I have regular recurring nightmares where I am thrust on to a stage and I am seriously underprepared for the performance – I don’t know my lines, I don’t even know what instrument I’m holding, I can’t dance and anyway I’ve forgotten to put my trousers on. I wake up in a cold sweat, thanking the Lord that it was just a dream, and that it doesn’t matter that I don’t know the plot of Macbeth. Please tell me I’m not alone in this! Do you have these kinds of nightmares? Or is this actually your current reality? Lockdown has rocked the way we ‘do’ church and reduced and merged its leadership roles. Non-musicians everywhere are being called to ‘lead worship’, and almost every online service is required to hit that ‘all-age’ target.
Whether you’re a church leader, a children’s ministry worker or a willing volunteer – however you’ve come to be the worship leader as a non-musician – I want to take this opportunity to tell you that you CAN do this, and you are part of a huge culture shift within the church in which families who used to worship and learn separately are tuning in as an all-age unit from one living room. There has never been a better time to be leading all-age worship, and these top tips will help you navigate this challenge with fresh ideas and helpful resources.
As I write this, the feeding of the five thousand comes to mind. That boy with his loaves and fish was not a caterer, a chef or even a church member with the ‘gift of hospitality’! He was a kid with a packed lunch, and there were thousands of hungry eyes on his lunch box. You may not be a musician, you may not even feel gifted as a ‘leader’, but there is a group of people looking to you to be fed and led. Take heart! The same God who fed that crowd on a mountainside is here with you. Abundant provision is in His nature, and He will take what little you can offer and make it into something truly miraculous. So, here we go – these are my top tips for you, my non-musician friend!
1. Take the pressure off.
All-age’ does not mean that you need to engage every single age the whole time. The best way to think about this is to compare it to a family meal time. This is an all-age gathering, where the conversation moves through different levels of understanding and engagement. Sometimes it’s basic and directed at the youngest; sometimes it’s deep and engages the more mature family members. The great thing about this is that when the conversation isn’t directly involving certain people, there’s always something else to do – eat! Which leads me on to my next top tip…
2. Get people prepared.
Snacks are your friends! Use the fact that people are in their own homes to your advantage. Encourage people to ‘set up’ intentionally, ready for church in their lounge. Send out reminders on social media for people to have food, drinks, craft supplies or toys ready for when church starts. If the kids aren’t engaged in a hymn, no problem! If the adults don’t want to jump around and do actions, no problem! There’s stuff to do that keeps everyone entertained and together for the duration of ‘church’ in their lounge.
3. Use the Same Boat Music songs.
The Same Boat website is teeming with songs that are appropriate for all ages, and right now they are all completely FREE! No band or musician needed! Download the MP3s and the lyrics, then record some footage to go with it. This could be you leading (you could even mime – no pressure to sing in tune!), or get other church members and children to sing along, or play along with rhythm-making shakers, or even do some actions. A great song to start with is Good To Us as it’s lyrically simple, but powerful, and doesn’t feel like an exclusively kids’ or adults’ song.
4. Encourage creativity
Remember that worship is not just singing. In fact, you can model this as a ‘non-musician’! Be intentional in communicating that there are multiple ways of worshipping during the songs or music. As the worship leader, you want people to feel free to express their worship in their own way. This is another advantage of people being in their homes – they are where they feel most comfortable. Naming different ways of worshipping in an introduction, like thinking about the lyrics, dancing, sign language, drawing whilst listening or just ‘soaking it up’, will validate their personal way of connecting with God and might even encourage them to try something new.
5. Be enthusiastic
Not necessarily in an over-the-top TV presenter way if that makes you cringe, but remember that you are leading. If you lead with a smile and with open body language, people will respond in a similar way. If you look uncomfortable, they will feel uncomfortable; if you look relaxed, they will feel relaxed. This may feel strange and even a bit false at first, but will make a huge difference to the people watching you. You are changing the atmosphere in their home, you are calling families off the sofa and into worship, and a smile will make all the difference.
Click here for Same Boat Music @ HOME for lots more family devotional resources
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Same Boat Music is part of the Out of the Ark family, who’s award-winning songs have been enjoyed by millions of children in over 18,000 schools for 30 years. We believe in the power of songs to inspire faith, celebration and what it truly means to live life to the full.
Packed full of truth, celebration and hope, these all age worship songs are identity-forming, community-growing, wonder-inspiring and undeniably catchy! Perfect for childrens worship and family worship. Read more about us here.