Getting Your Church To Sing: Do’s and Don’ts
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]elcome back for the dramatic conclusion. In the previous edition of this article, we risked the offense of every cheerleader throughout history in pointing out that most cheerleading is not actually cheerleading, it’s cheerdoing. Well rehearsed and well intentioned cheerdoing for that matter. The parallels were then drawn to how we as well meaning worship leaders can sometimes leave the leading part behind as well. Some of this is due to fear because doing is just less terrifying than leading, but a lot of it is due to our self-centric approach. The people that you are leading are not like you. It is only when we adjust our actions for what our people need that we will be successful worship leaders.
Today we continue talking about practical things to do, and not do, in order to lead people to participate. …we now join the article already in progress.
Don’t: Lead them to watch you
You want people to sing but what is the first thing you do? Play music. How long is that intro? 30 seconds or more? What are the people doing while you are playing music? Instead of leading them to sing you have led them to watch. Add to that the instrumental section combined with the outro and you’ve got a lot of watching. I would guess that up to a third of your worship time is spent working against yourself. So stop! Cut all of it out. Only do as much as you need to be able to get people to sing.
It’s totally fine to use the instrumental sections for a purpose, but that’s not what most people are doing. It’s just how it was on the CD.
Do: Lead participation
You lead a cheer by saying, “J E S U S” (cheesy cheer alert) and hope that people jump in. Or you can say, “give me a ‘J’’’ and wait for the response. The latter approach demands participation without being demanding (i.e. yelling) because it’s built in. You can take any song and lead it this way. You simply say, “Come on sing this line” then stop and have them sing it back. Did they do it? Did they start half way and get confused? Make adjustments and try again. Then when they are getting it, sing it together but stop half way through and see if they are participating. If they are not, then do it again. This can be awkward, but it is where you learn how to lead. Whatever you do – don’t yell at anyone and don’t get in the habit of moving on without the people.
Don’t: Leave the people behind
If you were giving a group a tour of a local landmark and then suddenly looked back and found that no one was with you, would you continue giving the tour? Going on and on (complete with loud talking) without anyone in your group? Hopefully, you would not. Great tour guides don’t have this problem because they learn to keep people with them. They walk backward when they talk so they can see everyone, they wear a bright colored hat or coat to stand out, and they make a lot of small adjustments to keep people interested and engaged. As a worship leader, you have to open your eyes to see the people and adjust according to how they are doing. If you can’t adjust because your approach doesn’t allow it then you are presenting and not really leading.
Do: Lead through environment
People are more likely to sing when they don’t feel that people are watching them or hearing them. It can shut people down if it’s too quiet or if it’s too loud. I would recommend being at 95 dB; nerd talk for about how loud you have your stereo when you belt it out in the car.
Don’t: Lead in secrecy
Why is your Sunday set list a secret? Why do we have secret hand gestures for the band to know where we are going in the song? Tell people what you are going to be doing. Make a playlist where people in your church can purchase the songs you will be doing over the next few weeks and they will at least have a chance to walk in the door knowing the songs. Tell people when you are going to the chorus (the band will then hear you and go there too).
Do: Lead where people can follow
Keep in mind that you are probably the best singer at your church. Your people can’t go as high as you or be as fancy. When you do vocal gymnastics it’s like asking them to do actual gymnastics – they would rather just watch.
This also goes for song selection – choose songs that are easy to remember and pick up. A song may have moody lyrics that may or may not rhyme but can your people sing it the second time through? If not, drop it. If they don’t understand what the words mean – tell them. If they still don’t know what they mean – pick a better song.
Well, that’s a lot to think about. My apologies if I have offended any cheerleaders, hydrostatic nuclear bomb squads, butchers who majored in musical theater, or any other group I have used as an analogy. Blessings.
Steve and his wife, Shawn, travel full time to serve the body of Christ in the area of worship. They lead worship, compose and record, provide personalized on-site training for teams and churches, and teach on the subject of worship in English and Spanish.