One of the challenges every worship leader faces is knowing when to talk and how much to say. My personal preference is to err on the side of saying nothing, but for many, a few words throughout the service helps them engage. On the other hand, too many words make for a very distracting worship time.
Today, I’m proposing there is another way to communicate during worship without stopping the music and talking. Singing. Yep, that’s right. Aren’t we already singing? Yes, but the singing I’m suggesting is a sung version of what you would otherwise say. A spontaneous song. It’s possible to phrase your thoughts in such a way that instead of being an exhortation to the congregation only, it is also a response to God.
Below is a link to an example of what I’m describing from our worship service at The Well. Skip ahead to 35:00 on the play bar if you don’t want to listen to the sermon (which was very good). The spontaneous song starts at 35:39. Listen for the spontaneous chorus (37:07) I use to end the song and help the congregation respond to the message.
What did you think? How would you use this technique?
If you missed my first post on Spontaneous Choruses, you’ll want to check it out. As it was quite the lengthy post, I thought I would wrap up a few details in this one.
When you are first introducing your congregation to spontaneous choruses, don’t try to do too much. Keep the choruses simple and not more than one or two per set. You want them to be interested rather than turned off.
The other thing that you must do is repeat, repeat, repeat. Eight times per new chorus is good. The first two times you sing the chorus all the way through are the writing process. Once the chorus has been written, then your worship team vocalists can join in. If they join in too soon, there is a disaster waiting to happen. Instruct them to join in after you sing the entire chorus two times through, and have them only sing the melody. This helps the congregation learn the chorus well.
After two times through with the worship team singing melody, then the chorus is established and you can introduce harmony. This helps to build the chorus and avoid monotony. Continue to build with instrumentation during the last two repetitions. Of course if the chorus is a real hit, you don’t have to stop after 8 times, but go at least 8 times so that people get familiar enough with the new words and melody to worship.
Here is a breakdown in list form:
Write: Sing chorus 2 times through solo
Establish: Sing chorus 2 times adding vocalists (melody only)
Build: Sing chorus 2-4 times adding harmonies and other instrumentation
End: Sing a name of God
Ending a spontaneous chorus is easy provided the worship team is communicating before and during the worship service. Use a phrase or name of God to signal that you won’t be repeating the chorus. An example chorus, “All our love is to you // You are our reward // All our praise we give you // You’re worth living for”, can be end by singing “You’re worth living for, Jesus”. That addition of the name “Jesus” lets the team know you are ready to end.
One more thing that can really help you do spontaneous choruses well is getting your video projector operator on board. Many worship projection programs have an option for spontaneous text. Have your projector person type the words for the chorus on the spot so the congregation can engage even more easily.
Alright, I’m sure I could find a few more things to say, but we’ll keep this one short!
What are your questions? Would you sing a spontaneous chorus during a worship service?
It sounds like an oxymoron, I know. Still, scheduling a time of spontaneity into the worship service is the best way to make sure it happens if you’re not accustomed to being spontaneous.
So, what do we plan? Certain songs are great launching points for times of free praise. Free praise or spontaneous singing are terms that mean everyone sings their own song to God with their own words at the same time. It can sound chaotic, but most often, it is simply wonderful. An example of a planned spontaneity could look like this:
- Sing to the King
- Sing My Love
- O Praise Him
- Free Praise – Chord progression same as O Praise Him chorus
- Agnes Dei
- Worthy is the Lamb
This way, everyone on the team knows when to expect the free praise and they will not be caught off guard. Eventually, when your team gets really comfortable with free praise, you can then take it out of the plan and just give a vocal cue in the moment whenever it seems timely. To cue, use phrases like “Lift your voice to the Lord”, “Sing with your own words” or “Sing the love song of your heart”.
Getting everyone on board can be a challenge at first, but with the right leadership, people become familiar with the idea and participate joyfully. The best way to lead free praise or spontaneous singing is by example. You as the worship leader and your vocalists should all sing very boldly. We can’t demonstrate timidly because that is what the congregation will do. Having multiple singers on stage actively engaging encourages people to engage also. If only one person is singing loudly, people will tend to listen to that one person.
Before you ever try it in a worship service, you should acclimate your team by practicing in a rehearsal. Find words that are easy to sing spontaneously. They can be simple phrases like “Jesus, we love you” or “Hallelujah”. Try spontaneous singing without instrumentation and with instrumentation. Practice for a really long time (10 minutes or more) until everyone is uncomfortable. The more you push the limits, the easier it becomes. Once the team is ready, then it will be much easier for the congregation to follow.
Do you incorporate free praise into your service? Is it planned or spontaneous?
BGV stands for background vocal, and while it serves a very good purpose in defining roles for most of the music world, I believe we should to step away from that model in worship. Regarding someone as a BGV ignores the potential they have for helping to lead the worship service.
As worship leaders, it is too easy to miss the valuable resource God has given us in our singers. Singers are generally relegated to one of three categories: melody support, harmonies, occasional lead on a particular song. All those are great functions, but still there is more.
To the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight.”
Adopt a team ministry approach to leading worship. Empower the BGVs to step out from the back and release the song, prayer, scripture, or testimony that God gives them during worship. When the team is ministering in this way, we begin to get away from that “programmed” feeling kind of meeting and step into something more genuine and communal.
What about excellence? I know some worship leader right now is freaking out at the thought of turning their singers loose. Here’s the thing, incorporating a team approach to leading does not equal chaos or a lack of boundaries. Rather, clearly communicate expectations and the new boundaries/responsibilities your singers will have. Work on a communication system so that things can still flow smoothly.
In the early stages of transition, things may feel rocky. Don’t give up! Keep talking and working through the problems. Allow for input from your team and congregation. Be open to spontaneity in worship.
What do you think about a team ministry approach to worship leading?