How to Speak and Lead Better from the Stage as a Worship Leader

Worship leaders often struggle with what to say and pray from the platform. In fact, “confident stage leadership” is one of the biggest challenges we hear from worship leaders all over the globe, regardless of their experience level. If you want to learn how to be a clearer, more confident, and intentional leader when on stage, this episode is for you.

In this episode, Jason Squires interviews me about what we should say, when we should speak, and how to lead with pastoral confidence and clarity while standing on the platform.

If you want more help in this area, check out our “Increasing Congregational Engagement and Participation” course inside the WMT Academy.

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Alex | (00:00)

Hello, my beautiful friend. This episode is a bonus for you. This is all about how to improve your leadership on the stage, on the platform. This was a guest interview. I was actually being interviewed on Jason Square’s podcast called The Table, which you should definitely check out. It’s for worship leaders. We talk all about how to improve what you say on stage, how to keep your brain focused when you’re trying to lead your band and your tech team and the church all at once, how to make sure your sets flow well and have smooth transitions, and a whole bunch of other topics. I hope you enjoy this awesome episode with Jason Bires interviewing me.

Jason Squires | (00:31)

Let’s jump into it. Today, we have a good friend of mine on, and I’m going to say his name correctly because I’ve worked on it, Alex and Fiedgian. Alex, how’s it going, man?

Alex | (00:39)

Jason, it’s so good to be back with you. And you rocked my name, which only true rock stars can do.

Jason Squires | (00:46)

I was talking to somebody the other day who has come across worship ministry training, and they were like, Hey, Alex from worship ministry training. I said, And I was like, What’s his last name? T hey were like, From worship Ministry training. That’s what we’re going to call him from now on. And I was like, I know his name. It’s like a secret pass code, if you can say it right.

Alex | (01:03)

You get into the academy for free if you can say my name right.

Alex | (01:06)

It’s horrible, though, because my last name is Long and worship Ministry training as a brand name is Long. It’s just a big long mess.

Jason Squires | (01:15)

So is your name Alex N Fiedgian from worship Ministry Training?

Alex | (01:18)

My actual name, believe it or not, is Alexander, which is the Iranian version of Alexander, but nobody can… It’s just even more confusing. So we just cut it to Alex.

Jason Squires | (01:29)

When I was a leader. That makes sense. That makes sense.

Alex | (01:31)

But only few people know that. So you’re one and your listeners are now.

Jason Squires | (01:35)

Wow. We just got let into a secret in your world.

Alex | (01:38)

The Chambers keep opening.

Jason Squires | (01:40)

Yeah. The Chambers keep opening. Hey, but for those that don’t know you, tell us a little bit more about you and where you’re coming from.

Alex | (01:47)

Sure. I’m in Los Angeles, married, a couple of kids, and serve as a worship pastor, or up until recently did that. And for many years, I’m going to be 38 soon. And multiple sized churches across 20 years. And so I’ve really learned the principles and practices that can lead to a really healthy, thriving, organized, excellent ministry. And I started teaching people through my podcast, the worship Ministry Training Podcast. And then that eventually turned into courses, which turned into an academy. So for worship leaders, usually worship leaders who are new and get thrown into ministry, and they’re like, I know how to play songs. I know how to pick songs, but I don’t really know how to build a set or lead a healthy team or create systems that organize my ministry and make it flow without chaos. Those are the people who usually find worship Ministry training, and we resource them with all of our courses and all of our templates and everything. I love it.

Jason Squires | (02:43)

I love it, man. Well, this month e were talking about stage transitions, stage presence, and what that looks like. I know everybody… This is a common topic talking about how you act on stage and what you’re doing. And you get up on stage and sometimes might freeze. But before we get into the content, one of my favorite questions is, can you tell us a funny stage story? Something that happened maybe to you or something that you’ve experienced on stage? Because these are stories we can all relate to.

Alex | (03:12)

Yeah, I have one. It’s not super crazy like I didn’t say… Have you ever heard the one where the guy said breast instead of breast or cust instead of… Yeah, anyway. It’s not one of those. But I was leading 10,000 reasons, I think, and I landed on the five chord and I was going to change keys and go into what a beautiful name. The chorus, just like as a tag, but in a different key. And I usually almost never recommend tagging a song in a different key. But I thought I could make it work. And I had practiced it over and over because it’s just weird to switch. And so I landed on the five, and that was going to become the root of the next song. And I just started singing in the just completely… It wasn’t either key, it was a no key. And it was like the ugliest sound. I’m like, what a powerful name. Just so wrong.

Jason Squires | (04:03)

Did his voice just crack? Is that what that was?

Alex | (04:06)

Yeah, it was all of that. All of that. All of it. And at my church, it’s a 2,000 person room. So there’s a whole bunch of people watching me utterly fail. And I just had to say, I laughed. And I said, hey, it happens sometimes. And then I was like, let’s just sing about his power. You have to laugh those things off. Actually, I found, Jason, I’m sure you agree, when you make light of it and make fun of yourself, people actually lean in more. They like you more and they want to follow.

Jason Squires | (04:33)

You more.

Alex | (04:34)

That was my utter failure on stage in front of a lot of people.

Jason Squires | (04:38)

That’s a great point. If you try and polish it over and try and walk past it like it didn’t happen, you’re going to end up being more, having more anxiety about it. The moment you bring it to light, people go, Oh, yeah, he’s human. That’s right. He’s a human.

Alex | (04:51)

This isn’t a concert. This isn’t a show. This is a bunch of Christians trying to worship Jesus and doing the best we can. And it really puts that human element on it. And you can’t stop every time you have a failure, especially if it’s a small little like you forgot a lyric or whatever. You’re not going to stop and be like, Let’s start the song over. But if it’s like a train wreck moment, you just got to point it out and laugh together. Hopefully laugh. Hopefully not get fired. If you’re pastors like that, I’m sorry.

Jason Squires | (05:20)

No mistakes are allowed on stage. That’s how we roll.

Alex | (05:24)

No grace.

Jason Squires | (05:25)

No grace. Hey, so whether you’re a brand new or season leader, it’s important to always get better at what you do. What are some tips that you can share that worship leaders should use to determine what to say on stage, when to say it? Give us some tips on like, what do I say? When do I say it? Is this too much to say? That whole world.

Alex | (05:45)

Sure. Yeah. That was actually in our academy, we have forums or Facebook thread type things. And that was one that came up recently, which is like, how do I keep my service intro fresh? Or what do I say in between songs so it’s not always just song to song to song. So yeah, this is something that a lot of worship leaders struggle with. And I do have three thoughts for that. And that is, what do we say or how do we get better at what we say? The first is to use Scripture because biblical worship is always revelation first, then response, revelation, then response. And so when we use the word of God, we actually reveal the nature of God, which then leads to the worship of God by the people of God. And so whether it’s at the top of the service, the call to worship, so to speak, what we like to call the call to worship when you rally the people’s hearts and minds to focus on why they’re there, whether it’s in your prayers, whether it’s an exhortation before a brand new song, or maybe an exhortation before singing a bridge of a song.

Alex | (06:46)

You pause and ramp on the one chord before you start to sing the bridge and you talk over that space. Those are different spaces you can talk, but my encouragement is to use scripture when you talk. And that’s because the more Scripture you use, the more clearly Christ will be revealed, and the more clearly he’s revealed, the more passionate your church will respond in worship. So that’s the first thing that I would say about speaking. The second thing, and this is a mistake I see a lot from worship leaders, is to keep the thoughts and the themes connected between songs, between prayers, because I like to say songs are simply prayers set to music. And so the best prayers or the best exhortations are thematically tied into the song that you just sang or the song that you’re about to sing. There should be a coherent theme between we just sang these words, and so now I’m going to pray these words that are connected to those words. And I just see a lot of worship leaders who view their sets like these chopped up blocks of nothingness where it’s like random song theme one unrelated prayer one random song theme two unrelated related exhortation two.

Alex | (07:56)

It needs to be this woven tapestry of one theme or a morphing of themes that are really strongly connected to one another. And that has to do with our song choice and our word choice between the songs or in the prayers. And so that’s the second thing. And then the last thing I always tell people is practice it out loud. It’s not weird to be in the back to write down your thoughts, writing down your thoughts. I heard a phrase, and I’m going to probably butcher the phrase, but it’s like something about thoughts untangle themselves when they pass over lips or pencil tips. But until you get it out of your mouth or written down on paper, it’s not clear. And when you speak it or write it, it becomes clear. So get it out first and then actually practice it. And I always recommend worship leaders who are just starting out to write it down, practice it in the back over and over until you’re pretty comfortable that when you get on stage and the lights on you, you’re not going to freeze. Or put it on your music stand if you use the music stand and just read it, but don’t wrote ly read it, but read it with passion when you’re on stage if you have to do that.

Alex | (08:59)

But eventually you get off of that crutch and you’re able to do it without even really putting too much thought into it like that. Those are the early days practice steps that you need to take.

Jason Squires | (09:09)

I love it. And I think those are… Like I said, whether you’re new or you’re seasoned, oftentimes as a seasoned worship leader, you can roll into, I got this, it’s fine. It’s totally fine. That’s where mistakes happen. And I love those points that wrap… If I could wrap a thread in there. It feels like intentionality. If we’re going to be intentional about the moments that we’re creating as worship leaders to go, I want to be intentional every time I walk on stage, every time we step foot into the room, every time we begin another service. Earlier this month on the podcast, one of the guys that I was talking to, he said that every Sunday could be somebody’s first Sunday at church, or every Sunday could be that Sunday that is the pivotal moment in somebody’s life. And we don’t ever think about it that way because it’s like we always just go, Oh, it’s another Sunday. My job is to write a set list and do songs. And so being intentional in those moments is so powerful. That’s where you see amazing things happen.

Alex | (10:14)

And just to flow off that, the pastor is not the only pastor. There are multiple pastors and I view worship leaders in a very pastoral role. And you want to craft your worship set, hopefully, as well as your pastor, hopefully, is crafting his sermon. Because I don’t know about you, Jason, but when a pastor has 85 points and they’re all unrelated, I can’t follow. When a pastor has one point and he’s cut away all the fat and all the unintentional words, it’s clear, it’s focused, it’s helpful, it’s pushing me in a certain direction, and it’s helping me grow. I like to say that the best sermons have only one point, and I think the best worship sets have only one point or a very close cluster of of related points. And same thing with your podcast. Today, this episode is about being better on stage. And in fact, this whole month, we’re focusing on that topic. And so great people do that just like you, Jason. You’re great.

Jason Squires | (11:12)

Thank you. I appreciate that. My next question for you is, okay, so if I’m on stage, my brain starts to wander. We’ve all been there. You’re standing up there, and all of a sudden you’re thinking about lunch. How do I bring it back? How do I come back and check back in and bring my brain back to the present. Do you have some thoughts on that?

Alex | (11:33)

Yeah. Well, I hope to set a few worship leaders free with this first thought. I didn’t write this down when I was looking at your questions, but this popped to me and I think I need to say it for someone. Worship is more than music. We all know that. But worship is a life that’s wholly submitted to bringing God honor. And so as you’re on stage leading people, if you’re not having this profound worship experience yourself, is that ideal? Is that nice when it happens? Yes, it is. And I pray for more of those in my life. But the fact that you’re on stage giving your time, your talent, your energy to the Lord to be used as a broken, open vessel before him. Lord, fill me, use me, break me, pour me up to the people. You’re serving God and serving God is an act of worship. And so even if your brain is a little bit sometimes here or there, and that’s a whole other side topic that we could and should talk about is how do we focus our brains a little bit in this super hyper distracted society that we dwell in?

Alex | (12:32)

But so on stage, if you’re serving the Lord, you are worshiping Him, whether or not you are having this profound spiritual encounter. Now, that means we should definitely be having those encounters with the Lord in our own personal time, because sometimes when you’re on stage and you’ve got to lead a team and you’ve got to lead a church and you got to make sure the text working, it is distracting. But that serving is your active worship in those moments. So I didn’t plan to say that, but I think it’s important that I do say that. Now, for me, when I am on stage and I do have my thoughts running around strange, I just throw up a prayer. Lord, help me to focus. Help me to focus on you. And then I also, this has been helpful as well, as I try to pray for the people that I’m leading. So I’m looking out at all these faces and I’m thinking, some of these people are going through divorce, some of these people, their children are prodigal, some of these people, whatever it is. And I just start to pray for those people and bless them, Lord, help them, Lord, protect them, Lord.

Alex | (13:31)

Protect them, Lord. I’m singing on autopilot and my mind and my heart is praying different prayers for them. Now, obviously that takes muscle memory and practice, so you can’t be a total noob and do that. But I think anyone who puts in the time and the reps can get to that point. But when we pray for others and we put our thoughts on others, our focus on others, there’s no space for our own thoughts to be like, what’s for lunch? But yeah, I do think about is the drummer going to hit the break? I hope the drummer hits the break. And you look over at the drummer and you’re trying to nod with your head, all of that’s part of the role and that’s okay. And that’s serving and serving his worship. So that’s how I would answer that.

Jason Squires | (14:09)

A couple of weeks ago, I got to play at a church not lead, just had a microphone and I was singing on a front line of vocalist. And I was like, This is why people volunteer to do this. I had no responsibility. I just got up and sang my parts and it was so much fun. You could look over the worship and I could tell you was panicking a little bit. And there’s moments of stress. I know exactly where you’re at. But over here, all I have to do is focus on what I’m doing right now. I’m not responsible for the band or the tech or just everything. And I’m like, I walked away going, This is why people volunteer to do this. It was like a moment where I’m like, As a leader, you sometimes forget because you have so many… There’s so much circling around in your brain to try and get from point A to point B in the band, and you hope that this works and everything happens. Especially if you come out of a sound check that had technical problems and you got them all fixed and you hope that they hold while you’re on stage.

Alex | (15:09)

Well, that’s a really interesting point because you’re right, we project our stress levels on our volunteers which is why most worship leaders are always telling their volunteers, don’t burn out like this is. And they’re like, no, I love serving. And you’re like, no, you don’t. You need a break. But that’s a really great point. We’re just putting what we feel in our situation onto what they experience, which is actually not the truth. So thank you for illuminating that for us.

Jason Squires | (15:34)

That’s right. They sit back and go, you need a Sunday off every month. And you’re like, No, I need a Sunday off every month. That’s what I’m actually, I’m pointing the finger back at myself. That’s amazing. That’s amazing. So we talked about it a little bit, but let’s go real specific here. Why are transitions so important to the worship experience? Why is it important to know what’s coming? Why is it important to seamlessly get from point A to point B and not just go, Everybody knows what we’re doing, and walk us through that a little bit?

Alex | (16:08)

Yeah. Well, it really goes back to that idea of keeping everything connected. So just like you keep the people’s thoughts and the themes and the prayers flowing from one to the next, you also want to create that flow musically. And so that it’s not like four individual broken up songs that are like start, stop, start, stop, unrelated themes, unrelated keys, awkward moments of silence in between. You want it to be this one unbroken time of praise, something that feels really natural and organic. That’s like, we started here, we went on this journey. There’s ups and downs, but it’s all connected did. And the smoother that our transitions can be, the more immersive our times of worship can be because it’s like you’re creating this space, this undistracted atmosphere where it’s just going on this journey from one mountain peak to the next without it being broken up. And I don’t understand the people who work really hard on a song arrangement and work really hard to make this super epic moment happen. And then they just kill the moment immediately after the song is done. They change their capo, they change the chord chart, there’s awkward silence.

Alex | (17:16)

And I see this all the time. I mean, even at churches, you and I have both led at. It’s like, if I watch the live stream, it’s like, Whoa, that transition was like 25 seconds or just way too long.

Jason Squires | (17:29)

And it’s.

Alex | (17:30)

Like, we want to learn how to massage our transitions and combine songs and combine or cut the intro of a song so that we can go right into the intro of a song or those types of creative things where it feels just like this one musical and logical flow because you’ve already worked to create thematic flow, and now you’ve created a musical flow, and it really puts people in this both emotional and mental flow, which really gets to the idea of spirit and truth worship, right? Because the emotional would be the musical side where you’re expressing how you feel through the music. But then the logical would be the truth side, which is all the thematic truth and the theological truth that you’re putting in your songs. And you’re taking people on this spirit and truth journey because you’ve worked out the flow, both musically and thematically. And I think it’s really powerful. And it’s like a head and heart experience.

Jason Squires | (18:25)

Yeah. What would you say to the person who’s sitting back thinking right now, gosh, this is amazing. I don’t do any of that. Where should I start? What would be a good first task or a point to cross or thing to do? Because it’s impossible to hold it to like, next week we’re going to flip a switch and it’s just going to work and I’m going to do all these things right. But where would be a good… Try to do this really well for first and then build from there.

Alex | (18:56)

Sure. Well, I have a free resource. I have a free eBook that actually explains exactly how to do all this that they can get at worship Ministrytraining. Com resources. And that’s just free. You just put your email and you’ll.

Jason Squires | (19:07)

Get the book. We’ll put that link in the show notes just so if you’re listening and didn’t write it down, it’ll be in the show notes for you.

Alex | (19:15)

Thank you. But just to give an actual practical to someone listening who’s not going to remember to go get that eBook, what I like to say is, okay, first of all, you have to figure out your related keys. Usually you’re going to either stay on the same key or you’re going to go to the five chord as your new key or the four chord as your new key. And again, that’s also a free resource on that same page that they can get the different related keys. But you want to at least figure out that the keys are related. But what I like to do is when I get to the end of a song, let’s say I’m in my room practicing or preparing for the set, picking songs. When I get to the end of one song that I really feel strongly about including in the set, when I land at the end of that one, I always ask myself, What does my heart want to say next? And I’m strutting and thinking and thinking about songs that are in my mental library back there, or I’m scrolling on Planning Center, trying out the first line of the next song, looking at the Planning Center list.

Alex | (20:14)

That one little question, what does my heart want to say next, will usually get you pretty close. Now, that’s a very oversimplified thing, but you asked for what’s the first baby step, and I would say that one little thing is the first baby step.

Jason Squires | (20:26)

That is a great question to ask yourself. What does my heart want to say next? One thing that I’ve learned in writing… Because I’m at different churches every Sunday, and so I don’t get to be a part of a lot of the planning sessions. When I’m writing set lists, I’ve learned that if a song is in my mind or in my heart, just to include it, because it’s God prompting me to go, hey, put this song in. Sometimes I’m like, that song is like 20 years old or 25 or 30 years old. Why would I… And I’ll put it in the set and the pastor will reference it in the message. It’ll seamlessly flow out of those moments. But I’ve never actually asked myself the question, what does my heart want to sing next? Because that would prompt that space to go, if I’m going into the next song, what do I want to say? What do I naturally want to say? Not just what song is next on the CCL charts or what song is everybody singing right now? What is? What do I want to say? And that’s a great space, man.

Alex | (21:34)

And that opens it up past the top 10 songs because now what your heart wants to say might be a 20 year old chorus of a song.

Jason Squires | (21:43)


Alex | (21:44)

That’s okay. Go for that. That’s better than, well, it’s not in the top 10 CCLI. Who cares? This is worship. This is like, I don’t know what we’re doing anymore. And now it’s such a weird season of worship that we’re in.

Jason Squires | (21:58)

I always love when I hear worship leaders say, that’s a new song to our church. We’ve never done it from our honor stage. But 90 % of the room already knows that song. It’s not going to be brand new as you bring out the song I was talking about that I did not long ago was That’s Why We Praise Him from Tommy Walker. It was in my heart, in my mind, and I brought it out. The whole room, it was like they sing it every week. Everybody just knew it and it just went on. People came up to me afterwards and they’re like, That was a great song. It was just great to sing it again and be reminded about it, fit the message and everything. Not looking at it going, Well, I want to sing this, but it’s not in our 30 song repertoire. You can venture out of that as you’re going in and out of with the songs that you’re doing at your church. I always end the podcast with a food question. I’m going to ask you my new favorite food question, which is, what is something you don’t like eating that most people would like or enjoy or something you like that most people would find disgusting?

Alex | (23:03)

I don’t know if people agree or disagree with me, but I don’t like lemon deserts. I love sweets, huge sweets guy, but if I want sweets, I don’t want it to be sour flavored. So why would you ever make a lemon thing? It should be sweet.

Jason Squires | (23:17)

Not sour. No lemon bars? No lemon bars?

Alex | (23:18)

No, it defeats the purpose. Well, okay, I have had, like, once I had a lemon bar that was like the perfect texture and it had a bunch of powdered sugar on top. And it was like the perfect crispiness on the bottom.

Jason Squires | (23:30)

Yeah, no lemon. You’re not actually tasting the lemon there.

Alex | (23:32)

Yeah, just like slightly. But yeah, if I’m going to go for sweets, it’s going to be sweet, not sour. So no lemon, no lemon dessert.

Jason Squires | (23:40)

Hey, tell us how we can connect with you and tell us how we can connect with worship ministry training. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m going to put that link in the show notes to the resources that you offer. But tell us a little bit more about that and how we can… You’ve said a couple of times the academy that you’re doing. Tell us all about that.

Alex | (23:58)

Yeah, thanks, Jason, and thanks for having me. Yeah. So for the listeners, if you like podcasts, you listen to Jason’s podcast. I’ve had mine for eight or nine years now. So you can check out the worship Ministry training podcast. So practical, just like Jason’s very practical. But his is better, of course. And then the worship Ministry training Academy is an online platform for worship leaders to help you get organized, to help you build healthy teams, to help you build engaging worships that see more participation from your church. It’s just a way for you to up your leadership. And we give you 10 in-depth courses. We’ve got a ton of done for you admin systems and done for you resources documents, team devotionals, like 52 team devotionals for you to lead your team every week. Just a bunch of stuff already done, all the hard work done. You just take it, get trained by the content and then implement it into your ministry immediately. It’s like a way to fast track past a bunch of headaches. And you can try it for $1 for 15 days. And it’s worshipministry training. Com. So that’s it.

Jason Squires | (25:01)

I love what you’re doing. You’re spending time mentoring and training worship leaders and pouring what you’ve learned into them. I love the done for you resources. People going, oh, I can use that right now and not have to develop something.

Alex | (25:16)

One lady said, she’s like, I used your templates and I literally saved five months of work. And I was like, Wow, that’s a testimonial right there.

Jason Squires | (25:23)

That’s right.

Alex | (25:25)

That’s amazing. Half a year. Give me a half a year back, please.

Jason Squires | (25:28)

That’s awesome. Hey, man, I appreciate you hanging out today. I appreciate you taking time to do what you do, pouring into leaders, sharing the knowledge and the wisdom that you have to help advance this thing that we’re doing on a regular basis, which is leading people to Jesus. It’s no small task.

Alex | (25:48)

Can I make a confession to your listeners? Jason had to call me four times because I overslept and missed our call. He literally was sitting here waiting on Zoom for me and I was not showing up. Thank you for being gracious, Jason, and to the listeners, God bless you.

Jason Squires | (26:06)

God bless you.

Alex | (26:07)

All right. I hope this episode helped you. If you can think of one person that it would help, please send it to them. Be a good friend and send your friend a helpful episode from Worship Ministry Training. And if you’ve been getting a lot out of these podcasts, please take a second to rate and review us on Apple podcast or Spotify. I will super appreciate it. Heart shape to you. And if you want to get in-depth training that we talked about in this episode, you can join the academy, Worship Ministry Training Academy for just one dollar and let us pour into you so that you can pour into your team. We’ll take care of all the busy work for you so you can just lead and love the people that got entrusted to you. So hope to see you inside the academy. Go to worshipministry training. Com to start your one dollar trial, 15 days full access for just one dollar. Otherwise, I’ll see you in the next episode. God bless you guys and have a great week serving the Lord.