Tips for Leading A Capella Worship

27 09 2011

Becoming a successful worship leader is an ongoing process of learning what helps and what hinders people worshipping God. Getting ourselves out of the way people seeing God yet leading them at the same time is quite difficult sometimes.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years that have worked for me, hopefully they will aid you in your pursuit.

  • Your heart is your instrument. Pure hearts help. Sinful hearts hinder. Be sure you are right with God so you can come into His presence ready for worship.
  • Your face is your conductor’s baton. Develop strong facial and head movements that indicate starting, stopping, breathing and holding sustained notes. I was amazed the first time I witnessed a leader who lead with his head and face. He showed every pick-up, cut-off, start, held note and the emotion of the songs all with his head bobs and facial expressions.
  • Work on your transitions from song to song as much as you do the songs. Don’t take people out of the worship experience to some other place between every song or prayer. Flow is important for keeping us in the throne room of God.
  • Sing familiar songs often. I love new songs and enjoy sight singing. That makes me part of a small group of music nerds. If people have to concentrate on the mechanics of the music they won’t be fully engaged in worship. Use new songs at appropriate times.
  • Commend the congregation for good worship. Compliment well worded prayers, good sermons, well sung songs, and worship that is done well.
  • Listen to criticism. Not all criticism is constructive but you should listen to it, consider it and the source then either discard it or apply it.
  • Take care of your voice. Singers and speakers should learn to use their voices without strain or poor muscle control.
  • Lead outside the assembly. Take your talents to other places. Lead singing at a nursing home, small church, home bible study, where ever you can use your gift to bring people into the presence of God.
  • Record yourself leading, either video or audio often and watch it. You will be surprised at how many things you’re doing well and you will notice some things you will want to change.
  • Ask people who love you what you can do to be better. Be ready for some things that might surprise you or may even hurt your ego a bit.
  • Pray for yourself often, get others to pray for you too.

Do you have some tips you’ve discovered that might help other worship leaders?  Why not share some with us.

Joe Chase


The Need for Breathing!

6 05 2011

You might think that breathing would just be natural when you lead singing. However, the stress of leading singing can take your breath away.

Stress can hamper even sympathetic muscles. It’s true when we are nervous or under great stress we breath more shallow. The activity involved in leading singing can also steal our breath.

Solution, breathing deeply! Sounds stupid doesn’t. Before you take the podium take several deep breaths and exhale completely so you can take in more air. Taking in more oxygen helps calm your nerves and gives you the needed support for the activity of leading worship.

During the week you should do some simple deep breathing exercises.

  • Begin by exhaling as much air as possible.
  • Inhale deeply (Remember deep breathing involves those stomach, back and side muscles).
  • Now exhale in short pants. (Like a dog, not the Bermuda type).  This will engage those big muscles that control breathing.
  • Do this a dozen times.
  • Next inhale deeply and exhale making a an “S” sound.  Continue this until all your air is gone.
  • This “S” exhale will help build stamina, the “S” sound will put no strain on your voice.
  • You can do this exercise making a “Z” sound which engages the voice too, don’t strain or push though.

If you will do this routine a few times a day for a few weeks it will certainly help you build the ability to breath deeply.  That in turn will help you when it comes time to lead singing.

Lack of deep breathing and breath control is one of the causes of vocal fatigue and voice strain.  You don’t want that ever.

So in the words of Faith Hill “Just Breathe”.

What helps you remember to breathe during worship leading or singing?  I’d love to hear your helpful hints.  Comment here or drop me a note chasejoseph(a)

Joseph D. Chase
Gospel Preacher
1000 N. Loop 485
PO Box 667
Gladewater, TX 75647
(903) 845.2531 office

Training Is Key

13 04 2010

I don’t care how much you know, how long you study or how often you lead worship you can always learn something to add to your leadership skills.  Let me encourage you today to mark your calendar for attend the Four States Praise Camp. June 13, through June 18 2010.  This camp is dedicated to training leaders to lead worship.  We have qualified instructors and staff.  You can learn everything from beginning theory to song and lyric writing.  We also have practical sessions where leaders will put into play their newly learned skills.  You will have fun while you make transform your mind and talents for the good of the kingdom.

Go to the web site to learn all you need to know regarding fees, what to bring and other details.

Review of SongSuggest 1.0

29 12 2009

Every song leader has a need to access a list of songs on many themes.  Building your own database is a great idea and will serve you well.  Technology has moved us a long way down the road for being able to cross reference, recall and store song lists, and themes. has a product that brings a great tool to our iPhone.  Imagine needing a song list on consecration.  SongSuggest gives you the ability to search songs from its 600 song database by that theme or many others.  They can be searched by theme, key and tempo.  If you can’t remember what the song sounds like they added a way to search YouTube for a video of the song.  There is a link out to iTunes for you to purchase the songs and a link to so you can search for lyrics within the app.  Handy for you when you don’t have easy access to SongSelect or the ccli database online.

Sadly, there is no way to save lyrics in the program.  This would give you more ability to search for songs by topic, theme and phrase.

It would be great if they would add a way to email song lists to your worship team.  It would also be nice if you could add your own songs to the list.  There are many songs in our songbooks and newly written songs that are not on the list.  Another feature that could be an advantage would be to link to SSPlus or Media Shout.  If you could export your list to either of these programs it would save several steps in your set planning.  This in no way means this isn’t a useful app.  It is in its first generation.  I hope the developer will improve on a great idea.






Reading a Song

14 12 2009

Music reading is a science within itself. There are many successful worship leaders who read very little or no music at all.  However, they do know how to read the song.  Much of singing has to do with phrasing and dynamics.  Leaders who can emphasize the right parts of the song help congregations focus on the message better than those who do not.

We’ve talked about mood and the importance of using it to set the tone of a worship assembly.  Proper phrasing is every bit as important as determining mood. Notice the following phrase, read it and emphasize the bold text and see what it does to the meaning of the sentence.

A mighty fortress is our God.
A mighty fortress is our God.
A mighty fortress is our God.
A mighty fortress is our God.
A mighty fortress is our God.

In contemporary artist Chris Tomlin’s song “How Great is our God” he means for us to emphasize this phrase differently each time we sing it in the tag.

How great is our God, sing with me.
How great is our God and all will see,
How great, how great is our God.

The power in the song often comes in the subtle nuances of emphasizing a word or phrase.  Reading a song means determining where to get louder, softer, broader, quicker or where to insert a lift or a pause.  These things will go a long way into making a song live and bringing the meaning to life in the hearts of worshipers.

Many recording artists never do the stanzas of a song the same and vary the emphasis of the chorus each time they sing through it.  Although we are not going to be able to be as fancy in our execution of a song we can punch up the style in every song we lead.

One of my favorite songs is “Low in the Grave”. As an exercise in reading a song let’s go through and mark the parts of the song that should be emphasized.

Low in the grave He lay,                  This is dark, sorrow filled.
Jesus my Savior,
Waiting the coming day,                  Here is a glimmer of hope.
Jesus my Lord!

Vainly they watch His bed,          I would skip the refrain and go
Jesus my Savior;                              right to this stanza
Vainly they seal the dead,          This time is brighter with hope
Jesus my Lord!                                Emphasis on Vainly

Up from the grave He arose,                              There is a stark contrast from the
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,              stanzas.  This is bright and lively.
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Death cannot keep its Prey,               This is the most important
Jesus my Savior;                                    part of the song!
He tore the bars away, Don’t lead this stanza slow
Jesus my Lord!                                        Emphasis with broadening

–Robert Lowry, 1826-1899

The last time through the Refrain needs to be a joyous, powerful, almost out of control celebration.  Get bigger every time you exclaim “He Arose!”

Much of reading a song is relative.  However, some topics and themes lead us to joy, sorrow, anger, doubt, determination and many emotions.  Look for those themes and phrases.  Help your congregation see your interpretation by big facial and body movements that demonstrate the appropriate expression.

Song Selection Guest Article

30 11 2009

As we think about methods and purpose for song selection we will feature various worship leaders who are willing to share their thoughts.

Brother James Tackett produces the Paperless Hymnal which has truly changed the way most congregations of the Churches of Christ present printed music.  Here is Brother Tackett’s method.

I like to get the sermon topic from the preacher. You have to start somewhere, so I start there. If I don’t have his topic, I make up one.

With a topic in mind, I try to find the best song on that topic and use it right before the sermon. That song should also be lively. I want the audience to be awake and ready to listen with I give them over to the preacher.

I usually pick the first few songs for praise and or call to worship content, the first one easy, the second lively, the third not as lively. That set of songs should be a short time of worship within it’s self, not just a bunch of favorite songs stuck together. I never sing all the stanzas of a song because they are there but choose what I need for the thought of the set.

If the topic allows,I’ll use a song or two before the Lord’s Supper  that will point to the cross and also involve the topic. Otherwise, I choose a separate set of songs to emphasize our Lord’s death, burial and resurrection. I might even insert a scripture reading in the mix.

I like to have a flow in thought and energy. Sets of songs are better than songs interrupted by the other “acts of worship”. If I can, sets of songs are in the same key, flowing from one into the next. Even though I have been using The Paperless Hymnal longer than anyone else, I usually don’t use it for the invitation or closing songs. I want to be flexible with the invitation song and I am always changing my mind on the closing song after hearing the sermon. I don’t want technology to get in my way of doing what is better at that time.

I use an index file with scripture and topical information to help me find songs. You can download that file at:

James Tackett

The Paperless Hymnal


Does Your Song Selection Have A Purpose?

25 11 2009

Just before worship the preacher asks the song leader, “what is your first song?”

The song leader replied, “I don’t know yet, what did you think I did during the first prayer? What are you preaching on today?”

The preacher answered “I don’t know yet what did you think I did during the song service?”

This is quite certainly an exaggeration of what may be true far too often. It is tragic when worship leaders don’t put forethought and prayer into every song they lead, every Scripture they read, every prayer that is prayed and every communion thought used. Purpose and planning for every thing we do in worship is necessary.

Why do you lead the songs you lead? There should not be a song on your list that does not have purpose to the overall flow of the worship. Your selections should vividly reflect the purpose you have in mind for the worship assembly.

I am not saying that every song has to be based on the sermon text. They should combine to bring worshipers into God’s presence and reflect the purpose of the assembly.

I led worship for a few years where the worship committee demanded that all songs reference the sermon and be thematic revolving around the subject of the sermon. There is some merit to that type of selecting songs but, we have to remember that there is more to worship than what the preacher is going to preach. You will be hard pressed to find songs that tie into a lot of texts. Can you think of one for “Greet one another with a holy kiss?” A lot of preaching will not bring us to see the whole nature of God, the beauty of Holiness. There are many songs that take us beyond where a preacher can take us.

Ask yourself several times during your worship planning; “How does this song fit into the purpose for this worship assembly?” Do early and do it often.

Remember also the needs of the assembly. Some will be grieving, joyous, searching, doubting, struggling and a hundred other attitudes of heart. Your purpose will need to bring those people with you to God’s throne. Don’t forget that various age groups express themselves with different styles of music. My purpose must include something for all to find a road to the Father.