There are lots of folks out there serving as worship leaders in their local churches. Most of these people are hard working volunteers serving others out of love and devotion. I would also venture to say that most, if not all, would love to ably serve and care for their teams. In the interest of helping to that end, I’ve come up with a few extremely important things that many worship leaders, team leaders or music ministers often miss when leading their own teams.
#1) Get Them (and You!) Training
Let’s face it. Most of our teams are filled with people who have a passion to serve in their local churches through music. This is a beautiful thing. However, the flipside of that is that most of the vocalists serving in churches today have had little or no training. It’s safe to say that most all of the instrumentalists on our teams have had at least some training on their instruments, even if they are self-taught through some type of media. But our singers, by and large, rarely have any training and this can lead to problems.
If an instrumentalist doesn’t get any training, they simply won’t be good enough to function in a team. But singers often find their way on to teams by virtue of the fact that they have the “right heart” and a willingness to be a part. The problem is that without correct technique, vocalists can end up in trouble -vocal trouble. Vocal damage is rampant today whether we are looking into the secular realm or the church; however, singers in the church are especially vulnerable because they sing regularly and most often are expected to sing with a certain style. Without proper training and technique, these singers often end up following in the footsteps of the many “professional” singers they are imitating. Many of the popular singers of today are going through vocal surgery and rehab and we often never hear about it. When inexperienced, untrained singers follow unwittingly the same style and habits of these “professional” singers, they often end up in the same place. The difference is that they don’t have the finances or a manager to see to it that they get the training and speech therapy that they need to return to singing. They will simply end up being disqualified from being able to sing on the very teams they love so much.
This is heartbreaking and avoidable.
Vocal training should be a resolute and uncompromised part of every team’s budget. Preserving the “lives” of our singers should be a top priority. There are lots of ways to get good vocal training for reasonable prices – especially when training the group as a whole. There are training sites that offer subscription based training, there are programs that can be purchased and viewed together, and there are conferences and master classes available… Of course, nothing beats having a professional come and work directly with your team.
#2) Warm-up Together (and Teach while you’re at it!)
Warming up the vocal cords properly is essential to staying vocally healthy as well as getting the most out of the voice. But more than that, sharing warm-ups together can be an excellent way of teaching great vocal technique and learning how to listen to one another and blend. When we fail to warm up together, we miss a great opportunity for learning, bonding and blending as well as becoming better singers.
#3) Be Prepared
In my experience, I have found that most people don’t mind and in fact will truly enjoy rehearsing, as long as it’s productive. I have also found that most people really resent having their time wasted. To that end, I encourage all team leaders to be prepared. You need to know your music and come with clear goals in mind, and then do your best not to get sidetracked. I guarantee you your team will seriously appreciate it. Pay attention to whether or not your singers leave the rehearsal truly feeling prepared. Make sure you spend a good deal of time during your vocal rehearsal singing A cappella so that you can truly hear what is happening, be able to detect problems areas, and fix them. Nothing will make your team want to show up to rehearsal as much as true productivity. After all, they love singing, or they likely wouldn’t be there in the first place!
#4) Be Mindful of Keys that Work for Everyone
I think that often times worship leaders are conflicted with regard to this point. It just feels right to them that they should pick keys for songs according to what works best for them. They need to be able to sing the songs in the best way possible since they are leading, right? Makes sense doesn’t it?
It would if they were performing – but they’re not.
Our goal as worship leaders should be first and foremost to engage the congregation in worship. In order for them to engage, they need to participate. If they are to join in singing, the songs need to work for THEM. Way too often an ‘insensitive’ leader might put his entire team in an uncomfortable position vocally without realizing it, simply because he believes they need to stick to the ‘original’ key, or because he has chosen a key that works best for him, without considering everyone else. If the singers on the platform are struggling, how much more so might the congregation be struggling? The average singer is going to have only about an octave worth of comfortable singing range and this will be very mid range. A general rule of thumb is “C to shining C” when considering overall range of your songs. Ah, but you say, “This will eliminate some of my favorite songs!” Please consider that not all songs are appropriate for congregational singing. Some may be better suited for your private listening (and singing) pleasure.
#5) Worship with Them
You rehearse music with them, but are you really preparing them to be worship leaders? You might become a tight band with great vocals, but are you changing people’s lives by introducing them to Jesus Christ? Our primary goal as worship leaders is to shepherd people into the presence and ultimately the knowledge of our Lord and Savior. We can’t do this by simply being a great cover band on Sunday morning. We need to be entering into His presence personally and corporately as a team and as an integral part of our preparation for leading others. As a team leader, it is your responsibility to keep your team focused and properly prepared to do their job. Take time to worship together, you will see a difference in you, your team and your congregation.