My husband and I enjoy watching The Voice. Because of our tight schedule, we record it on our dvr and watch it later, fast-forwarding through a lot of the talk, all the commercials, and focus just on the performances. We watched it that way until last season when Taylor Swift joined the scene and became an adviser to all the contestants. We didn't fast forward through Taylor's sessions, but listened to what she had to tell the contestants.
We paused the show often to take note of and discuss some of Taylor's points to the performers. Her advice is spot-on and, because we are currently planting a church, we discussed it in light of worship and song leaders in church.
Here are 3 things we think worship and song leaders can learn from Taylor Swift.
1. "Open your eyes; people can't see what you're feeling if your eyes are closed." This is the statement that made us pause the most. We've seen it many times, worship and song leaders standing up on the platform singing with their eyes closed as though they are all alone. While they might really be "feeling" the song, it does not translate that way. It translates as a disconnect. It translates as half-done because perhaps the mom who is trying to keep her kids in tow, or the dad whose child needs to go to the bathroom, or the elderly woman who is trying to balance so she won't have to sit down, or the elderly man whose hearing aid is too loud, can't concentrate. They look up and see a worship leader singing with his or her eyes closed and think maybe they missed something, or that they're supposed to be praying, or that maybe it's a solo. Worship and song leaders, keep your eyes open! You are leading, not performing.
2. "Look at faces, not the wall or floor. Pick a few people and sing directly to them." This one makes a huge difference as well, and it could also apply to preachers. People know when you're not looking at them. They know when you are disconnected from them, and it will show in their response to formal worship. Leading people in worship of the Living God is no small task. Worship and song leaders need to remember that it's people they're leading, not songs. Look at the people. Connect with their eyes. Only then will they see your worship and be compelled to follow. The goal of leading worship is to direct people to God. We can't do that if we're looking at the walls or ceiling.
3. "Get rid of restrictions and distractions." Taylor advised one young man to leave his guitar behind and a young woman to abandon her high heels. She told the young man that his guitar was a security blanket and he'd perform better without it. She told the young woman that her high heels were making her feel like she couldn't keep her balance so she should wear flats or lower heels. Both of those young people took her advice and they both won their competitions. Worship leaders, if you're distracted by holding a microphone or guitar, put the mic on a stand and stop wearing a guitar. Your ability to lead the people in worship will be greatly improved.
These are just observations, but they come from our own personal experience with worship services over the years. I have served on worship teams and I know the temptation to close my eyes and "feel" the song I'm singing. I have to remember that being on a worship team to lead worship is not about me, it's about Jesus and helping every single person in the congregation see Him. It's about enunciating each word in a song while connecting with the people visually so they will see my intent in my eyes.
Being a worship leader is about leading people, not songs.