So you’re going to a singing school, this Summer, or perhaps you’ve already been to one. How do you make the most of the week? After all, these weeks are packed with powerful worship moments, new songs, music theory, and treasured memories with salt of the earth Christians. It’s impossible to fully appreciate and apply everything in the moment, while we’re there, so while paying attention and taking notes go a long way, just like regular school, the real growth happens in the homework.
It’s probably impossible to fully synthesize a week long singing school experience, but if it were, it would take years. I still reflect on my first experience 6 years ago, which doesn’t sound like a long time, but it feels like half a lifetime. To better benefit in the long run, take notes of your experience and revisit those notes periodically to remind yourself why excellence in worship is important, and to gauge your growth. Then set personal goals. Here are a few that every leader has to make, sooner or later:
- Starting and leading a particular difficult song or set of songs well
- Learn shape notes well enough to be able to sight sing and quickly learn a hymn when it is requested for a special occasion and you are put on the spot
- Plan worship earlier in the week than the night before
- Getting sufficient rest to worship well and do the best job you can for God and the brethren
- Leading without holding or even looking at the book
- Leading away from the pulpit
It is often said that practice doesn’t make perfect; it makes permanent, so practice well. Commit your conducting to muscle memory so you don’t have to worry or even think about it. Get pitches down pat so they take a half a moment, not a half a minute. It takes merely 10-15 minutes per week will help you maintain your current skill level, but 45 minutes to an hour per week will cause you to grow by leaps and bounds. Conducting is a matter of muscle memory. You can worship while you lead others in worship, but it will require you to practice so it is second nature. Don’t be afraid to beat time to whatever music you’re listening to. If you are serious about becoming a choice instrument for the Lord, you won’t care how you look in the process.
Use Your Gift
If your church has an abundance of worship leaders, and you only get to lead occasionally, find opportunities to use your gift. Plan singing events and even help out area churches with their singing. Many or most of us know of a nearby congregation that has few or no worship leaders, and while that is a serious problem that they must fix lest they die on the vine, you can help them out and gain valuable experience at the same time.
An oft overlooked (and thus underrated) tool to help us grow is prayer. Ask God to humble your heart and then brace yourself for answers to that prayer in ways you could never imagine. Pray for wisdom as Solomon did. We all need more, and those in a position of leadership need it doubly so. Pray for opportunities to use your gifts for His glory.
What if my church doesn’t like some of the things I’ve learned?
- Powerpoint slides
- Occasionally conducting with the left arm
- Using a handheld microphone
- Stepping away from the pulpit
- Leading new songs
- Leading old songs in new ways
All of these and more have met resistance at some churches (often just with a couple of individuals). Please show them grace. They haven’t experienced what we have, and perhaps we would do well to walk a mile in their shoes too. Remember these techniques and technologies are designed to edify, and if they distract more than they edify, even due to somebody’s bad attitude, they are counterproductive. Have patience and keep it low key. Love your brother, even if he is unfair or narrow minded on these matters of judgment. Paul had much to say about this in Romans 14.
Find Other Ways to Serve
If we’re serious about our ministry in the church, we need to be willing to be used however we are needed. Worship leaders might find themselves in a situation where the church has an excess of worship leaders for a season. Be willing to serve in other ways, even if it’s taking out the trash. We might be surprised to find other areas where we’re gifted. Do other things with the same dedication and excellence as worship.
Everybody benefits from reading, and especially aspiring musicians and worship leaders. For those interested in growing in knowledge of the arts of worship and worship leading, here are a few books that would serve you well to have on your reading list:
- The Bible (of course!)
- Dr. Jack Boyd – Leading the Lord’s Worship
- R. J. Stevens & Tim Stevens – Rudiments of Sight Singing & Song Directing
- There’s also an accompanying exercise CD so you can sing along with it and sharpen your rhythm and pitch skills.
- Leland Fleming – Music Unplugged!
- T. David Gordon – Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns
- Bob Kauflin – Worship Matters
- Bob Kauflin – True Worshipers
- J. I. Packer – Knowing God
- A. W. Tozer – Knowledge of the Holy
- Alex Harris, Brett Harris – Do Hard Things
- Francis Chan – Crazy Love (revised)
- David Platt – Radical
- James Humes – Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln
- Rick Warren – The Purpose Driven Life
- Rick Warren – The Purpose Driven Church
The usual disclaimer applies. If any material on your reading list disagrees with the Bible, you know what to do about it. However, truth is truth wherever it is found. God bless you in your journey as worshipers and worship leaders!
Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all. – Isaac Watts