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

Keeping Records

28 10 2010

If you are not keeping a record of your worship order or song lists you are robbing yourself of a lot of information.

I like to look back at the lists of the past to see which songs are being song to often or not often enough. I also grade the songs after the worship to remind me if a particular song didn’t really work well that day and some reasons why.

This is valuable information for you as you plan new lists in new worship assemblies. Be careful not to use songs so often that they lose their meaning to the worshipers. Be careful to watch out for using too many of the same types of songs. We should balance our worship in such a way that all worshipers can express themselves in the songs. Older saints may find it difficult to sing all contemporary style songs, be sure to include a few gospel type songs for them.

Be ready to introduce new songs that express spiritual thoughts in the language of the day. If we are evangelistic, our assemblies will have people who express themselves in modern wordings, styles and even rhythms. Consider this as we make decisions on what songs to sing.

A simple database is perfect for keeping a record of when you sing songs. I’ve been using google documents to make my lists so there is an electronic record of every worship service. It also allows others to use them as well.

Singing With Your Eyes Closed

2 09 2010

I’ve often said you never really know a song until you can sing it with your eyes closed. This is especially true of songs you want to record or perform. However, singing with your eyes closed isn’t always the best thing when you are leading people in worship.

It can cause folks to think that you are having a private time with God and their participation would invade your worship. Eyes closed for long periods leaves fellow singers out of the “all together thing.” Remember the Lord’s directive to sing and admonish “one another” in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19).

There is a lot of communication that happens when people look into your eyes. You often say more with your eyes than with the rest of your communication. Remember the whole Jimmy Swaggart thing when he wouldn’t wipe the tears from his eyes only dab at his dry cheeks. Even though the fained emotion was supposed to move people to a forgiving spirit it instead brought people to judgment. Honest emotion comes through your eyes and is read easily by fellow worshipers. Eyes that smile, eyes that cry, eyes that feel empathy help bring God’s people close together. I try to encourage my worship leading students to have big faces and don’t hide any of it if at all possible.

Now, knowing a song inside out so you can sing it with your eyes closed is a great bit of advice. How many times have we been caught with a lyric screen that doesn’t change or a lost lead sheet? Having that song seared into the heart and brain is a great way to be able to keep going. A lyric monitor should be a help and not a crutch. Even President Obama catches criticism for being glued to the teleprompter. You will catch the same criticism if you are tied to the lyric sheet or lyric monitor.

Since I lead a capella worship there is no safety net of a band playing on while you try to pick up the lyric. If the singing stops then guess what the singing stops. Know your songs, know your songs, know your songs. Sing them until you can sing them without any dependence on the monitor or lyric sheet or song book.

Eye contact is most important at the beginning of stanzas, beginning of choruses and ending of songs. Look using as big a face as possible to indicate starts, stops, holds, lifts, key changes and other important parts of the song.

Many churches are not used to watching a song leader. They are used to burying their heads in a book, or glued to a lyric screen. You have to give them some reason to look at you. Learn to be consistent in facial and body language for starts, stops, breaths, holds etc., soon the church will be following you and the emotion you put forth. Your face and eyes should invite people to sing.

One of my mentors used to tell us that he always thought he was smiling while he lead singing. When he saw a recording of himself leading he saw that his face wore a big frown, a scowl and furrowed brow through most of the singing. His anxiety about leading came through to his face more than the joy of the song.

Let me encourage you to record yourself as you lead. Analyze what your face is saying, what is your body and eyes saying as you lead? And most of all are you singing with your eyes closed?

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.

Keep Your Words Few

28 03 2010

Granny Chase used to say “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.”  James the half-brother of Jesus stated in a similar way “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19 NASB).

I don’t know why being in front of people can open the spigot of speech for some worship leaders.  Unless you are the preacher most of the time our words should be kept to a minimum.  More often than not we will detract from the flow of worship with our talking.  Whenever we interrupt the flow, worshipers have to refocus from God to us back to God.

There might be times that we have to interject something but those occasions are rare.

Encourage Other’s To Participate

17 03 2010

One of the greatest things we do as worship leaders is to invite and encourage people to participate in the worship. Our actions and any words we speak should be aimed to this goal.

One of the greatest tools you have to do this is to compliment individuals regularly. When you can tell people you appreciate their participation, their spirit, their smiles, their pretty voice, a fitting prayer or anything you can find that is honest to commend.  A word of encouragement in the church newsletter or bulletin is always a good idea.  There is nothing wrong with commending the entire congregation either.  Preachers and teachers seem to have no problem correcting an assembly. Why not edify with carefully chosen words of praise?

Song leaders can encourage people with facial expressions and body movements. A welcoming smile will brighten any worship assembly. Be careful about singing entire songs with your eyes closed people will think they are disturbing your personal worship.

Invite other leaders to participate throughout the worship time. There is nothing wrong with having several different song leaders, prayer leaders, readers or even preachers all focused on one assembly. Sharing the “stage” lets people know that worship should engage all of us.