Five Tips for Leading Worship When Tragedy Strikes

Posted by Paul Baloche on 15 December 2015

These days it seems like every other week there’s a breaking news crisis that sends shocking images to the front pages, spreads fear like a virus and gives us all pause for thought. So what do you do when tragedy strikes in the very week that you’re on the rotation to lead? We asked Paul Baloche for his top tips.

 1. Use Your Words… Sometimes all it takes is for you to say something at the start to help people join with you. I might talk about how good it is to gather and remember God, how we can lift our prayers to Him in song even though our hearts might be heavy. Sometimes people need to be reminded that we can stand in proxy for our brothers and sisters who are grieving and living in fear. We can stand in the gap, asking God to pour out His spirit on others, to dispel fear with faith and continue to cause justice to rise up.

2. Find A New Song (Or An Old One)… Recent events in Paris reminded me of being in church the week after the 9/11 attacks. I had my setlist all ready to go, but I knew we needed to sing something different. The hymn that came to mind was O God Our Help In Ages Past, and it acknowledged both where we were as well as the fact that God is our shelter and refuge. Adding something different that’s also old and familiar can really help unlock that sense of how much we need God to be among us.

3. Avoid An Hour’s Worth of E-minor… Personally I wouldn’t jump into a whole load of lament. Yes, it’s important to feel the pain and the tension, yet all throughout the Bible there is balance. ‘Why so downcast, o my soul?’ David asked in Psalm 42, before reminding us to ‘bless the Lord; He’s the lifter of our countenance’. Psalm 43 tells us to ‘forget not his benefits’. We need to balance our awareness of the tragedy with the hope we have in Christ and the knowledge that this earth is not our home.

4. Don’t Pretend It’s The Only Type Of Tragedy Affecting People… From week to week it’s important that we acknowledge the individual struggles that people may have had. Maybe it’s saying something as simple as “Good morning church. Regardless of what kind of week you’ve had - perhaps you’ve had a mountain top week where everything went just as well as you thought it would, or maybe it’s been a difficult, hard week - let’s just bring our hearts before the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to help us process the things that we’re walking through. He’s the one we need to go to. Let’s call on God for strength, not run to the counterfeits…”

5. Don’t Let Your Response Come As A Surprise… Most weeks, somewhere in the world, there’s been a tragedy. Whether it’s in Iraq, Mali or Nigeria, or Paris, Madrid or New York, we’re no strangers to these events. If we’re leading in a way that’s globally conscious, then we’ll approach most Sundays with these events in mind.

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