.

Great Sound Gear for Your Stage

My article “Great Gear for Your Sound Stage” appears in Ministry Tech Magazine this month. You can view the article HERE.  Share this resources with your worship leaders and ministry tech teams.

 

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring through music. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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