Connecting With Your Congregation

When worship leaders and worship teams establish and maintain a connection with the congregation that they serve, beautiful things happen.  

What do we mean by connecting with the congregation?  For me, it's a matter of communication, a give and take from worship leader to congregation and back again.  

Before I go any further, let me be clear about one thing.  Our most important line of communication during worship is between us and the Lord, but it's not the only thing happening.  The secret is right there in your title - worship leader.  A leader is one who leads, partly by example and partly by communication.  

This idea of communication opens up a sharing of energy and joy.  Your enthusiasm flows from you to your congregation, and back to you again (which is wonderfully encouraging for you), and it's best achieved with one simple tool - eye contact.  

Matthew 6:22 tells us "The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light."  If your eye is a lamp, I believe its purpose is to shine out to the world the light of Jesus that lives inside of you.  When you are engaging in true worship, that light can blaze! And if the light of Jesus is blazing inside you, don't keep it all to yourself by worshiping exclusively with your eyes closed - open up those eyes and let your congregation share that joy!

It's not a question of pride or of humility.  Sometimes worship leaders feel like it's prideful for them to worship with their eyes open, or perhaps they might just love worshiping with closed eyes.  I knew of a worship team once that even experimented with turning their backs to the congregation, in an effort to keep attention focused on the Lord and not on themselves.  While their motives were pure, the result just felt weird from the point of view of somebody in the congregation.  It actually had the opposite of the intended effect - it was extremely distracting, and everybody's attention was on the band (and not in a good way)!

This is not to say that as a worship leader, you can never close your eyes during worship.  There absolutely are moments when it's beautiful and appropriate for you to focus solely on the Lord and do so with closed eyes.  Just don't keep them closed for your whole set, or even a whole song.  The congregation needs to know that you remember they are there, and that you are right there in it with them.  

If it feels awkward to lock eyes with individuals, try this trick - don't focus on any one person, but keep your gaze focused on the area just above their heads.  You will still be able to take in their faces, and from their perspective it will feel like you are engaged with them.  

Let the joy and love you experience in the Lord's presence radiate from your face.  I'm not talking about plastering on a fake smile (although there might be moments in your worship leading career when that's the best you can manage, and if that's where you are, I believe God will honor your effort and meet you there). I'm talking about finding your true joy and peace by focusing on the Lord in worship, letting that show on your face with open eyes and a joyful expression, and then receiving that same beautiful encouragement back again when you see it on the faces of those you are leading.  

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