Suggestions for song leaders

You will run across several kinds of song leaders:

  • The “super humble” song leader, whom you can’t hear. Yet such an approach instills hesitancy on the part of the congregation, who generally do not want to be the “only” ones singing.
  • “I’m the show, look at me.” On the other hand, the song leader should not draw undue attention to himself.
  • It’s good ‘nuff for the folks I go with. This song leader feels no need to develop or improve himself.
  • Scolding Song leader – “Come on, people, sing like you mean it!” This is usually deplorably bad psychology and will have the opposite effect that the song leader seeks; rather than sing better, the congregation shuts down.
  • My genre or the highway. Contemporary? Traditional? Stamps Baxter? Classics? He forces his favorites onto the congregation and will never contemplate leading songs enjoyed by other members of the congregation.

So the following are suggestions for song leaders:

1. When the opportunity presents itself, improve your abilities: Don’t take an attitude of “It’s good enough for the folks I’m with.” Don’t use the “My heart’s in the right place” excuse. If your heart is in the right place, your heart will drive you to learn how to do this better, for the glory of God!

2. Prepare. Make thoughtful, meaningful song selections: Fashion your song service around a theme, or a movement. Make it worth the congregation’s time to have been there! The term “random preparation” is an oxymoron!

3. Announce the number twice, clearly, and in two ways: This is not a race to see how many senior citizens can be left behind trying to find the page with their aching arthritic fingers! Also remember the mom with two squirming kids trying to find the page. Or to put it differently, you want the congregation to sing with you, right?

4. Pitch the song correctly: That allows altos, bases, everybody to sing. The rumor that hymnbook editors arranged 1,000 hymns two steps too high is not true! If in doubt, the song writer and editor knows more music than you do!

5. Lead them: You are the song leader. They want to be led; they won’t sing out if they are fearful of being the “only one” singing, so take that worry out of their minds and lead! There is a sense in which song leading is a con job – your job is to instill them with confidence.

6. But remember that you are not the show: A good song leader is like a light bulb in the living room. You only notice it when it’s out. On the other hand, by being technically proficient and enthusiastic, you have freed the congregation from those worries, and allowed them to worship!

Remember, you serve the Lord, and serve the congregation. You are helping them to worship God. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that you have helped your brothers and sisters to do the most important thing they will do today – worship God as they ought!

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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