What’s your personal process in learning a new song?
Do you listen to it a few times to hear the lead vocal and harmonies? Do you listen multiple times to isolate each instrument and learn the instrumental parts? Do you listen and focus on the overall feel—the tempo, dynamics, and groove?
Most of us listen to a song more than once before we’re comfortable playing or singing it. As a team you probably play it together at least once or twice (possibly more) before you launch that new song during a service.
So why do we assume that the congregation will be able to learn it quickly and easily and then immediately participate the first time they sing it? We foolishly wonder why they just stand there while we’re leading it. For most of the congregation, learning a new song can be slightly uncomfortable.
Here are some steps you can follow to make the process of learning a new song easier for the congregation.
Step One — Introduce it as a piece of special music.
You could tell them it’s a new song that you will be teaching them in the coming weeks, and then sing it for them during the offering or as special music if your church usually has a time when someone sings or plays and everyone else listens.
Step Two — Teach them the new song strategically.
The congregation feels comfortable in singing when they are familiar with a song. When you sing a new song with them for the first time, it can be helpful to sing it after a song that they know well. Then once you’ve taught them the new song, sing another song that they know well.
When you are singing the new song for the first time with the congregation, don’t just play the standard (recorded) arrangement; teach them the song. Sing verse one, then sing it again, then sing the chorus two or three times, then sing verse two and perhaps sing that again, then sing the chorus. Vocally cue them for the bridge, and sing through it twice, then back to the chorus.
Step Three — Place the new song in the worship set for the following week’s service, and again place it between two songs that the congregation knows well.
Step Four — Wait a week or two and put it in the set list again.
These four steps are practical things that you can do to actually lead worship. It’s your responsibility to lead the congregation in worship, but you can’t lead if they aren’t following. And they won’t follow if they don’t know what to do. So become an effective worship leader by creating opportunities for the congregation to learn and to participate. They will be blessed as you worship God together.