So how have you been leading the worship singing? How do you prepare for it? Isn’t it a daunting and awesome task? Well, for me, it is; but very rewarding and fulfilling on the other hand.
Imagine leading a large group of people as you all approach God’s throne to worship Him and sing for Him. What an exciting responsibility. And I hope God looks down and listens to us in favor each time we sing together in unison (or by parts).
From one song leader to another, let me share my most ideal preparation, if I may. If you want to share some of yours, that would be cool.
- Thoughtful & Prayerful Selection of Songs
- Spiritual, Emotional, & Intellectual Preparations
- Be considerate of Your Team Mates in Worship
- Coming In Early & Ready on Sunday Morning
THOUGHTFUL & PRAYERFUL SELECTION OF SONGS
As standard procedure in our church, worship songs line up should consist of hymns and new songs as echoed in Ephesians 5:19:
“speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;”
and in Psalm 96:1,2a.
Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth. 2-Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Keep in mind that there are tested ingredients in preparing for a good round of singing. Generally, choose easy and familiar songs. High-pitched and difficult pieces should be reserved for special numbers and the choir. If a song is easy but unfamiliar, care must be taken to teach the song to the congregation via a pre-worship dry run or via a Praise Team.
As the saying goes, “there is always a first time,” a song leader may present and in a way, teach the song to the audience one way or another. Sure, there will be a sloppy first time, but for the sake of learning a special new song, we can make do with that. The next time that song comes up, some blocks may have been surmounted.
You may also choose songs about the monthly theme. But bear in mind, that the most wonderful and beautiful songs for worship are praise songs and worship songs. After all, God is our audience. Thematic songs often tend to be horizontal (geared towards people) rather than vertical (songs directed to God). For instance, He Who Began a Good Work in You sounds like an encouragement to believers. While Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee, or I Love You, Lord are praise offerings for the Lord. It’s like talking directly to Him. But please don’t get me wrong, I also use them. But as much as possible, I want to sing praises to the Lord, especially as worship begins. As I have indicated, these points are my ‘ideals.’ I wouldn’t impose them on other song leaders in my own group.
SPIRITUAL , EMOTIONAL, INTELLECTUAL PREPS
There is no bigger roadblock in worship song leading than the problem in the spiritual arena. If we have been losing our spiritual battles, we are better off the worship leading ministry; at least for the mean time. We must first settle the score with our God. Repent for our sins and shortcomings; or else make the enemy smirk and insult our God as we walk to the podium with heavy weights on our shoulders and with lack of confidence knowing we are unworthy not just because of our humanity but because we know we’ve been harboring hidden sins in our hearts.
Worship leading should be aimed at the rightful audience. And I don’t mean the large crowd facing the stage. If we can use our imagination, we must think that all people in the sanctuary is about to make a historic face-to-face conference with our audience, the most powerful Person in the whole universe. We must never get lost in the act of leading this group of people and forget in the process that we are all addressing Him, the Almighty. Never ever slip into pleasing people. Please the Lord; not the people. We are not entertainers; we are all worshipers.
Given a chance to have an appointment with the President of the land, one surely would keep putting his best foot forward and maintain that “pleasing personality” so as not to annoy “The Man,” so to speak. Or if we are to go to a job interview, we would surely take steps to make an impression to our interviewer. Maybe we would momentarily set aside our problems, our discomfort in commuting, our aching body part, or whatever weight have you, and maintain that sunny disposition. How much more with our Creator? Keep a radiant personality and lead the people in vigorous, sincere, and meaningful tribute to our God.
If we are leading the singing, be sure that we have some mastery of our pieces. It will be absurd if the people in the audience know better than we, the leader. Know your songs. Memorize openings and concluding lines so as to properly bring everyone “into the song” and be able also to control the singing so as to be united. One cannot properly lead people in singing if one cannot take his eyes off his music pieces. Memorizing some parts would give you liberty to establish some sort of rapport with the congregation.
BE CONSIDERATE OF YOUR TEAM MATES IN WORSHIP
MUSICIANS. There are things to coordinate with the Musicians, our team mates in worship. There are times when the musicians get lost in the intents of the song leader. They would assume that if you hand them a music piece, it will be played as is. If a need to modify the music flow and pacing arises, they should be discussed with the musicians in detail beforehand. For example, as song leader, I may tell the instrumentalists, “I will repeat this twice, instead of once” or “let’s omit this portion so as to save time…” etc.
MUSICIANS, no matter how good and talented they are, would appreciate you furnishing them your music pieces early on so as to provide them a chance to rehearse. Some may not mind you handing them your copies on the spot, but you are robbing them of the opportunity of beautiful and excellent playing. A week ahead is ideal; a day ahead is almost late; and on-the-spot is nerve-wracking. It is unthinkable, but it happens, that some song leaders would still be searching from the computer archives as to what songs to sing, minutes before the worship commences. :-(
It is most desired that a rehearsal session be scheduled prior to Sunday. So you can foresee what problems may arise on stage. And you can refine your hand waves too. Nothing distracts more than a song leader who gets confused with his own beating *big laugh here.
Another group of team mates are the MULTIMEDIA people. For beautiful visuals (AVP), give them several days to design your presentations. Same as with the musicians, it saps their energy to cram with you every time you take your turn in song leading. Making them cram one time is forgivable, but once is enough. :)
COME IN EARLY & READY SUNDAY MORNING
It is imperative that you are on the spot minutes before worship starts. It is your duty to have provided your materials to your team mates (musicians, multimedia) very much ahead of time. If you have to spend some cash to make photocopies, so be it. In our church however, we can reimburse our expenses, if any, so there should be no problem with that.
Check if they are ready as well to avoid gaps due to lack of communication with these people. Update them of any last minute changes. If you can pray with them, much better. There are prayer warriors in the church who may also take charge in praying for the music team, among others. But of course, it is assumed that one has taken lots of time praying for the task at hand–like maybe a week of meditation and prayers.
Being ready also meant you are dressed for the part. You carry with you an air of modest confidence and commanding presence. Otherwise people may be distracted seeing you uncomfortable or feeling inferior in your attire. Go for classic and conventional clothing.
There, song leading needs not be a stressful experience to you, your team mates, and the congregation. We just have to be proactive by preparing very early, at least a week before. It is a great privilege to lead people to worship the Lord. May you find the pleasure in leading the worship singing. Always remember, our audience is the Lord.
Sing to the LORD a new song, Sing His praise from the end of the earth! You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it. You islands, and those who dwell on them. ~Isaiah 42:10