Roster Role: FD 10am Song leader

Throughout human history people have expressed themselves through singing – whether celebrating victory in battle or comforting each other through the oppression of slavery. The New Testament tells God's people to “be filled with the Spirit, singing and psalming with your hearts to the Lord, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph 5:18-19) – a picture of corporate music-making that has both vertical and horizontal dimensions. Leading the gathered church in song is an important act of service.

Time Commitment

  • Frequency: Roster regularity varies according to various factors
  • In advance: sufficient preparation so you know the melodies of the songs when you arrive at rehearsal
  • At church: 45 – 90 mins rehearsal with the band, either just before the service or at another time

What does a win look like?

  • The song leader has prayed with the up-front team before the service
  • Rehearsals are productive and efficient, with everyone getting along well and nobody's time being unnecessarily wasted.
  • The congregation sing confidently and passionately, with full understanding of what they are singing, in a way that glorifies God and builds up all present.

Keys to winning

Before rehearsal

  • Don't hesitate to ask for any sheet music or recordings you need to learn the songs
  • Look at the run sheet, think about why each song is where it is and how you can introduce them.

During rehearsal

  • Be patient with the band when they're doing things that don't involve you. Learning the lyrics by memory is a good use of this time.
  • Make sure you're clear on all the details – exactly what notes go with which words, how long turnarounds are. Don't hesitate to ask someone for help.
  • To sing well you need to hear yourself clearly and at least some of the band (piano is probably the most helpful). Don't hesitate to ask the sound operator to adjust your foldback mix but remember the overall level of your foldback needs to be conservative so as not to interfere with the congregation's mix.

Song introductions

  • If the service leader or preacher has introduced the song, there's no need to say any more

  • About two sentences is generally the right length

  • Plan each sentence in your head before saying anything – ums and ahs waste the congregation's time and give them an opportunity to lose focus.

  • The basic “Please stand and we'll sing together” is a good start

  • It's always good to emphasise that we're about to sing together
  • Introduce what the big point of the song is – generally what the chorus is about – rather than picking out some line from the second verse (unless that line is really really significant)

  • When linking songs, think about what the main point of the previous song was, what the main point of the next song is, and what the theological link between them is.

  • Consider carefully what we're doing as we sing each song – are we offering praise to God, or thanking him for something, or committing ourselves to follow him, or reminding each other of something, or declaring God's greatness to the world? Not every song is praise to God.
  • Introducing the song after the sermon is a key moment and you need to start planning when the end of the sermon is coming near. You want to make a connection, but without extending the sermon, twisting its message in a new direction or offering a commentary on it. Is there a key phrase you can repeat and link to the song? Or something in the bible passage that links? Occasionally the sermon will end up somewhere unexpected and the song won't connect closely at all – in this case an intro that just talks about the song without mentioning the sermon is better than one that makes a really contrived link.

  • Personal reflections can sometimes be beneficial (generally not after the sermon) but be careful that the focus ends up on Jesus and his church rather than on you.

During Songs

  • Remember, when we're singing you are the leader – the congregation and band will follow you, so whatever happens be definite!
  • Be deliberate with your body language. If you take a breath in an obvious way people will realise we're about to sing. If your hands are in your pockets people will realise you're bored. If you look at the lyrics the whole time people will think you don't know what you're singing and don't really mean it.

  • Respond to what the song is saying – there's a time for beaming with joy, but it's not when you're singing about the details of the crucifixion.

  • When we're singing to each other (eg “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away our sin”) or about to start a verse, make eye contact with the congregation. When we're singing to God (eg “Jesus, I trust in you”), focusing on a point slightly above the congregation is more natural. Closing your eyes separates you from the congregation and stops you from leading properly.

  • Gestures to indicate entries or quick turnarounds are helpful

  • Remember the congregation will be no more enthusiastic than you look...