Feb 16

A Song Leader’s Guide…Pt. 1

Over the years some of my brothers and sisters in Christ have asked me, “How do you do it? How do you know what notes to sing, when you’re song leaderdirecting the songs, how do you know how to move your arms, how can you sing in front of so many people?” First of all, I’m no expert. As a matter of fact my 40 years of singing in the Lord’s church and leading singing is my only call to fame. So with this experience I want to share with you a few guidelines that will hopefully help you as you direct/lead singing in the Lord’s church. This is the first of a three part series that will look into ways we can better lead God’s family in worship and song.

Consider first of all…

It is a beautiful Sunday morning in the small, country church where our brothers and sisters in the Lord’s church have gathered for worship. The preacher has prepared a message from God’s word, and the song leader has selected the songs the congregation will be singing today. One is a ‘hired’ employee who has focused himself all week for this morning’s assembly. The other has spent only a few short minutes pulling together some of his favorites. If the truth be known, this scenario happens every Sunday morning somewhere within the brotherhood. Song leaders often find themselves sitting on the front row, searching through the song book for a good invitation song. This Sunday morning, somewhere a song leader will only take a few minutes to determine what songs will be sung in praise to God. The sermon might be focused on the ‘Man of Sorrows,’ (Isaiah 53:3), but the topic of the song service is ‘the Great Commission.’ (Matthew 28:19) Some points of emphasis within the sermon maybe lost to worth-while songs that fail to support the message of the morning. It is important to remember that coordinating the songs with the sermon will take some planning.

Isaac Watts wrote a familiar spiritual song more than 300 years ago that should be an MarchingtoZioninspiration to every song leader. When we realize that we are all “Marching to Zion,” the song leader can understand more clearly the first few words of this song. “Come, WE that love the Lord, and let OUR joys be known!” As the song leader, you are asking the congregation to join you in worship, “Come, we….” Know that you are not just leading the congregation; you are joining the congregation in praise to God. So what should the song leader do as he considers his task of leading the Lord’s church in singing? Many times we fail to put our best effort into song leading and a mediocre song service is produced. How much time is given to selecting your songs for Sunday? Are the songs selected appropriate in tempo and fit the message…or will this service be as predictable as ‘the last time he lead singing?’ Gentleman, we have to ask ourselves how much time and energy will we be giving to prepare ourselves for worshiping with the Lord’s church.

Consider this first of three points as you ready yourself for the next time you are asked to lead singing. Whether you are the only song leader within your congregation, or if you are in a rotation, the following bullet points will give you some guidance in preparing to lead the Lord’s church in song.

First of all, you must be prepared both mentally and physically for the task of song leading. It preparedmay take some work, but contact your preacher and get his sermon topic, scripture references and key ideas early in the week (maybe even on Monday morning.) Don’t be overly aggressive, but let him know you can’t put the time into the song selection until you know the basis of Sunday’s message. By this, he will know you care about the worship and it may help spur him on as well. In the meantime, review your song book and make a list of 1) the songs you know, 2) songs you want to teach the congregation and 3) songs you don’t know. Be familiar with your song book and enrich your repertoire of songs! This can’t be over emphasized. The more songs you know*, the more growth you can provide to the congregation in song. During the week prepare your voice for Sunday. Avoid stressing your vocal cords but sing songs of praise daily. Turn off the radio in the car and sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs as you drive down the road. Your preparation doesn’t start on Sunday morning, though you should be singing (and listening to) A Cappella songs as you’re getting ready for Sunday morning worship. Your first step in making worship the best it can be on Sunday is to start by preparing, and practicing, on Monday.

*To ‘know a song’ means you 1) have committed to memory the words, 2) can maintain the tempo, 3) recognized/read the notes and 4) understand the message. This will take practice!

Next month (March) we’ll look at the second point toward the song leader’s guide to worship…

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