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DISCLAIMER: This list is not my (Kent Shaffer) personal opinion. The opinions in this list are not from one person, but rather it is a mashup of opinion from 150+ people (most not experts). That is why one opinion may contradict another opinion. The goal is to learn the diverse (often selfish) opinions of those in the pews. It is saddening. The opinions in the list are not my own.

WARNING: This list may offend you, particularly if you are a worship leader. It is saddening that people think this way, but I know that I am guilty of thinking some of these complaints before, too. Unfortunately, many people have thought these complaints. Reading this list may be offensive, but it can also be insightful into how picky congregations can be. It can give insights into what can be stumbling blocks of distraction for worshippers. And it also makes it clear that you can’t please everyone.

Last month, Carlos Whittaker of Buckhead Church (Atlanta, GA) blogged the dangerous question:

What is the biggest gripe you have about something a Sunday worship leader does?

The 185+ responses were fascinating, insightful, and offensive to some. To cut through the clutter of all of the opinions, I made a very rough tally of all the pet peeves to determine the top 10 pet peeves about worship leaders. Keep in mind these are subjective opinions from 100+ people.

Top 10 Pet Peeves About Worship Leaders (with examples)

  1. Asking the Congregation to do Something (21 responses)
    >> Makes us shake hands with the people around us.
    >> When a worship leader tells you to lift up your hands, it takes a meaningful personal action and turns it into a obligatory command.
    >> Talks like they’re at a high school pep rally, “Let me hear ya!”
    >> Asks how everyone is doing. We’re not at a concert, so we’re not going to scream.
    >> Tells you what to do and how to worship… to the point where it makes you feel guilty if you don’t conform yourself to her/his understanding of what worship is.
    >> I hate it when worship leaders script the worship too much by telling people what to do. I’ve had worship leaders completely distract me from God when they start telling me what to do.
  2. Mini-Sermons & Talking (20 responses)
    >> Talks between every song.
    >> I am distracted when worship leaders start talking about anything that is not directions on what we are about to do.
    >> When they repeat the same catch-phrases every week.
    >> Breathy speaking between songs.
    >> Sermonettes are annoying if too long or common
    >> You can tell a mile away when a worship leader is “sharing” because he feels obligated to. It’s always a cheesy or over emotional blurb. When God’s really laid something on a worship leader’s heart, it’s cool. But even then, say it in less than 45 seconds! Don’t meander on for 3 minutes.
  3. Not Focusing on God (17 responses)
    >> Forget that the audience of worship is God and start making it a performance for those sitting in front of them.
    >> When they perform rather than worship themselves.
    >> Showing zero emotion, standing still, focusing too much on perfection.
    >> Worship leaders who seem really wrapped up in being “cool.”
    >> Sometimes you can tell they’re being fake and/or showy.
    >> I hate it when the music guy/gal asks the crowd to praise God but soaks it up like they are Bono and the crowd is really praising them.
    >> I hate it when worship leaders don’t lead people.
  4. Unprofessional (14 responses)
    >> Starts service late.
    >> Typos on the screen.
    >> Talks to the praise band while leading worship instead of using hand signals to tell them what to do.
    >> When the leader changes the key of the song and does not tell the rest of the team.
    >> Goes out of order or adds another song in the middle of the set
    >> When the leader and/or band member turns away from the people to mess with their gear.
    >> When the production team on stage are laughing, joking, and gesturing behind the worship leader to the soundboard guys in the transition between worship and the message.
  5. Singing (11 responses)
    >> Can’t sing very well.
    >> Doesn’t know the lyrics.
    >> When worship leaders run words together.
    >> When they put their own little spin on simple, common words.
    >> Repeating the same line in a song 3.6 million times. There’s the Spirit’s leading and then there’s just plain losing people.
    >> Our old church’s leader would sing so high that no one could sing along. She provided no harmony for us to pick up. It was to showcase her own voice.
  6. Appearance (9 responses)
    >> Sing with their eyes closed.
    >> When singers act like they are really bored up there.
    >> Wears crotch hugging jeans.
    >> Looks or sounds seductive.
    >> One of our young worship leaders had a really big hicky on his neck a couple of weeks ago.
  7. Prayer (8 responses)
    >> Inauthentic prayer – too scripted or so random that it doesn’t make sense, or rushed/dragged out to make the prayer fit the interlude.
    >> Prays the words of the songs.
    >> When they can’t talk or pray appropriately between songs.
  8. Bad Transitions (5 responses)
    >> Transitions between songs take long time.
    >> Allows uncomfortable dead time between songs.
    >> When they pray essentially the same prayer at a transition moment.
    >> Using the song name as an introduction/transition – “You know I was thinking about how much God has done for me…it really is ‘Amazing Grace’ isn’t it?”
  9. Lifestyle (4 responses)
    >> When he’s obviously ungodly during practice and throughout life, but turns into a saint on Sunday morning.
    >> I hate to see a person who is suppose to be leading worship acting like a jerk before service and then getting up on stage acting like nothing ever happened.
    >> As a Pastor, I hate it when the music guy/gal is lazy apart from their 30 minute set on Sundays.
  10. Catering to the Congregation (4 responses)
    >> When they hold back because they are obviously conscious of what the congregation and/or pastor will think.
    >> I hate it when worship leaders/pastors play to people who think the worship somehow revolves around what they like and what makes them feel good when it has absolutely nothing to do with our preferences or likes.
    >> Has to risk being a cheerleader because the people that claim to love God exhibit no sense of joy when singing about Him.

Some of the pet peeves also have supporters. For instance, many people find it important to ask the congregation to raise their hands or shake hands with others. Ultimately, what matters most is that the worship leader is a Christlike example that can lead people’s focus into intimate worship with God. I like the quote that one commenter referenced:

Leading worship is the art of removing distractions.

For Discussion:
What tips do you have for creating an effective worship experience?