Learning to Lead Worship
Rev. Joshua Patty
Regional Minister and President
Recently, I remembered one of the most important lessons I learned leading worship. After several weeks of serving in my field placement, it struck me: my first focus was helping others to find and nurture their spiritual connection with God; then, I needed to nurture my own connection.
I remember sharing this realization with other classmates and my teaching pastors. I do not remember anybody telling me, "this is something you need to pay attention to."
Instead, it was the result of trial and error, feedback from others, and conversations with other people who also were leading worship, coupled with plenty of prayer and reflection. For almost a quarter century, this has been a key part of how I preach, lead music, pray publicly, and invite people to Communion. My shorthand is: help others worship, then worship yourself.
When I feel like I've fallen short of that -- or when the balance seems off -- I try something different the next time. When it seems to happen, I try to figure out why and repeat those things. And when I imagine a new aspect for helping others and myself connect with God, I try it out. Ultimately, we learn by doing and adjusting what we do.
My hope in sharing this is not to teach you how to lead worship. (Though if you find the insight helpful, please run with it.)
Instead, I offer an invitation. Take some time to remember how you learned to lead worship. When you have the chance, invite others who lead worship to share important things they've learned that are fundamental to how they lead worship.
These reflections and conversations can be rich and timely. We can better appreciate how God has shaped us. We can imagine new things to try as worship leaders. We can explore the many ways we've adapted our worship leadership in recent years, perhaps especially in the past two years.
In some ways, helping people to connect with God through worship is timeless -- it's the same fundamental spiritual need shared by people of all times and places. In many ways, people's specific contexts, expectations, and experiences greatly affect how they connect with God. And we keep exploring ways to better meet those spiritual needs as worship leaders, including our own spiritual needs.