Worship Leader Podcast 9: Culture and Worship Leading

Worship leader podcast number 9 is about the influence of culture and tradition on worship leading.  And what better way to do it than to interview someone from a different culture and tradition to my own… the lovely Marylin from Sri Lanka.  She leads worship in a traditional denomination in a developing nation and faces situations different to what you and I do, and or course many the same!

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The purpose of today’s worship leader podcast is not simply to offer worship leading tips, but we have loads of fun and share experiences as we do this. I recorded this pod mostly in Sri Lanka on a recent ministry visit, so get your share of cultural worship leader tips.

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How to Lead Praise and Worship in a Traditional Church

As I sit here thinking about how to lead praise and worship in a traditional church I am returning from a ministry trip to Sri Lanka.  Many of the churches we ministered to there were traditional churches struggling to try and find a blend between the older people in the church who love tradition and the younger ones who want to sing modern praise and worship music.  If you are in the church that is struggling with the same issues, it is important that you learn how to lead praise and worship in a way that satisfies both sides of the equation, and does so with sensitivity and true godliness.

How To Lead Praise and Worship That Satisfies Almost Everyone

You may consider that it is impossible to lead worship that satisfies almost  everyone, but I can tell you from experience it is achievable.  The most important thing is that you strive always to lead in a way that unites people rather than divides people.

Division is common among God’s people, especially when it comes to the area of music and worship.  On one side, you usually have the older congregation members who want to sing the hymns that they have been familiar with for decades, playing in the way that they have always been played with an organ, and that the more temperate volume.  On the other side you have the young people and increasingly the middle-aged, who wants to worship the Lord in a way that fits with their culture using music that represents their generation.

Trying to blend both sides of the worship spectrum may seem like an impossible dream, but after many years and many mistakes I believe that I found the right solution.

How To Lead Praise and Worship With Sensitivity

how to lead praise and worshipThe first thing to think about when you consider worship leading is sensitivity… to both sides of the generation gap.  If you produce loud, contemporary worship you are saying to the older generation, “you have no value anymore.”  If you play hymns exclusively, you are conveying to the younger people that their opinions and culture is unimportant.

A wise worship leader is one who can cater for both sides of the church, exhibiting a spirit of love and understanding for both the old and the young.  Part of learning how to effectively lead praise and worship is dealing with conflict as a leader and you need to make sure that both protagonists feel that their opinions are heard, even though you may not act upon these opinions.  This means that any complaints about the music being too loud, too rocky, too old or too boring must be listened to and considered when you are deciding how to lead praise and worship with sensitivity.

Leading Worship For Unity

Worship music can be a powerful force for unity or an amazingly destructive force within the church, especially within a more traditional congregation.  I have often witnessed angry words and even people leaving the church because of dissatisfaction with the worship service, and we must do our best as worship leaders to make sure that this never happens.

Many churches try to satisfy the opposing sides by having a period of contemporary worship at the start of the service, led by the young people using drums, electric guitars and so on, while reserving songs for worship within the service for hymns played on an organ.  While this may be an attempt to appease both sides, what it is really doing is creating a spirit of disunity, with each side recognizing ‘our music and their music’!

I believe that the best way to unite the old and the young, the traditionalists and the modernists, is to have the worship band incorporate hymns into both the contemporary worship time in the service and throughout the entire service.

One worship leader asked me if the elderly reacted badly to the suggestion, offended that their music is not being played on an organ.  My experience is that this is not the case but rather the opposite occurs, where the older people see the younger ones embracing their teams and their type of music and making it their own.  Most often this brings great joy to the more traditional believers, so you can learn how to lead praise and worship as a source of unity in the church rather than using music to polarize church members.

So, worship leaders, it is possible to unite both the traditionalists and the more modern members of your congregation!  The most important thing is that you learn how to lead praise and worship with sensitivity while promoting unity across all age groups in your church.