A Short Guide To Song Leading

Everyone is a song leader
As vocalists or violinists and everything in between, we all contribute to leading and facilitating the congregation’s singing. God’s people flourish when they are led well, and as Christians we submit to the ultimate leadership of Christ. Because song-leading is a ministry of the word, it is vitally important that it is led well. The example of the song leaders of the Bible shows that that godly song leading requires more than just being a good musician.

For example, in 1 Chronicles 15, David appoints music leaders from the priestly tribe of Levites who are set apart to lead God’s people in song. Eventually, in Hebrews 2:10-13, we are shown that Jesus is the ultimate leader of God’s people, directing their praise as their saviour. As church song leaders, we aren’t Jesus! But he nonetheless shows us a perfect model of servant leadership.

Servant-hearted Song Leading
As followers of Christ, we are called to deny ourselves and pursue godliness, and this standard becomes more pertinent when we are in a leadership ministry. Your godly character, spiritual maturity and responsible leadership are of more importance than any technical or musical expertise. Our goal is to point the congregation to Jesus, and that starts with our own hearts as we lift our eyes to him. Engaging personally and juggling all the logistics is complicated, however, and sometimes leading singing will mean sacrificing your own engagement with the song to best serve God and your congregation. Remember to pray! Pray that you remain faithful to God in your service and that he will help you to grow in wisdom and skill. Prayer reminds us of our dependence on God and will always help protect against pride. 

Song Leading in Practice
The spiritual goal in song leading is to point people to Christ. But we will also have practical goals for our ministry. Here are three ways you can prepare practically:

Know your songs
Get to know the theology behind the lyrics, the musical aspects of it, and how it serves the congregation to build one another up in Christ. Praying through the lyrics will also help enrich your understanding of the song and will flow out into your leading.

Learn the song
Familiarity with a song, however, is different to knowing it well enough to lead! There are many ways you can confidently learn a song: reading the sheet music, listening to recordings, practising the song thoroughly and making it your own. Give yourself time to find these resources in order to be comfortable to lead other people singing.

Rehearse the song
The band needs to function as a unified whole to lead the congregation well. Use your rehearsal time to make sure you’re all confident with the key, tempo, structure, turnarounds, intros and outros. 

There is a lot more to say about effective song leading, and Emu Music has a six part course to help train you and your music team in these essential skills. Find out more at wordinsong.com