I hate singing. Really, I do. I often say, “I’ve never-once in my life-actually enjoyed singing.” That’s potentially an odd thing coming from a guy who has a degree in Worship & Music Ministry, whose secondary instrument was Voice in college, and someone who has served lead worship in the role of lead vocalist. Why do I hate singing? Well, for one, I don’t really enjoy the sound of my voice. The timbre of my voice drives me crazy and my pitch isn’t the best. But it really all goes back to some negative comments one person (I can’t even remember his name) said to me in High School about my voice. So because of that, I’ve never really enjoyed singing. In fact, I remember in a college worship leading class, I setup my time to lead the class in worship by saying something to the effect of, “My singing is about as enjoyable as a bunch of cats fighting.” I got a laugh and it helped me make it through, but it’s what my teacher said that stuck out to me.
“Because of your comment all I could think about was you. All I did the whole time was wonder how well you’d sing. It took my focus off of what you were attempting to do—take focus off of yourself and put it on God.”
I use humor to cope with my insecurities. As artists, we can be very insecure people. I think that insecurity aids us in creating. It helps us be vulnerable and can help us connect. But we can attempt to cover our insecurities and in-turn put the focus back on us. There’s a few ways I’ve seen worship leaders compensate for insecurities.
This is maybe one of the biggest destructive attitudes I see in creatives and techies alike. Negativity toward what other people are doing, how they’re doing, or even how our church does things. I’ve seen this manifest itself in people having the inability to acknowledge the skill of others and in turn present how they do it as the only way to lead worship. Or…”That church down the street is so showy and focused on production. They don’t really care about worship like we do.” Cynicism toward how our church does things and wishing we could only be like that one church. What is at the root of all of that? Insecurity and pride. When I’m most insecure in my talents and abilities is when I’m most negative of others’ abilities. When I’m the most insecure in my circumstances, I’m most critical of others situations and how they do things.
To compensate for our faults, maybe our sin struggles, we can over-spiritualize things. We tell stories on stage or read Scripture, not because it has impacted us or because it sets up the song well, but because it’s part of the gig. It comes across as fake, potentially making it difficult for people to connect to what we’re saying. I think our congregations can see through our falseness. What if, instead of reading a verse or telling a story that doesn’t impact us, we were honest? What if we said, “You know, this has been a tough week for me. I don’t feel like singing. I struggled to read the Bible this week. But I need this. I need to sing with you guys.” Let’s get away from trying to live up to a perceived holiness or relationship with God and be honest with where we are.
How often do you hear a new worship album, watch a service online, or go to a conference and walk away discouraged? You’re not as good of a songwriter, worship leader, vocalist, music director, guitar player, etc. Because of our insecurities, we end up comparing ourselves and our skills to others. We compare our services to the services at the church down the road and never measure up. We watch worship leaders lead with freedom and seem to be able to focus on leading, while we’re just praying our band can make it through one song without a train wreck.
Why do we compare ourselves? Why are we fake about our relationship with God? Why are we negative and cynical? Because we aren’t confident as worship leaders. How do we build confidence? Here are five very practical steps to start implementing to build confidence.
1. Recognize Whose You Are
We are a child of God. Before we get to “what we do” we have to recognize “who we are”. Before we get there, we have to realize “whose we are”. We are God’s.
Galatians 3:26 says “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”
I love what Ephesians 2:10 says we are: “God’s Masterpiece” or “God’s handiwork”. I heard a preacher once very eloquently say, “God doesn’t make crap”. Remind yourself of that. This isn’t an attempt at self-help. If needed, read what Galatians and Ephesians says we once were. But we have to find our security and confidence first in Whose we are—God’s. Before you’re a worship leader, you’re “God’s masterpiece”.
2. Recognize Who You Are
God has created each of us with unique skills, talents, and personalities. Knowing who you are is an important part of thriving as a creative and being a confident worship leader. You may not be a great vocalist, but there’s something unique you can bring. Don’t compare yourself with someone else and what they have. They’re in a different place on their journey than you are. They’ve been at it longer than you have. You have a unique perspective and a unique perspective that you can bring to your church. Your people need to hear from you, not a Chris Tomlin knock-off. Your people need to hear your story. So recognize who you are.
3. Recognize You Aren’t What You Do
Your worth is not found in what you do. Who you are isn’t found in what you do. Your worth is found in Christ. Your worth is found in your relationship with Him. What you do is a result of the talents, skills, and unique perspective that God has given you. You may be known because of your skill or what you do, but that doesn’t define you. If it doesn’t define you, you can admit someone else is better than you. If it doesn’t define you, you don’t have to kill yourself to be the best. Yes, do your best, unto God—for God and not because you have to be the best.
You’re a child of God. That’s all you need to remember.
4. Always Be Learning
The next step is to be continually learning. That means realizing that you can learn anything, from anyone, at anytime. That takes away this attitude that you know it all, and that you can only learn from certain people at a certain level. This is the cure to cynicism and comparing ourselves. Try to learn from every person you meet. Every church you visit—don’t compare you and your church, but figure what you can learn from them. An attitude of learning comes from humility, not pride. Pride doesn’t bring a desire to grow. It’s only concerned with the perception of being the best. Humility is concerned with growth. It’s confident. Never cease to learn or grow.
5. Stay Grounded in the Word, Prayer, and Community
To keep from acting from a place of unconfidence, you have to stay grounded. Reading God’s word takes our eyes off our thoughts, preferences, and attitudes. It reveals God’s heart and where He wants us to go. It shows us where we need to grow. It’s the mirror to reveal to us the sin in our lives. Prayer keeps us connected and reliant on God. It’s funny; when we aren’t in God’s word or in prayer, we’re still incredibly reliant on God. But staying in the Word and in prayer is acknowledging our reliance and filling our hearts, souls, and minds with what we need to be confident as a worship leader. Living and staying in community is key. Having people in our lives to call us out and keep us in check is a crucial piece. I know for me, I can sense my perspective and attitude change greatly when I disconnect from community. It’s important to stay connected in community and stay grounded in the Word and prayer.
Each week when you stand in front of your congregation, you’re carrying the weight of the week with you. That’s a lot to manage. Don’t rely on tricks to build your confidence. Be honest, be real, and rely on God.