Song Leadership that Fosters Congregational Worship

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“Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee” (Psa 67:3,5).

As a conservative people, we have been blessed with a rich heritage of a capella congregational singing. This has been a tremendous blessing in uniting our hearts in worship. Whether we are young or old, talented or untalented, church leaders or lay members, we can all blend together in this wonderful aspect of worship. However, to have this practice continue, we need to continually strengthen this aspect of our worship.

One of the keys of enriched congregational singing is Spirit filled leaders. A song leader needs to remember that he is a worship leader. His responsibility is to inspire the people to worship through song. Following are some pointers that hopefully will encourage our song leaders to that end.

Be inspired personally. As you prepare for the worship service, pray that God will work through you in the picking of the songs and the leading of the music to His glory. Your own heart needs to be moved in order to move the hearts of others.

Do your homework. Feel comfortable with the songs you choose to sing before you try to lead them. Make sure you have a feel for the timing and the musical arrangement. The audience is depending on you. If your memory does have a lapse, be humble enough to ask for help from other leaders that may be in the audience.

Relax, this is not a talent show. Neither are you on trial. If you make a mistake, it will be okay. This is an act of worship, not entertainment.

Give it your best. Show enthusiasm. In congregation singing, enthusiasm and inspiration are more important than rudimental accuracy.

Be careful to avoid anything that would bring undue attention to you as a leader—in the way you dress, in your body language, or in your hand gestures. This is a worship service, and you are called to lead in worship for His glory alone.

Picking the Songs
Make it your goal to be personally inspired by the songs you choose. The congregation will quickly see your personal inspiration and will be blessed by it. Depending on the setting, it can be appropriate to give an inspirational thought as to why you chose the song. The first song you select should unite the people in praise and worship. A good worship hymn is appropriate at the beginning of any worship service. The opening songs on a Sunday morning service especially call for hymns of praise and worship.

The second song and those following should fit the mood of the service such as prayer meeting, counsel meeting, revivals, etc.
Allow God to speak to you in selecting the song after a topic or message. This song, properly chosen, can clinch the thoughts of the speaker in a powerful way.

Leading the Songs
Try to sit toward the front of the auditorium, and as you walk to the podium, display a willing and humble attitude.

Meet the eyes of the people and express a cheerful countenance. This will set the people at ease. you will feel their support.

Announce the song number clearly, distinctly, and loud enough for the ones in the back to hear. Give the title of the song also. This will help make sure everyone is with you.

Give enough time for everyone to find the selection. You can use this time to find the pitch.

Blow the pitch loud enough that the average person can hear, but not so loud that it draws undue attention to you as a leader.

Make eye contact with the people as you hum the pitch. It leads to a more positive start. Make eye contact throughout the song, especially at the beginning and ending of each verse. People enjoy seeing the face of their leader.

Give a signal beat and LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD. Remember, you are the leader. Leading with the voice needs to predominate over hand motions in congregational singing. In directing a choir, this is reversed.

Avoid surprising the audience. If you would like to change the normal flow of a song, such as holding a fermata (rest) on the last verse, you will enhance the worship experience by announcing your intent before starting the song. Surprises will tend to take away from the message and inspiration of a song. Give an appropriate rest between verses. This small rest can allow you to get everyone with you again.

Close the song with a positive ending signal. Closing of the thumb and forefinger is one option.
Do not let mistakes discourage you. Many times it may seem worse to you as a leader than it really is.

As you humbly and faithfully fill YOUR role as song leader, you will help the congregation to worship with inspiration, and God will be glorified.

~ Mifflintown, PA
May 2014