Friday, October 19, 2007

Eye Contact

So, I was encouraging one of our vocalists last night after practice to work on making more eye contact when on stage, especially when leading a song vocally. I personally have to consciously remember to look up from my music or to open my eyes and make that eye contact with the people I'm leading because like most (including the vocalists I was talking with), my natural tendency is to zone into my own experience and what's happening on stage (there's a lot to think about when you're the front-man) and ignore what the congregation is experiencing.

Two questions for discussion:

1) Why is it important to make a connection with the congregation, particularly with your eyes?

2) When do you feel it is important to make that connection, and when do you feel it is OK to step back and focus on other things or to close your eyes?

What do you think?



TerryKM said...

I know some songs are more meditative and some are just lifting our voice to God (and there's all kinds of mixtures in the middle). I find that meditative songs seem to need a lot less eye contact as people begin to take less direction for the leader and isolate themselves in the presence of God.

I would think it's best to keep eye contact whenever you're transitioning between songs, giving verbal direction to the congregation, or when ever you really want to drive home that this is a gathering of believers and no one is in their own little world right now.

This from someone who's really inexperienced. Any more experienced thoughts out there?

MamaSue said...

I lead worship for both of our Women's Bible Studies with two friends who are vocalists as well as keyboardists. I often find myself lost in the words and the harmonies, and realize I've closed my eyes. I try to purposefully keep them open to insure that audience contact, and just use my hands to express my worship. My cohorts don't have this problem, since they have to keep their eyes on keyboards and chord charts!

MilePost13 said...

Thanks for the comments! Anyone else?

Max Power said...

I think you gotta keep eye contact during fast songs and make sure that your eye contact covers the whole room. I tell my vocalists specifically "do NOT close your eyes in a fast song!" I also encourage them to make eye contact with specific people and smile at them. A sincere smile has the annoying ability to make even unwilling worshipers smile back.

Likewise, I encourage them to close their eyes, if they want, during slow songs and also lift their hands.

To sum it up, our approach is that the BGVs should model what appropriate physical worship looks like in our church - whether that's clapping, eye contact, lifting hands, closing eyes etc. People are watching them to figure out what they can/should do during worship.

'Hope that helps!

MilePost13 said...

Thanks, Max! And, welcome.

Pat Dryburgh said...

hey man
you are spot on. I would say that for any song, it needs to be something like a 70/30 split between having your eyes open, and having them shut. people need to know that you are just as interested in them worshiping as you are in worshiping yourself.

MilePost13 said...

well...I don't think it's as simple as putting a number on it, but I think you all are on the right track.

Anonymous said...

eye contact is good for the weak but not the timid

MilePost13 said...

do what?

MilePost13 said...

I think there are two good reasons to keep an eye on those you are leading in worship:

1) Personal contact helps to convey/insure what's coming out of our mouths. Whether I'm singing or speaking to the congregation, I need to think about what I'm singing/saying and who those words are meant to be directed to. It doesn't make much sense to me to sing "You and I are made to worship" when my eyes are either closed or looking up as if I'm singing to God. It really does help to draw people in, especially those who might be on the fringe.

2) I need to know that people are actually with me. If my eyes never check out what's going on with the audience, I may never know if people are actually engaged or not. Our band is loud, and when we're playing a big song, there's no way I can hear the audience, so I've got to be willing to look. And even if I can hear them, I know our people well enough to know (by looking) if they're just going through the motions or if they're actually conciously engaged.

MilePost13 said...

I think this whole thing is really dependant on each situation.

Some worship leaders are so natural that they don't have to make much eye contact with the people they are leading...people will feel comfortable to follow regardless.

Some congregations/audiences need lots of personal contact because they are just not willing to follow so easily.

"Vertical" songs (those songs that we sing to each other as an encouragement) tend to make eye contact a more natural and needed thing.

I'll be honest and say that, I have to be very purposeful to look up from my music or to open my eyes and make sure that I'm making that contact and/or observing if people are engaged.

(if you're part of my church and you're reading this, I hope you understand what I'm about to say) Most of the time, even when I am looking out at people, I'm not really making eye contact with anyone. I'm usually either looking out to see what's going on, or I'm looking out knowing that I'm giving the appearance that I am making contact with people.

Our worship center seats 300, which means that it's really difficult to make eye contact with most people 'cause their faces get a little blurry past the first few rows of seats. And, when I do actually make specific contact with people, I tend to get distracted enough to miss a chord or forget where the song is going next.

Again, it's not that I'm trying to fake it...I really am engaged with the people and I want them to feel that from me.

Unfortunately, every now and then, I'll have somebody come up to me after the service and I'll say, "Hey...I didn't see you here earlier..." and they'll say, "I was waving at you during the first song, and you looked right at me." :)

higgie07 said...

I just went to the Seminar4Worship and learned about this very thing. Although we are not "performing" we are to try to engage the congregation a little bit. As you said, Nate, during the "horizontal songs" (such as Made to Worship) you would try to make more eye contact with the congregation. During the "vertical" songs (such as Because of Your Love) you would look just above the congregation or of course, up to the heavens if you're so led (but it's still OK to make eye contact a little). We're doing Made to Worship tomorrow, so now that I'm aware of this I'm going to make more eye contact with the congregation during this song. I've also realized how much I was closing my eyes, so I need to do less of that.