My thoughts...Wisdom from over the years

Should Worship Leaders Be Great Singers Part 1

Posted in: Featured, tip of the week ♦ Monday, June 18th, 2012, 12:04 pm ♦ No Comments on Should Worship Leaders Be Great Singers Part 1

Should Worship Leaders Be Great Singers?

Just how important is it for a worship leader to be a great singer?

I believe it’s important that a worship leader be at least a proficient singer. What does it mean to be “proficient”?

One dictionary definition says this about the word proficient: having or showing knowledge and skill and aptitude. Some synonyms for the word are: adept, competent, experienced, accomplished, able.  But even more telling are the antonyms: unskilled, inept!  So considering the alternative, I’d say that becoming proficient is a requirement!  Please notice what else is absent in the dictionary definition: there is no sign at all of any adjective like these- gifted, amazing, excellent…etc.

There is an important distinction to make here. I don’t believe that someone has to be a gifted singer, or a vocal performance major in college to qualify for a worship leader position. In fact there are several, way more important qualifications for that position than a beautiful singing voice.  I do believe however that one needs at least a basic skill level of singing or it can be a problem.

Unfortunately, it never ceases to amaze me how low a priority the average church or pastor will assign to the actual singing ability of a worship leader. I recently witnessed first hand how someone was asked to stand up and ‘lead worship’ without being truly evaluated as a singer. The problem in this case, was that the person being asked to lead had a very difficult time staying in tune at all.  Although this young man has a wonderful heart for God and many other great gifts, he was asked to function outside of his more clearly gifted areas and ‘lead worship’ because “really, after all how hard (or important) can it be?”  This is astonishing to me because there’s no way they’d have asked this young man to play the piano on a Sunday morning with absolutely no training or skill. Why do we feel that just because someone is capable of making a noise with their vocal cords, that they are inherently qualified to lead others in singing?

Please note that I am not saying that someone needs to be a trained singer to be an effective worshipper. That would just be plain wrong but there is a higher standard for leaders!  All throughout scripture God sets a higher standard for those in leadership and singers are no exception. I Chronicles chapter 25 outlines exactly which men were to be set apart for training with regard to singing. These men were hand chosen by David (and cared for as well) to be fit for their duty as singers and warriors.

So how do I get “proficient” at singing? 

Having a fundamental understanding of the basics of singing is a start. Finding out how to care for the voice overall is crucial. Learning how to properly use breath control as opposed to straining from the throat is critical to caring for and maintaining the voice long term. Learning to warm up properly so as not to damage the vocal cords is essential to not only accomplishing your short term goals vocally but also to keeping those cords healthy over the long haul.

Next, being able to function tonally is absolutely imperative. If matching pitch is a regular problem for you, you should not be on a microphone leading worship. Pitch accuracy is the fundamental basis for all music. Without it you have tonal chaos, this is completely unacceptable at any level on a worship platform. The good news is that pitch control is something that can be learned.

Developing a pleasing tone quality is another vital part of becoming proficient at singing.  There are many places to resonate when you are singing. Finding the ones that are pleasing and not a distraction are the main goal for a worship leader. Developing a beautiful tone quality with a rich and full resonance is not necessary for this simple application. Just having a pleasant voice to listen to is actually good enough. Many of our most beloved worship leaders today do not necessarily have a high level of training or expertise, but their voices have the quality of at least being pleasant to listen to.


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