By Ryan McLouth
I hope you’ve been enjoying the summer — I know that I have. Last month we talked about performance in worship and how to use it to our benefit without letting it be a distraction. In this issue, I’d like to continue with the discussion about performance and talk in a little more detail about stage presence and visual presentation.
In my last column, I talked about church musicians getting their face out of their music stand during worship services. If our goal is to provide an engaging opportunity for congregation members and guests to participate, musicians have to invest in connecting. One of the best ways to do that is to make eye contact with the congregation. This is an absolute must for singers. Vocalists are responsible for providing the example for “what to do” during a congregational song. When singers look up and look at those of us in the pews, it makes us feel like a part of what’s going on, therefore we choose to participate. When they stare at the music constantly, we tend to feel like worship is a spectator’s sport. Let’s be sure to lift our faces when we have the opportunity.
Instrumentalists aren’t to be excluded from this standard. We need to see your face if possible too. Perhaps throw a smile in when you can as well. It isn’t bad for church to be fun! When instrumentalists are enjoying their role in the worship process, we enjoy ours as participants. You can make eye contact with the congregation, look at your fellow players, even closing your eyes would be better than staring at your lead sheet too much.
Wait, why is this a big deal? After all, if the music sounds good, won’t it do all the work for us? Well, I’m afraid not. Think about how different people absorb different information. Does everyone learn through the auditory medium? Definitely not. Some people learn by hearing/speaking words, some people learn through or assisted by music, some people learn by using their hands, and some people learn by seeing. We have to provide the opportunity for our participants to learn and be led by as many mediums as possible so as not to exclude anyone. That’s why stage presence and the visual presentation of worship can be so important. This brings us to a closely related concept: presentation.
Besides the performers themselves, there are other items that are important in the visual component of worship as well. We as worship leaders and worship designers should always keep in mind that we want the visual component to support and not distract from the theme of our services. If the stage or presentation area of your sanctuary or worship center is too cluttered or lacking in theme, this is a distraction. Make sure that congregation members are seeing things that emphasize your message, thread and/or song selection. That may mean projecting lyrics, specific graphics, decorating a certain way or just keeping a tidy worship space. This all applies to contemporary, traditional and everything in between.
Thanks for tuning in again this month! As always, I’m happy to be of service if there’s anything I can do for you or your worship team. And if you know a young person interested in a career in music ministry, we’d be happy to talk to them about exciting opportunities at Central Methodist University. If you need to contact me, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (660)651-9964. Until next time, keep playing and singing!