One of my very favorite settings for leading worship is with small groups of people. Whether it’s in a living room, around a campfire, or a small church gathering, worshiping with a small group can be an intimate way to pursue Jesus together in community. With that said, in my experience, leading worship in these smaller settings can also be tough and at times flat out awkward. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself singing solo instead of facilitating worship amongst the group. Over time I’ve developed a few “best practices” for leading worship in these types of settings that might help you the next time you lead worship for a smaller group of people.
Another helpful tip for leading worship in small groups is choosing songs that are built upon repetition. It’s great to remember that simple doesn’t always mean shallow when it comes to song choices. Some of the best worship songs ever written are incredibly simple and repetitive. I think of a song like “Doxology” that is simple and well-known, yet diverse enough to lead in almost any setting. Or a more modern song like “Great Are You Lord”, which only has three simple sections that are each easy to repeat as much as needed. No matter what your preferred song choice is, consider choosing more songs with repetition in small group settings as a way to engage more people in worship.
Another practical suggestion is to sing the songs in a key that is easily accessible for the group of people singing. Most often, songs are recorded in a key that brings an optimal amount of dynamic to the song, which is generally on the higher side of most vocalists' range. While this same method is helpful in many larger worship settings, when it comes to smaller gatherings, you’ll want to consider lowering the key to a more comfortable key, one that is suitable for the environment you’re leading in. Singing every song at the top of your vocal range while gathered in a living room is just poor hospitality on our part as worship leaders. Instead, choosing a key for each song that serves the setting well is gracious toward the people that we are serving in the gathering.
One of the greatest opportunities worshiping in small settings offers is for others in the group to participate more than usual. Oftentimes I will leave space between songs and invite others in the group to read a Scripture, pray, or share something that God has been doing in their lives. Inevitably, once one person shares or prays, more people feel comfortable contributing and before you know it everyone has played a part in leading worship for the gathering. This is one of the reasons leading for smaller groups of people is one of my very favorite settings to lead in. Though you may have to coax participation of this kind out of people, largely because we just aren’t used to it, once smaller groups get a taste of contributing to the worship time, they feel more engaged when they are able to offer up something of their own in the gathering.
The next time that you lead worship for a small group I hope that you’ll consider these simple suggestions and that the word of Christ will dwell in you richly as you worship together.