I’ve had the privilege of being a guest worship leader at many churches; most of the time it’s a great experience. Visiting other churches always brings great perspective and helps you remember that the Body of Christ is much larger than then four walls of your own church. Unfortunately, I’ve also had some really bad experiences visiting other churches, mostly coming from bad communication. Here’s some things to keep in mind when you host a guest worship leader.
Have a Point Person
Remember your first day on a new job? You didn’t know anyone, couldn’t find the bathroom, didn’t know how to work your phone…it can be really awkward. Having someone to help you navigate the awkward parts is always a relief. It’s really not that different for guest worship leaders; they don’t know what time your service is or where your bathrooms are!
Designate a point person to handle all the communication with the guest worship leader and act as a liaison between the your guest and the various people and departments they’re going to be working with. This job usually falls to your worship leader. Make sure the point person is kept in the loop on all communication with the guest.
The point person should also be present when the guest worship leader arrives at your church; greet them when they arrive, introduce them to the key people they’ll be working with (production/sound, pastor, etc…), and find out if they have any immediate needs.
Discuss Expectations, Eliminate Misunderstandings
Once you’ve designated a point person to handle the communication with the guest worship leader, here’s some considerations for thing to communicate with them. Many of the “pros” have a rider they send that details what they’re going to need, but that’s less common when your guest is a local guest from another church.
Information for You to Provide to Your Guest:
- What time your guest should arrive
- The number of services
- The times of your services
- The number of songs per service and total time for the set
- Order of Service
- Service flow and transitions (E.g. Should the worship leader pray after worship or the closing song, should they remain on the platform during announcements, are they responsible for announcing an offering?)
Information Your Guest Should Provide to You:
- Technical Requirements
- Will the guest be solo or with a band? If it’s a band, how many members and what will they be playing.
- What sound equipment will the guest be bringing and what will they expect you to provide for them?
- Can the guest provide a stage plot or have a preference how the platform is set up?
- Can the guest provide a song list, lyrics, and arrangements for lyric projection?
- Administrative Details
- Discuss compensation or an honorarium up front. If you’re working with a pro, these details get sorted out with the booking agent in advance. If you’re working with someone local and can’t compensate them, mention that in the invitation; many worship leaders are more than willing to just do it just to bless your church.
- If your guest is flying in from out of town, arrange for transportation from and to the airport and arrange for hotel accommodations. Let your guest know the details of these two things in advance.
- More often than not, you’ll be providing food; find out if your guest has any dietary restrictions or preferences.
- Will the guest have any merch with them; will they require a merch table and someone to assist with it?
Since you’ve clarified the needs of your guest, try to go above and beyond to have those needs met before they arrive. For example, have production details sorted out and be ready to sound check before they walk in the door.
I was part of a worship team that visited a church that had a gorgeous Steinway D concert grand piano. As I approached the platform, I made a remark about how beautiful the instrument was, and the sound tech setting the stage snarled at me “DON’T TOUCH IT.” with such a violent tone that everyone on the platform stopped what they were doing, aghast. After service, the worship leader for the team I was on was so appalled by what had happened, that he approached her and informed her that she owed me an apology. With an eye roll and sigh, I got a half hearted apology with an insult following it.
Leadership, listen up. If you have volunteers on team that are rude, unfriendly or argumentative, and they refuse to correct their attitudes when this is brought to their attention, it’s time to have them step down. First, serving God is a privilege, and if they aren’t going to represent Christ in their service, they have no business being there. Second, they represent your church to your guest. Do you want your church to have a reputation of being unfriendly and unwelcoming? It’s almost impossible to recover from that reputation; I met plenty of wonderful people at that church, but guess who I still remember…
I was in a group that lead worship for an big evening event; it had been a crazy long day, and I hadn’t had a chance to eat. After our set, I went backstage and discovered there was a lemon cake with our name written on the aluminum foil covering it. In that moment, that lemon cake was the nicest thing that anyone had ever done for me. I still have a picture of that cake in my phone.
Small points of consideration can do so much for making a guest feel welcome. At the very least, have an unopened bottle of water waiting for them on stage. After service, give the guest an opportunity to meet members of the congregation. If time allows, perhaps invite your guest to lunch, but don’t be offended if they decline; they may need post-service down time.
Next week we’re going to look at the other side of this: how to be a gracious guest worship leader. Have any thoughts or comments? Drop them below, or hit me up on social media.
After posting this, @slowgearelectronics left a couple great thoughts on instagram that were really worth sharing:
- Find Out if your guest will bring their own mics or if the lead vocalist has a mic preference. (Ed. Note: If you don’t have the mic they’re looking for, see if you can rent the mic locally or see if they’re okay with a comparable mic that you already own).
- Provide your guest with a bottle of water per service.
- Provided water should be room temperature; cold water can really mess up the voice.