5 Worship Leading Mistakes That Hurt Your Congregation

by Kristen Gilles

in Worship Leading

More than a headache
1. Being practically unprepared to lead
This one is pretty simple: know your music, lyrics and chords, and know it well. And have your music clearly marked with any key changes, etc. If you don’t have it memorized, make sure you have your music organized and easy-to-read in front of you while you’re leading. If you’re fumbling through your chords and lines while leading, your congregation is surely going to be distracted. This will be a hindrance to them in focusing their individual and corporate attention on our God who is most worthy of praise. Avoid drawing any unhelpful attention to yourself. Which brings me to number 2. . .

2. Drawing attention to yourself by dressing inappropriately
In this regard, it’s not necessarily best to let your conscience be your guide. My worship pastor, Mike Cosper, encouraged our team along these lines:

“As worship leaders, you’re a representative face for the church. Your particular visibility communicates a lot about the church and the community. We don’t want to lay out any weird expectations, but we want to make sure that we send the right message visually. “Dressing down” can say that we don’t care about putting our best face forward, and “dressing up” can say, “LOOK AT ME!” What we want to do is dress in such a way that:

  • Communicates to the church, “we’re glad you’re here.”
  • Honors men and women
  • Doesn’t distract from the gospel message of the songs and texts.”

3. Acting like a rock star
It’s not helpful to anyone in the congregation for you to be giving your best rock performance during gathered worship times. Save that sort of showmanship for other arenas and stages. We serve our people best when we point them to Christ, and not to ourselves. We are not to be performers seeking our own fame and glory. We are servants, the redeemed of the Lord, seeking to glorify and make much of Christ who saved us.

4. Being Swept Away in Personal Worship Ecstasy
It is good and appropriate for us to abandon ourselves completely to the Lord in worship. This is not about that. This worship leading mistake is about being swept away in our own personal worship experience while we’re supposed to be presently leading our congregation. Instead of leading them, we leave our congregation in our heavenly dust with mouths agape in wonderment at what just happened to the worship leader.

It’s okay to encourage your congregation to openly and extemporaneously express their worship to the Lord. Just try not to check out of the room while you’re leading.

5. Making A Bad Transition Between Songs or Liturgy
Sometimes we worship leaders feel it’s necessary to segue between songs and/or liturgical readings and prayers in order to avoid any potentially awkward silence. But we shouldn’t be afraid of or avoid the silence. Although most of our congregants will be somewhat uncomfortable in this silence, it’s good for us to practice times of silent reflection. Intentionally leaving room for this between songs and liturgy can be very helpful to our congregations.

On the flipside, if we awkwardly force an extemporaneous prayer or fumble through a hasty reflection in order to transition between songs and liturgy and avoid “awkward” silence, we might actually distract our congregants and leave them scratching their heads wondering what we just uttered and how it was relevant to our worship service.

If we prepare thoughtful and relevant transitional prayers and reflections (whether scripted liturgy is used in your services or not), we can help our fellow worshipers to ponder more deeply the gospel we’re singing and declaring together. The bottom line is to be thoughtful and prayerful as we prepare for our worship services, including transitions and moments of silent reflection. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you in this.

    • What other worship leading mistakes can hurt congregations and hinder true worship?
    • Can you think of exceptions or additional reflections on the five mentioned above?

“More than a headache” photo, top, by Sojourn Church communications intern Chelsey Scott


Jono Darville February 29, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Kristen! Fantastic to go on gospel coalition and find a link to a blog written by an old friend. Hope you are doing well. Thanks for taking the time to explore this issue.

Kristen Gilles February 29, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Hello Jono! Great to hear from you, my friend and brother 🙂 I’m thankful for the amazing works He’s done–He is to be praised for redeeming our lives from the pits of emptiness and darkness! I ask God to bless you and give you strength and courage to continue heralding His glorious Gospel of Grace!

david bartosik February 29, 2012 at 8:58 pm

good words! Yeah same link from gospel coalition and the idea of being prepared cannot be overstated which leads to smooth transitions and my focus to be completely on God instead of on the missing lyrics, chords, or awkward silence between songs….good looking out!

Kristen Gilles February 29, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Thanks for affirming this, David! Your comment prompted me to further consider how our being prepared helps us as leaders to worship the Lord free of distractions. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Kristen Gilles February 29, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Thank you for your thoughtfulness, Tyler! I have been encouraged by God’s gracious Spirit helping me to know when to speak and when to be silent (although I still fail to follow sometimes!). Our tendency is definitely to fill the “white” (awkward) air space, but I’m learning the beauty and benefit of silence. This is another way we can lead our people well and encourage them to listen and reflect on God’s goodness and worthiness of all praise! Praying for God to help all of us as we lead!

Bobby Gilles February 29, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Great thoughts, Faith Under Fire! I agree that a hindrance to leading worship is in writing and selecting songs that are not preaching the Gospel. We all need to remember that God should be at the center of our worship–in everything we say and do! Praise God for His grace at work in us to desire that He be glorified more and more!

Paul, excellent point. Thank you!

Marty, thank you for sharing your perspective/experience with us!

William, YES! I totally agree with using silence as a means to more deeply reflect on the Gospel we’re singing. Just as our transitional prayers/reflections should do 🙂 Thank you for bridging these two concepts!

We really appreciate all of our readers–your encouragement, experience, and insight! We’re learning from you 🙂

Kristen Gilles February 29, 2012 at 8:19 pm

That last comment was actually me (Kristen) 🙂 Even though Bobby and I are one (and I was apparently logged in under his name)–just want to clarify! (especially since I used so many smiley faces. . . :))

Alastair Vance March 29, 2013 at 9:42 am

Bad song choice (congregation unfriendly), or singing too many new songs can kill a service. We don’t always need to sit too close to the bleeding edge. We’re leading people and we need to lead them from where they are at.

Great post, Kristen.

Bobby Gilles March 29, 2013 at 10:50 am

“We don’t need to sit too close to the bleeding edge.” Great way to put it, Alastair!

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