Be Our Guest

This last weekend I was blessed and privileged to be the guest worship leader at a church I’d never been to before. So I thought it would be a worthwhile topic to address in this forum.


If you think that it’s just the same as a normal Sunday at your church you’ll be in for a surprise. The set up will be different. The band, the sound, the lights, the crowd, they’ll all be different too. Be prepared for the unexpected.


What goes at my church may not fly at another church. Maybe people stand, maybe they don’t. Maybe the music is loud, maybe you’re turned down quieter than I’d like. I’m the guest and this isn’t my home turf.


If they ask me not to play a song, I don’t fight it, I just don’t play the song. I may ask why later, but other than that I want to make that a non-issue. If they ask me to play with their band, then I go with it. This isn’t always easy, the church last Sunday was a pleasant exception, but a lot of times I’ve been stuck with bands who had a hard enough time as it was playing with someone they knew. Being easy going will get you far when guest worship leading with another church’s band.


Sounds simple right? But I’ve seen worship leaders at a church of folks 60 years and older who think they’re at the Passion Conference and churches who think that Petra is still really hip with the teens. (Was Petra ever really hip?) Am I in a main service? A youth service? Is this a traditional church or a mainstream church or a church with a more “fringe” expression of worship? Is it a Men’s retreat (doing one next week)? Or a women’s retreat (not sure how I’d get there)?

Do they know the songs? I never want to be “that guy” who goes as a guest leader and brings a set list that it foreign to the congregation. I sometimes ask what songs the church is doing or will just try and make it “songs that everyone knows” and then double check that the folks there actually know them. If I’m just doing the songs I like or the songs that are popular at my church, but that this other church doesn’t know, then how am I serving them?

Among most denominational and non-denominational churches there are 50 or so songs that everyone seems to know: Amazing Grace, Lord I lift Your Name on High, How Great is Our God, Be Thou My Vision, etc. Those are good ones to know and have in your back pocket for times like these.


Once I’ve got a set of songs most people will know, and I’ve figured out what expressions and styles will work to serve the church I’m leading at, I still want to keep it pretty simple, especially if they are providing a back up band. Music is a language and I’ve never “talked” to these folks before. So I want to play this thing pretty straight. NO fancy arrangements. NO Complicated riffs (even uncomplicated ones can take a little time to work out with the band). NO new songs. Just simple, straight forward arrangements of familiar songs so we can easily join together in the praise of our God.


So, I’ve got my set list together and it fits in with the culture and vibe of the church I’m visiting and the band & I have practiced and it sounds ok, now what? I need to be free to lead. They’ve invited me to LEAD the church in worship. So if in practice the drummer is pushing the tempo or I don’t want the backing singer to sing on verses, I feel free to lead them not to do that. If I really want the electric guitar player to really drive the bridge, then I feel free to ask him nicely to help me out. When church starts, I want to stand with boldness, submitted to the Spirit’s leading and LEAD His church in the praise of Jesus, in the worship of the Father in song, and prayer and passion.

any questions or comments? drop a line in the comment section and lets talk

3 thoughts on “Be Our Guest

  1. Dang, dude. You address a lot of great things, this is a great topic. I’ve thought a lot about how to lead as a guest. It brings out a lot of issues about who I am, what I’m doing and why, and how they are received by others. It’s really tough to pick the songs, to deal with the new band, to be a “special guest” as well as give them something familiar. A lot of tension!

    1. yeah, it’s not something that they prepare you for in a lot of ways, and truthfully, it’s not really something that i prepare those I’m training for. I’m gonna try and correct that.

  2. Reblogged this on Real World Worship Leading and commented:

    I wrote this post last year but thought it was a good topic to revisit.
    Sometimes I read over thing I wrote in the early days of the blog and think “hmm, I don’t disagree, but I wouldn’t write it that way again,” or if I do disagree I’ll take the old post down (I think that happened once) and write a new version.
    For this post on Guest Leading at another church, I was pleased to find that I wanted to change nothing.

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