How to See Your Blind Spots As A Worship Leader
Early on at North Point, Andy Stanley, my pastor, would have me watch myself on video. We would record our services and I would be able to watch myself leading. I saw things I had no idea I was doing. One of my biggest blind spots was keeping my eyes closed. It just always happened when I led.
No matter how seasoned we are as worship leaders, we have our way of doing things. The problem for us is that our way may not be the best way. We all have our blind spots and it’s hard to improve if we can’t see ourselves.
It’s easy to see things that need improving in other people, maybe in our bands or other worship leaders, but it’s hard to take a hard look at ourselves.
I believe there’s a solution, and it’s to evaluate, both personally for you as a leader and for your entire team. Here’s what I say: “To be great, evaluate.”
I know that sounds kind of simple, but I really believe that when we take an intentional look at what we do as we’re leading, we’re going to see things that are going to help us become much more effective leaders.
The first thing you want to do is record yourself. Use any kind of a camera (even an iPhone works). Your church may have elaborate cameras set up already. It doesn’t matter how you capture it, just get some footage of you leading worship.
Now you want to review it. Watch it by yourself, then watch it together with your worship team. Evaluate what you see. Communicate about it. Then, correct what you’ve seen so that you can get better. Talk about how you can get better as a team.
In order to create a culture of healthy criticism, there must be trust on your team. I can’t overemphasize this enough. Here are four principles to remember when creating an atmosphere of trust:
Criticize yourself first.
I know sometimes it’s hard, but when we criticize the things that we’re doing wrong first, we set other people up to know that they’re not the only person that may need improvement. We’re stepping up as the leader and saying, “Hey, I’m not perfect. There’s things I’m seeing as I review myself that need work.”
Celebrate others’ strengths.
Never start an evaluation or critique of a team member with, “Hey, you did this wrong.” Rather, look at what they did right in that service. Focus on the great things that they did.
Call attention to the concerns.
Help identify the things that you could do better as a team.
Correct with compassion.
Don’t correct out of spite for anybody. Call out areas of improvement because you love each person and believe in them—because you believe that they can be a better worship leader, drummer, or guitar player.
In order to help you and your team with this evaluation process, I want to give you some common blind spots that I’ve seen as I’ve looked at worship cultures around the country. You may not struggle with some of these things. But I guarantee you that at least one of them will be a game changer for you and your team!
➔ Common Blindspots
Eye language is huge. The problem is that we often do things with our eyes that disengage our audience. Our eyes communicate so much without us really thinking about it.
The first thing I see leaders do is keep their eyes shut. I used to do this all the time. When we’re on stage and caught up in the moment, we want to feel what we’re communicating. And sometimes feeling what we’re playing involves closing our eyes. That’s fine. The problem, however, is that some leaders and singers keep their eyes closed all the time. I used to do this because it made me feel more secure (honestly, I had a little bit of stage fright and didn’t want to look at people).
This is when you lock in on a person in the audience. It’s okay when you use your eyes to include or gather a section of the room, but when you’re looking directly at one person while singing a vertical song to God, it can be a little bit creepy. Just remember that where you fix your eyes and your gaze, it communicates something to the people you’re leading.
Confidence Monitor Addiction
So many worship leaders have become worship readers. It’s so important for you to learn how to internalize lyrics so that you don’t have to be glued to the monitor. Our eyes can be such an asset in our worship leading. I know it sounds really nitpicky to even talk about, but it’s something that really can have a big effect.
What do we do with these blind spots with our eyes?
One way to lead people is to look up vertically to God. We know that He lives inside of us and He’s omnipresent. But for the people we’re leading, it can help them make the connection that we’re singing to Him. I’m not talking about staring at the ceiling for a long period of time, but for short doses based on the lyrics of the song.
Here’s a little trick I like to use: I imagine that one of the lights is the glory of God, and I’ll actually look up and envision it as I’m singing. “God, I’m coming at you. I’m singing to you. You’re in my heart and my head.”
Not only do we need to look up, we need to look out. We can use our eyes to gather people in the room. Anytime we’re singing a lyric that uses the word we, we have a great opportunity to gather people.
Here’s a tip: split the room into sections with the band. Get the bass player to take the left side of the room. Get the worship leader in the middle to go down the middle. Get the background vocalist on the right side to look at the right side of the room.
Your eyes can be a great gathering tool for people. When we’re singing lyrics like “we have come” or “we believe,” it’s ideal to use our eyes to look out and gather our audience into that song.
It’s okay to close our eyes when we sing. Closing our eyes during an intimate part of a song really is an authentic response to God. Let it be that. Just remember to stay away from being so inside of yourself that you forget about the people in the audience.
Learn the Lyrics
When you learn the lyrics, you no longer have to stare at the confidence monitor. Oftentimes I’ll put a song in my car or on my iPhone early in the week just to memorize the lyrics. Why? So I don’t have to stare at the confidence monitor on Sunday. The confidence monitor is meant to be a great crutch when you need it. But can we please all agree to rid ourselves of the confidence monitor disease?
Just as our eyes can be used to lead people well, our facial expressions can communicate just as much. Here a few of the main face-language blind spots I’ve seen.
The Joyless Musician
You’ve probably heard this expression: “Smile, it gives your face something to do.”
I see so many musicians and worship leaders who don’t realize that their facial expressions communicate something to people. Most of the time, the issue is not that anyone has the desire to appear like they’re joyless. It’s just what they’ve seen from other worship leaders. A lot of times in our emotional musician culture, we feel the need to be serious on stage because it looks really cool. What you need to realize is that if you’re in the audience looking at that, it comes across as unexpressive or angry. It’s not really cool. Watch yourself on video and make sure you’re smiling. A lot.
Gear and Instrument Fixation
I’m a guitar player, so I get it. When you start to get your eyes off your pedal board, guitar neck, or keyboards, however, it’s a win. When we look at our pedal boards or keep our face gazed down at the guitar neck, we’re missing a great opportunity to engage people.
So what’s the solution for these issues?
Reflect the Song
We have to ask ourselves, “What is this song saying?” Let the feel of the song and the lyrics determine your facial response.
Is this a song of joy and praise? Then we need to let our faces show that we’re blown away by who God is and what He’s done. If it’s a song of contemplation, we need to show a more somber response and allow our faces to respond in that way.
The third blind spot is body language. I’ve given each of these a name. At some point in time, I’ve done all of them. So if you feel like I’m calling you out, just know that I’m calling myself out.
The Worship Mannequin
Some musicians are so adverse to movement that they look like worship mannequins. You don’t have to dance while you play, but watch yourself on video and see if there might be some room for movement so that you let people know you’re alive.
This happens a lot of times with background singers. It’s one reason why it’s great to have a mic stand on stage. If you’re holding a mic, remember that you don’t have to clap the whole song. It makes you look like a sprinkler.
The other thing the singing sprinkler can cause is slapping issues for the sound guy. Trust me, I’ve been there!
I love people who have contagious enthusiasm for worship. Just remember the environment you’re in. If you’re in an older Sunday morning environment, jumping simply may not be appropriate.
So what’s the solution with body language issues?
Make Small Moves
It may not feel natural at all for you to move to the beat. It may cause you to miss lines or chords. But regardless of that, make an effort to branch out with your body movement. Review your video and ask for your team’s input.
Get A Mic Stand
You can buck me on this. It’s your call to make, but let me tell you the advantages of having a mic stand if you’re leading.
- It frees up your whole body.
- It frees up your hands. You can actually use them as an expression of worship.
- If you don’t have a mic stand, you’re constantly glued to it, and it kind of looks like you’re on American Idol or some type of talent show.
I just think it’s way more professional to see a mic stand on stage.
To wrap up, I want you to know you’re in great company. You’re surrounded by leaders who have gone before you. We all have our issues while leading on stage. We all have our blind spots. But I believe that by recording yourself and getting into the habit of reviewing as a team, you can go so much further in your leadership. You’re going to see things that you had no idea you did. And you’re going to see things in your team members that you can call out as a way to encourage them and make them better.
There’s nothing harder than watching yourself lead. But you can do it! And as you build a community of trust and a evaluation, and as you rid yourself of those blind spots, it’s going to propel you to be a better worship leader!
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