On Song Leading

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These are some notes I wanted to get on paper, as a way to remind myself of things to remember. Thoughts and conclusions I’ve come to from leading music at my church for the last 6 years.

  • First and foremost, understand that your job is not to train, it is to minister.
  • The congregation isn’t a choir. Your job isn’t to train them to sing well, or to teach them technical aspects of music. It is to lead them to worship and praise by example and entreaty.
  • Ask, never tell.
  • Repeat the song # at least twice, preferably 3 times. Once to begin, and again after a small pause. Most people, if they don’t hear the first one its because of a distraction. They’ll need a little time to allow the distraction to pass before hearing it again.
  • Avoid too much introduction and talking during the service. Its ok, even beneficial to give some introduction, or to occasionally remark on an observation, but your primary purpose isn’t to preach, it is to lead in music.
  • If you are going to try something different, explain first what you are going to do, and offer the reason why. Its good for the congregation to understand the purpose, making it feel less like they are being manipulated, and making it easier to follow your lead.
  • When doing something new, take the attitude that you are going and here is why, not they should go here and this is the reason why. Lead don’t command.
  • The Pianist will follow your hand if you are reliable. The congregation follows the piano mostly, but cue’s more from your body language than your hand. So be obvious and sure about when you start and when you stop. Feel free to exaggerate your body language a little. (e.g. take an exaggerated breath before starting a verse.)
  • Be aware of the context of the church, where its going, what the emphasis is, the season, the holidays, the tenor of the pastors messages. These things will feed the direction of the music, not always directly, but indirectly. Watch the pastor. He is who God will lead the church through, so cue from him.
    Sometimes its good to be playful. :)
  • Even if you don’t feel it, try to convey that you are happy to there. This doesn’t always mean you have a huge smile of your face, but it does mean conveying how much you value and honor the privilege to serve them in this manner. Because to lead in worship is a great privilege.
  • Be sensitive to God’s direction and leading. Pray before picking out the music, ask God to guide your heart and mind to pick out the music He want’s be sung that day.
  • Humble yourself. Be aware that you are being used. as a servant. That the congregation is whats important. that God is the focus. This isn’t an opportunity to demonstrate your chops in music, its a chance to use your talents to glorify God and help others do so by example.
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I have been writing on the web since 2000. I am a christian , a photographer, an occasional poet, a recovering dreamer, an occasional philosopher, a software developer, an autodidact, and i resemble the INFP personality type.

1 Comment

  1. “but cue’s more from your body language than your hand”
    Interesting thought–I hadn’t realized that, but I’m sure you’re right. And, to be perfectly honest, I find my eyes not on the director much during the song anyway (no offense, of course!)

    “Pray before picking out the music”
    one of the things that I love about singing on Sundays (something I had forgotten lately) is the way that the songs which are chosen often speak directly to my own needs in ways I can’t anticipate and better than if I had sat down at the piano and decided on a set of songs relating directly to my current situations