I've had a little thing come up.  I'm trying to decide what, if anything, I need to do about it.  It's related to the visible demeanor of one of my singers.  She has a very serious air about her most of the time on Sunday morning.  She is a very committed member of the team and has been for quite some time.  She is a very good singer, a single mom of two working her way through college to be a teacher and is almost there.  She has a very strong faith, a strong work ethic and is a strong team player.  Outside of Sunday morning she loves to have fun and rehearsals are a blast.  But on Sunday morning she takes on a somewhat serious and aloof demeanor.  She doesn't often smile and never physically engages in worship.  That contrasts greatly with the other singers that are smiling, clapping, raising their hands, etc.  Every so often a member of the congregation will ask me about her, if she is ok, does she not enjoy praising God like the other singer?  Is she just up there to satisfy her own need to sing?  I talked to her once about this and her reaction was something like...

"That IS how I praise and worship God. My relationship with God is a serious and reverent one.  Is it right for others to criticize or judge me based on my style of worship?  Is it ok for me to fake my style of worship to make someone in the congregation happy?  It's not in my DNA to fake my relationship with God."

  Hmm..... some good points.   Since then I've let it go, worship has been fine, the congregation is engaging, yet this past week a different member of the congregation brought it up again.  The first time I talked to my pastor about it she felt it was a problem and I needed to talk to the singer about it.  This time I mentioned it to my pastor and she felt it was good because the members of the congregation that worship in the same way could connect with her instead of feeling inadequate by not worshiping like our more energetic members.

Anyone have any experience with this?  Thoughts?  Advice?

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Good idea. I tend to home right in on what I want to fix which is not a very good people skill.
What is a people skill? I thought we were just pre-programmed / pre-determined actors on a stage of chemical reactions. So who cares? Sorry, I digress...(Did the first amoeba digress?)

Actually, recognizing what needs to be fixed is a leadership skill, but learning how to use it is a skill that has to be honed. Good judgement comes through experience. Experience comes through bad judgment.
Ah, Grasshopper...we are moving from knowledge to wisdom. The amoebas will be pleased.
Oh I won't have to stretch things. I'm my own worst critic.
I was going to suggest this...must be a good idea if we were both thinking about it.
Everyone is different. So it may be 'much ado about nothing'...Some people are going to naturally be more enthusiastic than others. We don't need to 'cookie cutter' and be the 'smiling faces', etc. And phony 'miles of smiles' can be , well phony. That said, if you are thematically expressing JOY, or singing a JOY of the LORD - type of song, then you may want to make a point of expressing your expectations during rehearsals: "Hey everyone, let's try and be enthusiastic, especially during the chorus. You know lot's of smiles and such."
Our expressions should normally be thematically oriented to what is going on with the particular portion of the worship service. Also sometimes clearer expectations, and simple arrangements can free the praise team, and singers to express themselves more freely during worship.
I have no advice, but I know this situation and that people struggle with this.

I consistently get back-door feedback about this one individual who looks like his cat just died. No colour or other expression while they leads. Rightly or wrongly, enough people have commented that I'm pretty sure it's a distraction for a good number of people.

It's been a while now, and this individual was leading a team, and they still goes about their way. I also still get the comments...

When I look back at the comments, I think it's not that they need a Disney World theme-park/Stepford Wives smile, but if the feedback is constant, maybe there is something there. Worship is supposed to be moving and inspired. It's hard to be moved, when your tour-guide is stand there in your face, stiff-lipped with the colour drained from his face. Emotionally distant, disinterested, withdrawn and cold/uninviting. I'm just saying I can see how people find this a hindrance, especially if they are already struggling themselves with their own inner issues.

>> It's not in my DNA to fake my relationship with God.

If that was this person's response, I'm wondering if the congregation would clarify that they aren't looking for a particular type of response. Just a outward sign that the worship is having some impact or effect on her.

Is she having true worship (during the Sunday morning worship set)? It would appear to some that the 'fruits' of that just aren't there.

If she were the speaker, with the same body language would the comments be justified? I dunno if I want to listen to a pastor if he/she just generally looked bored and disinterested. Not sure if that's a fair comparison...
After thinking about it some more, what about this scenario: What if your worship leader happens to work at the beach in California selling surfboards. She's most comfortable in bikini top and 'Daisy-Duke' cut-off shorts. It's what she ears 365 days a year and she she's most comfortable in. Now what if she wanted to lead worship wearing that on Sunday morning in your local church.

Theologically, I think you worship in pretty much anything clothes (or I guess no clothes at all when David ran around naked). I'm sure she could have 'true' worship dressed like that.

However, I'm sure there might be one or two (males) in the audience who might be hindered/distracted by this. (And then maybe some females distracted by their significant others being distracted...)

What would you do? Whose right? Can both be appeased? Do you step in? Is she trying to prove a point? Do you support that goal? Is it the same situation? Is it different?

What I do know is that it takes a mature and humble leader to give what is within his/her rights, to sacrifice it for the sake of others...

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Cor 8:9 NIV)
Thanks for all the advice and insight. That's what I love about WTR. So much friendly knowledge and insight from so many wonderful people. Some very witty humor too. :-)

I really don't perceive this as a huge problem since as a whole the congregation does seem to engage well in worship most weeks. And the ones that I do seem to hear from periodically also appear to be well engaged in worship in spite of the distraction they are telling me about. They seem more concerned for this singer and her effect on nameless "others" in the congregation than for their own worship experience. I'll video a service or two, let us review it as a group looking for both good things and distracting behaviors we don't know we are doing. I'm thinking mostly each of us will be critical of ourselves in this review, not so much of each other. I'll certainly lead the way with my own self analysis. I can be VERY critical of myself.

Someone touched on education. I'm going to make more of an effort to educate our congregation on worship. Individually as people come to me with these kinds of comments, a little on Sunday by how I invite people to receive some of the songs we do, and also in our weekly church email newsletter. The pastor has a column there as does the youth leader. I can add a column that I write concerning worship to help our congregation better understand what it is they are participating in each Sunday.

I already put a pretty big emphasis on things with my team on why we are there. To unify as a team to do whatever it takes to lead the congregation in worship. We do talk a lot about visual cues and demeanor. We need to be leading by example and demonstrating what we expect from our congregation. We need to be connecting with the spirit of the songs we are singing. If it's a happy song we need to look happy. If it's a deep reflecting song we need to show that as well. It just seems to be an issue of how far each individual feels comfortable going with that before feeling that it's crossed the line for them of becoming fake and no longer worship. I don't mind pushing people up to that line to nudge them out of their comfort zone and maybe experience something new but I never want to push someone over that line. Ultimately it's about our relationship with God and if I push someone to the point they lose that authenticity then I think I will have failed them, our church, myself, and God.

Thank you again for all the great feedback and please continue if something else strikes you. I certainly don't ever feel like I have any of this worship leader stuff completely figured out.
As someone who isn't terribly demonstrative in general, I don't know that the video is a good idea. Not that it is a bad idea, I just am unsure. The reason is, by doing it as a group, she may feel like you are singling her out, even if you start by criticizing yourself. The fact you have talked to her in the past will put everything else in that context. Not to mention, if the others are demonstrative and she is not, she may feel ganged up on if everyone is sharing comments.

I don't doubt her spirituality. If I did, I'd either be a hypocrite or doubting my own spirituality because I am not terribly demonstrative. But then again, I think people expect more engagement from singers than instrumentalists because their hands are free. My question is: Does she have fun all the time at rehearsals, or does she get serious when she is singing in rehearsals? Perhaps there is a way you can help her to be more naturally expressive outside of the service that will translate into being naturally expressive in the service. I am not exactly sure of any particular example; just the concept.

Another thing to note: I don't particularly like the fact people are raising this as an issue. I would be tempted to respond by saying "Oh, she's just reflecting what the rest of the congregation looks like." Or, "You're right, she's not very spiritual, we just like to make her feel part of the team." (Just kidding!) On the more serious side, while I would want her to be more visibly engaged in worship, I don't feel like people should be so critical either. Especially if they don't seem to be bothered by it but are speaking about what "others" might think. Education is good, but there is no education like the real world. How you respond is extremely important. If you say "Yeah I agree they should be more visibly engaged" and then you put in that column that worship should not include criticizing others, the response you gave to them will be the stronger of the two messages. Perhaps you should politely respond by pointing out that unless they are bothered by it personally, they shouldn't be noticing. Ok, that's a little strong, but I'm sure you can figure something out. I am still a little rough around the edges when it comes to dealing with people, so you may want to take my suggestions with a grain of salt.

I just re-read your post and realized you said that you will be responding carefully. That's cool.
Thanks Carl. I really am not that much of a dancer/hand-raiser myself. I guess that's why I like hiding behind my guitar. :-) Maybe nothing is the right thing to do. That's what I've been doing and worship has appeared to have continued to work. The last thing I want is for her to feel bad or offended, and I've never been convinced there is really anything wrong. The problem might very well be with the individuals that comment having a hidden agenda or not understanding where she is coming from. People can be very quick to judge others, especially in a church it seems. To answer some of your questions, she does let go and enjoy having fun during rehearsals. Joking around, doing some spoof diva moves while singing and laughing. She is also relaxed and fun during the pre-service warmup on Sunday. But once the 10 minute countdown timer starts it becomes all business. I've taken the approach of responding to the individuals at the time of their comments by explaining "that *is* how she worships, nothing is wrong, and yes, she is worshiping, just in her own way, I don't see a problem". We seem to have a select few in our congregation that can be a bit opinionated and like to represent "the congregation" with their thoughts. I just never like to completely discount anyone's feedback without trying to see if I can find any truth buried under the opinions. We also have others that have good giving hearts but tend to be quick to jump to conclusions of what others must be feeling or thinking based on outward behavior that doesn't fit their ideal. Some of these are good friends and that bothers me a little more. I spend more time with these helping them see people and behaviors from a different perspective. Kind of like, if you assume the best about someone, what conclusions would you draw from their behavior?

Being new to worship leading when I responded to this nudging about 4 years ago, I don't like to always assume I'm right about things like this. So I brought it to this group looking the voice of experience about if I have a problem or not? If so, where might the problem exists? With the behavior or the interpretation of it. The singer or the critics. Sounds like mostly the later which is kind of my thought. Then how to address it, if it needs addressing. Thank you everyone for your input. I hate feeling like I'm leading in a vacuum and trying to find my own way through all these issues alone. This is a awesome group of leaders.
Hhhhmmmm. Sounds like she views Sunday morning quite differently than rehearsals, which might be an area to gently explore (how do you view Sunday morning? rehearsal?). Might help to ask it of the entire group and have a discussion so she doesn't feel singled out. Although people shouldn't watch the worship team closely during worship, we all know it happens. We don't conduct worship with this in mind, but it is there. It sounds like her demeanor is at least a little disconcerting to others, which might make it an issue (trying really hard not to draw conclusions for you). Have you talked about expectations/recommendations for handling Sunday morning with the group? It might help for all of them to hear your thoughts as a leader, maybe what your focus is on Sunday, how you shed the cares of the week, etc. and how that manifests in your worship. The trick is to teach without being prescriptive. Easier said than done for sure. God made each of us differently, but if we present one face at rehearsal and a decidedly different one on Sunday, prayerful consideration of a discussion is probably warranted. I find myself wondering if she feels safe at church (no clue where that's coming from). Just a thought; would love to hear how you handle the situation in case it would help me one day. Be blessed, my brother.


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