A few weeks ago we opened up a new opportunity to worship here at Northstar in what we call our Theatre venue. It’s actually set up like a small movie theatre and seats about 175. We wanted to offer a more “unplugged” worship environment to compliment what we were offering in the main auditorium. It’s been a great success so far, but as I had my first opportunity leading in that venue this past Sunday I was re-awakened to the vast differences in leading large group and small(er) group times of worship. I wanted to share 3 of these that I think will be helpful to those leading in the 15-100 range of people.
Anytime you go into an environment that you’re not familiar with leading worship in you need to be aware of the kind of environment it is. It’s size, how wet or dry the room is, how the seating is arranged are all things that if ignored could be a surprise. Our theatre venue has movie theatre style seating, it’s a very dry room with curtained walls, and is a shotgun style room. The sound is good in the room, but very simple. People typically don’t sit up front in small rooms like this. I gathered that I would be dealing with a small crowd since this was a new opportunity and that people would be sitting far away from me. I knew there would be a tremendous opportunity for things to get awkward very quickly. Being aware of this I was able to prepare mentally and spiritually to engage a small group of people who would be sitting further away. That’s very different than engaging a packed room of 650 people with a full band. In our theatre the instrumentation is very simple so I had to be aware of that as well.
I went into the room a little early and plugged up and played through some of the songs alone before the other lead worshipper showed up. I got to hear the room, get a vision from the stage and pray for the services as I worshipped through a couple of the songs. It’s one thing to rehearse at home, but if you’re playing in a fresh room it’s going to sound and feel it’s own so it’s a good idea to spiritually and artistically acclimate yourself to these surroundings.
When you’re in a new situation and especially in leading small(er) group times of worship there are sometimes great opportunities for awkwardness. This was a new opportunity for our church so the congregation came not knowing exactly what to expect. We need to make sure that whatever happens the people that we are leading in worship feed off of our attitude. If we are awkward and uncomfortable they will be, but if we are joyful and ready to worship no matter the situation they will feed from that. As leaders we have a tremendous effect on the room both in what we say and do and in our demeanor. Make sure that your attitude is prayerful and that you come expecting God do amazing things as we worship him.
These things apply in every worship setting, but in my experience small(er) group times of worship have more opportunity for things to get uncomfortable. The people can hear themselves singing, you typically don’t have lighting conducive for the situation, and the instrumentation is simpler. However, small(er) group worship has the beautiful opportunities for intimacy and simplicity that isn’t always found in our times of worship in the greater assembly. Above all realize that every time we worship it’s an opportunity for us to lead people into the presence of God and we as lead worshippers have the responsibility of doing all we can to make that experience a great one.