TWLL #15: Three Simple Ways To Go Off The Map When You Lead Worship

Aug 10, 2023

 What does it mean to go “off the map” in context to worship leading?  The basic idea is that you’re simply stepping into something different than what you planned for your worship set.

Today I want to talk about what it looks like to go off the map when you lead worship, and give you three different ways to do it.


Unpacking “Going Off The Map”

The map, in context to a time of worship, would be anything you’ve planned for the worship set.  The song list, the song arrangements, transitions, etc.

As mentioned above, we go off the map anytime we do something different than planned.  

For example, instead of going right into the next song on your set list, maybe you find yourself lingering on the chord progression of the chorus of the last song.

And then suddenly your electric guitarist starts to improvise a melody that you feel led to turn into a chorus that the room can sing.

There are many ways you can go off the map in context to a worship set- some smaller and some bigger.


What Drives Us To Go Off The Map

In recent years it’s become more common to go off the map in a worship set, and I think that’s largely a good thing.  

But I think it’s also important to be aware of what might be leading us to go off the map.  In other words, we don’t want to do it just because it’s popular and current.

We want to go off the map in a worship time because it’s where we sense the Lord leading us to go- or because it’s coming out of an overflow of worship from our hearts.

3 Examples Of Going Off The Map

When you sense the Lord leading you a different direction in your set than planned, or find your own heart in an overflow of worship— there are multiple ways to respond.  Here are 3 common ways that I’ve used fairly consistently over the years.

1- Song change: Let’s say you’re in the middle of leading a worship song, and midway through you sense the Lord highlighting the theme of compassion.  

You glance at your set list, and notice the next song in the lineup has more of a praise/upbeat vibe.  So you decide not to do that next song, and pull out a sime devotional song that highlights the compassion and tenderness of Jesus.

The song itself is not a spontaneous song, but it is spontaneous in the sense that it wasn’t on the set list, and you made a last-minute decision to go into it.

2- Arrangement change: Let’s say you’ve got a specific arrangement or version of a song.  You ran through it in practice as a band, and now it’s pretty solid.

But then as you’re in-flight on Sunday morning, every time you get to the second half of the chorus, you just sense a lot of life on it.  So you scrap the rest of the arrangement you practiced, and start to loop the second half of the chorus (ie you sing and repeat it over and over).

Again, not a spontaneous song, but definitely spontaneous in that you modified the arrangement in the moment because you felt the Lord breathing on a certain part of the song.

3- A spontaneous moment: You’re halfway through your set list, and sense the Lord might be highlighting a theme about fear.  

As you finish the current worship song, you signal to the band to keep playing the existing chord progression/rhythm pattern— and then you start to make up a melody and lyric related to this theme about fear.  

You grab the passage in I John, about the perfect love of God driving out fear, and begin to sing it, and eventually paraphrase it into a spontaneous chorus the whole room starts singing.



If the idea of going off the map in worship is newer to you, I’d say start simple.  Listen for and pays attention to those subtle whispers from the Lord.  Pay attention to your own heart.  

When you sense life on a part of a song, don’t feel pressure to quickly move on.  Linger on that section of the song, and let the Lord breathe on it.

Remember that the Lord is there with you as you lead, and is wanting to help you as you move through your set list.  

And let Him give you the peace and confidence you need, to go off the map when you sense His leading.


That’s it for today.

See y’all next week 🙌🏼




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