Campfire Worship

The campfire was huge! It was really a large bonfire. It was nearly 30 yards around. A firefighter had built it using a bobcat and what looked like a small forest of brush and downed trees, if that gives perspective as to the size of the blaze. Our worship team prepared for the students to arrive. We had a small stage with a tiny sound system. We had to set back 50 yards to keep from the heat. We began by having 10 or so songs ready to play, all in the key of “F” and no order preset. We didn’t have a time limit, we just had the atmosphere of the fire. Needless to say, the time spent worshiping by the bonfire was tremendous. The heat coming from the flames warmed our bodies, but also helped remind us of the power/warmth of the presence of the Lord. As night continued on we were able to move closer to the fire. We finished with some a cappella songs and intimate prayer. The night was a significant spiritual awakening for many of the students. Worship didn’t have to be well-rehearsed and produced. We were able to build on the sense that the Holy Spirit helped create the atmosphere no matter where we were.

Campfire worship, or house worship, acoustic worship or whatever you’d like to call worshiping in a small group, scaled down and in a cool atmosphere, is a special experience for those attending as well as those ministering. The difference between normal, full band music and campfire worship is the absence of the commonplace. It’s a change from the routine. If acoustic worship is what you always do then it’s the norm and wouldn’t be a change. However, if you’re normal worship service is lights, camera and a lot of action, then campfire worship is different, a change of pace.

To lead a small group in acoustic worship takes a good bit of skill. All of your normal supporting pieces have been intentionally stripped away. You’re getting down to the core and allowing voices to truly be heard. Below are a few “musts” and a “maybe” or two that you might like to employ if you’re afforded the chance to lead worship around a campfire. Please note that many of these work if you’re leading among a small group too. Basically, this is for anyone stepping off the stage with a band and stripping down to just an acoustic and a voice, Kumbaya-style.

1. You must remember your audience. Just because the atmosphere is new (different) and cool to you doesn’t mean it’s full scope has been taken in by every person who has attended the worship experience. Just like in big church, you have to lead people. Allow the atmosphere to bring momentum, but still plan to put in effort. Lead using at least as many cues as you would normally.

2. You must come prepared. There probably aren’t lyric screens, therefore no words for you or your people. Choose appropriate songs that are simple enough that even if someone didn’t know the song they’d eventually be able to participate. This isn’t the time for an obscure, five verse hymn that only you and a monk on the side of a mountain in Austria both know. Keep It Simple, Stupid! (you’re not stupid, but that’s the saying).

3. You must remember that you’re the band. Assuming there is just your voice and a guitar, you’ve got to cover more ground than normal. You don’t have keys, bass or BGVs like you’d normally have. Play a little more liberally and make sure you sing as clearly as possible. You could consider adding a kick drum for low end support and a background vocalist for depth. Either way, but aware of your output.

4. You may want to dress a step above those in attendance. If your audience is wearing t-shirt and jeans, you could dress in a nice long sleeve shirt, jeans and nice shoes. Dressing a step above signifies leadership awareness. Basically, you’re easier to pick out of the crowd. This is important especially when you don’t have a stage or any way to elevate. As an aside, you may consider always dressing one step above the crowd when performing as a worship leader. It’s not about you looking good, it’s about you showing that you’ve come serious.

5. Finally, you may want to leave space for silence and nature. Let creation speak. Recognize some of the consuming features of the fire. Ask everyone to look around and imagine God’s hands as he created the land you’re standing on. Most people don’t spend as much time enjoying nature as they’d like. Let it’s calming effect take it’s place.

When you have the opportunity, spend some time leading others in worship around the campfire. Leave yourself plenty of time to let the Spirit of God call the shots.

How often do you and your team get outside for this type of worship? Do you do anything unique? I’d love to know! You can comment or private message. Looking forward to it!

-Micah Brooks