We’ve each got our own way of leading worship, but below are some practical tips that will help you think through leading street worship before you start…
1. Be yourself – don’t try and copy others who are doing this. By all means use other people’s songs but do them in a way that is you. Authentic worship from the heart is what Jesus requires and it’s also what will make the most impact on those watching.
2. Prayer is central – Make sure you pray before, during and after and ask others to pray for you. Put on the armour of God (Ephesians 6:11-20), recognising that our battle is unseen but nonetheless real.
3. Go out only when you’re ready to do so – there is a timing to all things. Whilst Jesus clearly told His disciples to go (Matthew 28:30), He also told them to “wait until the Holy Spirit came on them” (Luke 24:29) before they went. It’s not by power or by might that we go , but by the Spirit alone (Zechariah 4:6). The only reason I started doing street worship is because Jesus called me into it.
4. Check to see if you need a license to play music outside – your council’s website will most likely have details.
5. Honour the council’s rules – check online or call your local council to get advice about where and when you can play music.
6. Be mindful of other musicians, charity workers and Big Issue sellers nearby – look around and be mindful of other people’s space. Having too much noise or people trying to get members of the public’s attention can be frustrating for everyone, so look for places where there’s not much distraction or competition for people’s attention.
7. Money – we have wrestled with this one for a long time as I find it hard to mix money and ministry. In general we have found people want to give whether because they like what you’re doing, think you’re a busker or think you’re collecting for a charity. At first we didn’t receive any money but following some helpful feedback from passers by, we now take any money that people want to give us. What we do with this money differs depending on the type of street worship I am doing. This is because I go out onto the streets in two different ways:
Firstly as a team we go out twice a week (where we worship together, offer prayer to passers by and occasionally preach) in which case we don’t have a tin and and only collect money when people insist on giving us some. We then collect this money throughout the year and to a local charity at the end of the year. Our thinking is that it is obvious we are there for ministry and mission so don’t want to be seen to do that for financial gain in any way.
And secondly, I go out by myself as a busker to worship twice a week in which case I do have a tin and collect money as a way of helping support myself so that I can continue worshipping on the streets and help support my family.
8. Remember Jesus’ example – If people don’t like what you’re doing (remember even David’s wife didn’t appreciate it when he worshipped on the streets! 2 Samuel 6:16) smile and bless them anyway.
9. Don’t be afraid to start small – it can be quite scary going out the first few times. Take small steps along the way – play for one hour before you decide to play for three! Play in a quiet place if it’s too much to play in the middle of a busy place. Go with friends first if you plan on doing it alone later. Too much too soon may mean you feel overwhelmed or discouraged and put an end to you doing this regularly.
10. Get feedback – we are learning that it’s quite helpful to get feedback from people who you meet on the streets or from any shops nearby. My wife works in an office nearby where buskers regular play outside and it drives the staff there mad as they hear the same songs over and over again and also it interferes with how well the staff can focus on their work. We’ve had feedback sometimes saying that we’re playing too loud or that we need to learn some new songs! It’s easy to get offended by this kind of feedback and received with a right heart, this stuff can be great for helping you become more accessible to passers by and more welcomed into a town or city centre.
11. Have fun – enjoy yourself and remember God loves you and what you’re doing!