The what, why, and how of free worship

The what, why, and how of free worship.

In worship clinics, I’m often asked about how to create free worship. I’ve heard it called free praise, contemplative worship, and other terms. It occurs when music is played and each worshiper speaks or sings what is in his or her heart to God. This is beyond the singing of the structured words of a song.

This can be an amazing experience where each person in the congregation either speaks or sings words from the heart about and to God, thanking Him, or simply expressing love. If the person sings, he or she creates their own melody line around the instruments’ chord progressions.

It’s powerful in a congregational setting because the words are unique to each person but it’s occurring during a time set apart to worship God together. It shows our individual relationships with God while participating in the experience as a group. Separate yet together. Just like the Body of Christ—each one of us is unique, but we are bound together in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

So as musicians, how do we facilitate that?

Encourage the congregation

You could say, “Now let’s just speak or sing to God what’s in our hearts.”

Some people may initially be uncomfortable singing in a musically unstructured way, so the opportunity to speak to God during this time, expressing thanks for what He’s done and love for who He is, should be encouraged.

Flow as a band

If your church is new to free worship, the band could wrap the chords of the bridge or the chorus of the song you’ve been singing. The congregation will recognize those chord progressions and be more comfortable with this new opportunity.

Even if you’re the only instrumentalist—on a guitar or keys—continue to provide a strong, rhythmic, chord pattern. Don’t change up the chord pattern after a few passes; that’s confusing for the congregation. Remember, you’re leading them musically.

Worship vocalists should lead by demonstrating how to free worship with confidence

Vocalists should be comfortable doing this.  And they should listen to the band and keep their eyes open, watching the leader and the band for chord changes or style changes if the worship leader senses that should occur.

Comfort increases for the band and vocalists when you do this regularly during rehearsal. Set aside some time to just worship freely. It builds skill and encourages unity while you’re blessing God.

You can download this pdf: FreeWorshipChords.  These are very simple chord progressions that you can use either coming out of song into free worship, or creating a free worship opportunity within a song. Look on the chart for the column that shows the key of the song you’re playing or have just played. Then select one of the rows in that key that shows chords that provide a good flow following the song.  Begin to play those chords following the recommended number of beats that are listed below each chord. You’ll want to test the chord progressions in rehearsal and determine which ones work best with which songs.

Relax and enjoy the freedom of uniqueness within unity.