Open letter to Praise and Worship musicians | mental health and the church

Open letter to Praise and Worship musicians | mental health and the church

Open letter to Praise and Worship musicians.

A Challenge on language.

Side Note: There are so many articles (worship wars etc) that I see on a weekly basis. I am hoping that this is a simple issue of language. This letter is not open season on worship leaders. I hope it is a simple challenge with a simple solution.

My Background: I have been a speaker for the past 18 years (10 years full-time) I have travelled across Canada and the US to over 2000 churches, camps and conferences. I have had a chance to see hundreds of musical worship artists and bands over these years.

The Deconstruction:

In almost all of the services, I attend the musical worship time starts the same.

“Please stand and worship.”
“Let us all stand and worship.”
“Are you ready to worship God today?”

I was in a church the other week and the congregation was asked to stand. 5 rows in front of me was a 70+ older gentleman. After being asked to stand I watched him shuffle forward and sit on the end of his seat. He then took a few really deep breaths and he then began to slowly stand. I could see the strain it took him just to get his body to stand. Once standing he leaned over a little and held onto the chair in front of him with both hands.

Watching this man made me think about my own journey. In this moment I wondered if the language we use needs to change.  Personally with my own struggles with an anxiety disorder standing in one place is one of the worst things for me. When I am asked to stand I know I have 2 choices:

  • I stand and then I hold onto the chair in front of me while my anxiety rises and I begin to feel dizzy. My goal becomes to survive standing and the idea of participating in the musical worship is far from me.
  • I stay seated. I often do this but I then feel bad. The instruction was to stand and I am not doing that, not out of rebellion but out of necessity. The people around me often give me weird looks not knowing my journey.

I think there are numerous people in our Christian church world who might struggle to stand:

  • Elderly
  • People with injuries
  • People with physical illness and chronic pain
  • Parents of small children not sleeping through the night.
  • People exhausted from struggles sleeping
  • People struggling with Anxiety Disorders. Statistics say this would be 40% or more of your congregation of all age levels.
  • probably others I am missing from this list as well

Is the assumption people can only worship God standing?

“A Leader is someone who looks at the world and says it does not have to be this way … and does something about it.”
Muskoka Woods Leadership Studio

So I simply say maybe it does not have to be this way…

The Reconstruction:

If we are going to deconstruct a structure we must look at what we might construct to offer an alternative to that structure.

I would love to hear language more inclusive for all people. Something like:

Welcome, I want you all to feel free to worship God however you want to worship God during the songs we play. Feel free to

  • Stand
  • Sit
  • Kneel
  • Come to the front or stay in your seats
  • Raise your hands or keep them on your lap
  • Close your eyes or keep them open
  • Sing or just think and pray through the lyrics
  • Read the lyrics and know what you are singing. Some of today of praise and worship songs have powerful lyrics of allegiance and alliance to the kingdom of God.

This is your time to worship God however you might worship God.  It’s not a choral sing. A musical worship leader is to create an environment where we can corporately / individually worship God. If the language of “everyone stand” hinders someone then it can easily be corrected by adding a few sentences.

I think that sometimes we forget to lead in this aspect and we are just singing songs and asking people to join us.  I would challenge all of you to free people and empower people in musical worship.

Thoughts on this?

Added Aug 7, 2021

In my book Parenting: Navigating Everything there is a large chapter on mental health where I go into more detail on all aspects of technology. Click Here.

I also made a video last year on 10 ways to make your church a safe space for people with mental health/illness. Click here or it should open below.

open letter to praise and worship musicians

About The Author

Brett Ullman

Brett Ullman travels North America speaking to teens, young adults, leaders, and parents on topics including parenting, mental health, sexuality, pornography, men, dating and media. Brett's seminars engage and challenge attendees to try and connect our ancient faith with our modern culture we live in. Participants are inspired to reflect on what we know, what we believe and how our faith ought to serve as the lens through which we view and engage tough conversations in our society today.


  1. Jim Trueman

    Hi Brett. What you have said in this article makes a lot of sense! People should be able to worship in the way which is best for them. As well they should not feel obligated to stand because the worship leader asks them to stand. Good food for thought for all who lead worship!

  2. wes

    Brett: I love your letter. As a pastor I am often unable to respond to the Holy Spirit’s leading during our “response time” (it’s weird even calling it that) because I am often praying with others. I have tried to take advantage of the worship leading up until my part in the service as a prep and response to what God is saying and doing in my life and this letter really allows others to engage in the some way. We’ve created the message to be the apex of the service and response to follow whereas God most certainly will and wants to invite/challenge people right from the get go.

    I’ve forwarded your letter to our worship leaders and look forward to their responses.

  3. Peter Gunning

    This is the way worship should be, “as it is in your power to do so, worship the King with us today.

  4. Andrew

    I fully agree that there should be freedom to worship however an individual wants to worship but I think this is ultimately an interpretation issue. In our church every Sunday they do the, “please stand”, thing but I’ve never once felt like I had to stand. I interpret the invitation to stand as an invitation to participate and engage in worshiping the King. Sometimes we kneel, sometimes we stand, sometimes we jump and dance, etc. It sounds to me like we’re getting hung up on the words of the invitation rather than the heart of the invitation.

  5. Enrique Polo

    This is helpful to read. I’m not a worship leader, just part of the congregation at my church. I know a worship leader who does this invitation in an amazing way as he kicked off our weekly recovery meeting. He would briefly tell of how he once came to the same room broken and shattered, and then invites us to stand if we can and sing if we can… But if we can’t, then to just rest and let the others in the room sing over us.

  6. Chad

    So true. Let’s reconstruct the language.Our church is looking to hire a “Worship Directer” for the first time. I hope I can suggest some of these ideas. I will pass on this article. Thankyou

  7. Sheila Vaughan

    Brett, I LOVE this idea. I have struggled for many years with the concept of ‘do this… in order to worship’. There are days that my body rebels and will not let me stand or stand still and others where the thought of standing, removes me from the feelings that I have for the song being played. Like you, I often feel guilty and then wonder why I should feel guilty because I am still worshiping. By the time I figure where my head is at, the song is over and the moment lost. I whole hearted agree that we need to change the wording at the start of a worship set.

  8. Chris

    At the end of the day,the roll of all leaders in the church should be to facilitate the congregation’s ability to get closer to God. Worship isn’t singing. Worship is our call to focus on God. If words are getting in the way there is an issue. Corporately we feel closer together when we are all doing the same thing or “worshipping” in the same manner. But if the goal is for us to feel closer as a group we are missing the point. We should be teaching those in our churches the importance of worship and then encouraging them to take full advantage of it. Doing whatever it is that brings them to a place where they can focus on the Father and feel the Holy Spirit renewing us.

  9. Anita

    Once a month I find it very difficult or uncomfortable to stand. There I sit with my kids looking at me like I’m rebellious (and I’ve taught them to always stand when everyone else is) but there are some Sunday’s where standing would bring waaaay more negative attention than sitting does.

  10. Josh Milmine

    As a worship leader in the same Pentecostal church for nearly 20 years, you see and experience a lot.
    When it comes to this I have asked people often but not weekly, yes, to stand. In do this there is a start, a choice, a conscientiousness in entering into the praise that is deep in our souls for Him to be released. Sometimes sitting isn’t rebellion nor due to a problem in standing but some are just plain lazy. I know it can take effort sometimes in our flesh in “enter in” as it easier to chill and and “just be”. As a singer( i know worship is not all about singing) I realize sitting and singing does not do much for your voice/breathing/diaphragm etc. Do i mind when people sit? No, but at the same time this is corporate worship and I do not come to entertain. 🙂 We (our leaders) often encourage people to worship in a way you have never before and for some that may mean standing for the first time or raising ones hands or actually singing for once. There are many ways to worship and its human tendency to get stuck in a comfort zone. So trying something you never have can be freeing for sure!

    Now back to the topic at hand….

    When I am not on to lead, I worship with my family, my wife and 4 young boys. Yes that is busy, 8 and under and often two of them want to be held. I am young enough and healthy enough to stand and hold them, but after a song or two with 80 to 100lbs in your arms a sit is crucial. lol. I then hold them in the sits beside me and love them as I am worship our God together.

    So looking forward i will continue to ask people to step out in faith and worship the Lord in new ways for where they are at in their walk with him, and I am thankful that we are not all the same. Man looks at the outwards appearance and God looks at the heart. Lets start looking through His lens.


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