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BC3 Training: Congregational Song Leading 101 ­ Celia Chew, Sunday 28 Feb 2010 Song leaders:

Why do we need them? Lots of reasons! Some people aren't musical; they help us to focus on God and what we're singing; Contemporary church songs can be hard to sing on our own so we need someone to show us where to go; explain difficult lyrics...

What do they do? Cue people in; help people to focus and not be distracted especially by missing intros, not knowing when to repeat the chorus etc; helping congregation to be in the right frame of mind to sing praises to God, leading in such a way so that people aren't distracted by anything else. Not to force people to worship ­ only God's Spirit causes us to worship Him; not to bring people into God's presence ­ Jesus has already done that by dying for us and bridging the gap separating us from God. When we come to church, we're coming to worship God with others. We're coming to encourage one another, to fellowship with one another, to build each other up as God's people. In the same way, when we sing corporately as God's people there's also a horizontal and vertical aspect: Col. 3:16 says we are to teach and admonish one another as we since psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. When we sing together as Christians we're encouraging each other, building each other up through song. But it wouldn't be worship if it weren't directed toward God- we're singing praises to God TOGETHER (that's the vertical aspect of congregational singing). As we reflect on God's goodness to us, we sing with grateful hearts TO God and we know that He hears us. We need to be remembering both aspects when we consider how we can serve our brothers and sisters as we lead them in singing. I'm sure I don't need to stress how important prayer is in all aspects of our service to God and the church- if our aim as song leaders is to encourage people to engage with God through music, to praise Him with all of our beings through song, to be grateful in their hearts to God- we can't do any of that without the help of the Holy Spirit who helps us to glorify God and point others to Jesus. So through every aspect of song-leading, from choosing songs to rehearsal to singing and playing on the day, we need to be praying that the Holy Spirit would be working through us in helping us to glorify God in song.

The Big C's (of being part of a church music team)

(shared example of a back up singer not coming to rehearsal and during a song in the service, throws the pianist and congregation and song leader out ­ leading to people being distracted and not knowing what's happening in the song) 1. Commitment The first big C is "Commitment". Let's start with rehearsal. Before we even think about being part of a music team and serving at church we need to be committed and responsible- that means turning up for rehearsal if you expect to sing and play. Not because we're perfectionists and we stress out if its not perfect on the day, but because it shows respect to the brothers and sisters you're singing and playing with plus to the congregation you're leading- you're saying to

them "I want to serve you by helping you engage with God and not be distracted so I'm going to make it as easy for you as I can to help you focus on what you're singing and who you're singing to". It would be unfair to other music team members if they're committed and you're not. They've taken time out of a busy week to practise music together but you can't find time to meet with them- if that's the case, its probably best if you don't sing or play. I'm sure many of you have had that feeling after a service where you've thought "Gee, that didn't go too well" ­ even if you have had a rehearsal! That's ok, you know you've done your best, sometimes on the day things don't work out the same way as they do during rehearsal. God knows our hearts and our motivation. If after rehearsal, you're still finding the songs hard, practise in your own time until you feel confident. Ask another singer or muso to practise with you. Make it a rule if you need to - unless you come to rehearsal, you're not singing / playing.

2. Communication I'm going to talk about communication now within a music team. The musicians that are here probably know the most about communication- when we play in a band, we're constantly listening to each other- we're listening for the beat, the melody, each individual instrument, whether we're speeding up or slowing down or getting softer or louder. But besides listening, we're watching too- we're watching the guitarists hand move up and down as he strums, we're watching the pianist's left hand as he plays, we're watching the drummer's foot on the bass drum. We're also communicating silently by looking at one another - we're saying "yes, come in now" or "let's finish on the chord now" or "Remember to repeat the chorus now". And if we're not communicating in that way, we should be! In the music teams I used to play in at SMBC, there was always a band leader and a song leader- the band leader would be in charge of the music side of things- they would figure out what the intro sounded like, what to play between the verses, how to end the song- everything to do with the music. The band leader would then communicate this to the song leader so the song leader would know when to come in, what to expect musically to lead the congregation. Here's another example of why it's helpful to communicate with and follow the song leader: the intro to In Christ Alone goes (..). What if the song leader misses the intro, just because that can happen? Things aren't always going to go perfectly even after a 2hr rehearsal! The song leader hasn't lifted the microphone, hasn't cued anyone in but people in the congregation know that that's what the intro sounds like! The musicians continue to play normally and the congregation eventually sing "..hope is found, He is my light my strength my song"! It's not a big deal but how can this be avoided? Some may disagree but the song leader (if the song leader is confident and sure of what she's doing) is the one to follow! The musos play the intro again and again until the song leader leads the congregation in- the congregation is watching the song leader to know when to come in, so the musos and other singers need to be watching her too. A lot of it comes down to that non verbal communication I told you about earlier - the song leader needs to be engaging with the congregation but needs to keep an eye and ear out for what the music is doing so she knows when to come in. The pianist or guitarist keeps their eyes on the song leader and nods when the intro's just about over, when the singing is about to begin. Repeat choruses (as led by the Holy Spirit) that aren't rehearsed can also be communicated with hand signals without any distraction to the congregation if there is good communication between musos and song leader.

As a song leader, what do I do with my.....

I'm going to speak on each topic that you see before you on your hand out by sharing the things people in the past have commented on after they've seen me song leading- things that they've found particularly helpful. If no-one's commented on that aspect specifically, I'll be sharing what I do when I lead which you can decide whether or not you want to do too.

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Microphone? - using a hand held mic (vs. a mic on a stand) is easiest to control the sound and volume - can be a useful tool to cue people in to know when to start singing by lifting it to your mouth; problem: not everyone will be watching how you use your mic or you may forget you're using it as a cueing tool and lift it too early

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Hands? - cueing with hands is very effective and helpful especially when intro is vague and hard to know when to come in. Great for large groups but in any sized group, cueing is helpful and serves the congregation. - how and when? I cue at the beginning of the song, at the beginning of each verse and for repeat choruses. Cueing looks different for beginning song/verse as opposed to repeat choruses. With repeat choruses or repeating last part of verses, I use my hand to show the congregation where the music is going (ie. if going up then my hands will show the progression of music..) - You might be thinking "But I can cue the congregation in by saying the first few words"true, you can. But you need to time what you say just right so you don't miss that first beat (demonstrate with In Christ alone). Cueing with your hand helps you to focus on when to come in, it helps you to come in confidently, the congregation have no doubt at all when to start singing. Using your hand to cue in for a repeat chorus also helps when the chorus repeats straight away and there's no room to say the first few words of the chorus- if you're a mic-cuer, repeating the chorus will be hard because you've already got the mic up at your mouth! - raising hands: it's my way of saying to God "I'm singing for you Lord, You are worthy of this praise, You deserve all of me". That's just me- you might have other reasons for raising your hands, it's worth thinking it over. If you want to encourage people in your congregation to feel more free to be physically expressive but you feel that your congregation might be a bit more on the conservative side (which is often the case in Chinese churches) why not start from the front? It really helps if it comes from the front from the song leaders and back up singers.

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Face? - smile! As you take time to reflect personally on what the lyrics of the song are saying, you're being reminded of God's goodness to you in Jesus, you're in awe of our great sovereign God- THESE are the things that lead you to smile and rejoice.. this is what comes out to those you lead. So smile- show the joy you have in Jesus, infect others with that same joy- remind people who we're singing about.

- eye contact: brief eye contact is a great way to engage with the congregation and let them know you're there to serve them so that they can glorify God. When you're making eye contact, look around the room and don't forget the people at the front and the sides.

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Clothes? - dress appropriately so as not to be distracting (particularly for girls )

A note on physical expressiveness and our heart as a song leader... "If I'm magnifying the worth of God and the work of the Savior myself, I'm in the best place to motivate others to worship God. They'll see it on my face, hear it in my voice, and observe it in my physical expression. I want my voice, my posture, my words, everything about me to say, "I am in awe of this God we are praising right now. I am undone by His mercy, overcome with gratefulness for His kindness, and sobered by His holiness. His steadfast love is better than life itself!" That kind of emotion isn't something we put on or work up. It springs up naturally as we take time to reflect on this amazing God Who has created us for His glory." ­ Bob Kauflin (Sovereign Grace ministries) Don't be afraid to show your love for God when you song lead, don't be afraid to do what no one else in the congregation is doing- smile, close your eyes, raise your hands- but do it for God's glory not your own and do it in a way that doesn't distract people from worshipping God. There is a danger to over expressiveness which most of you probably aren't at risk of but I'll mention it briefly anyway: closing our eyes for long periods of time while we song lead means we might lose our spot in the music. Keeping our hands raised for the whole song means people might not know the right spot to come in. Getting on our knees means people can't see us and yes I've been to a church service where the singers were all on their knees with their eyes closed and hands raisedneedless to say, I had no idea what to sing. If we get lost in the music, in our own personal worship to God we can forget the main reason why we're a song leader- to serve the congregation. I remember a Katoomba convention I was at and the guy song leading was closing his eyes for a good 10 seconds and he sang an incorrect sentence- it wasn't a big deal but it did cause a few people around me to exchange looks. That one mistake meant that for that instant, people stopped thinking about what they were singing and instead were thinking "I think that guy had his eyes closed for too long!"

Q&A:

Q: What would you advise for song-leaders in churches or fellowships that are so small that it's easy to think `it's not really important to cue; they all know what to do, they'll do it anyway'? A: Just do it anyway! The first few times of cueing, you'll probably feel silly and self-conscious, but you do it because it's helpful whether or not you look silly! It gets easier after the first time ­ and you probably feel sillier than you actually look!

Q: Who should the musos follow if things are falling apart (eg. the drummer's racing and putting everything else out)? A: Nominate someone in the band to follow ­ whether the pianist or the lead guitarist etc and everyone commit to watching, listening to, and following that person. A: Similarly ­ nominate your own cueing system / hand symbols etc to represent things like: repeat Chorus, proceed to the end of the song, slow down, keep playing after congregation stops singing.

Q: Can you give some pointers on song choices? A: You or your pastor might prefer songs that are corporate in their language (eg. `We, us' rather than `I'); choose songs that match the Big Idea of the sermon (read the passage yourself and discuss with the preacher in advance); choose songs that are biblically-sound and gospel oriented; choose songs that are congregationally easy to sing (not just songs that sound good on the CD or that you can sing easily by yourself)

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