I did a performance thing one Friday.
Those you who have been with me for some time or listened to me teach know that I firmly believe that worship is meant for the congregation to participate in, not for a few people to perform in. Over the years I have focused more and more on worship ministry, rather than performing, and thus have gotten better and better at worship leading rather than performing.
And so the moment before I went up on stage for the Living Faith Church “Honor the Servers” event to perform two worship songs I wrote myself, I had stage fright again.
Yeah, even after all these years.
What I was told later was that I did well, so that means that the methods I use to conquer stage fright work. Thought of sharing them with you in this article.
The MOST important thing you MUST know: ALL stage fright is based on two factors: 1) that people are all focusing on you; and 2) the feeling that you are losing control. So the secret to overcoming stage fright is dealing with these two factors.
So in a worship context, you need to shift people’s attention away from you and to God AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! Firstly, because that’s your job as a worship minister, and second, because that takes away from you pressure that you don’t have to undergo in order to get the job done.
If you are a worship leader, get the people to start singing or to do something together as a congregation as soon as possible. In general, praying and exhorting the congregation before worship is quite unnecessary, in my opinion. It adds to the pressure on you (which you don’t want) and delays the start of worship (which THEY don’t want) and means that you have to put in even more work to generate the momentum in worship later once they do get started.
So if you can do it, do it well and yet generate the momentum later once you start the worship, great! Personally, even after all these years of leading worship, I don’t do all that kind of stuff.
Now, if you are a worship musician or your mouth volunteered you for something before your rational mind kicked in (as happened in MY case), your struggle will be more of the second factor, the feeling that you are losing control.
How can you deal with that situation? First, have a familiar preparation routine. That can range from a familiar song intro style you use or even something as simple as washing your hands and drying them exactly the same way every time. This tells your subconscious that you ARE in control.
For me I’d either keep moving (if I have to do something that doesn’t involve me talking) or pray for a relevant joke to use (Lots of people present that evening enjoyed my joke about my voice inspiring thanksgiving). When the people started laughing I knew I was still very much in control.
The keep moving method is one I don’t really use these days, because people in church tend to freak out when they see me do stretching exercises (“Is he doing Tai Chi? Is that YOGA???”), but you can easily find other ideas you can adapt and use in YOUR situation.
There were some points I slipped up. For example, I had a mike in front of me during my singing, so to keep myself from going cross-eyed looking at the mike I just closed my eyes while singing (and played some chords wrong). But overall I did OK. Sometimes it’s a question of how you choose to see the whole experience.
As I mentioned before, the worship songs were those I wrote, so I could see the whole experience in two ways. I could choose to see the experience of performing my own worship songs as being judged. Composing something is very personal because you put a lot of who you are as a person into it, and it’s very easy to interpret people rejecting it as rejecting who you are as a person.
Or I could see it in this way: because it’s MY song nobody else knows it. Therefore no one else will know if I get it wrong. A lot less pressure, right? I chose to see it this way…
Of course all these ideas are not meant to replace proper preparation. The two songs I used are songs I wrote from Scripture passages very dear to me (from the book of Psalms, surprised?) and for two weeks before I was using those two songs in my daily devotionals and discovering what songs could be effectively linked with those two songs. (Hey, once a worship leader, always a worship leader).
But sometimes even after we’ve prepared a lot we still get the jitters. That’s where the ideas here come in useful. Try them out and let me know what you think?