Comment from Vocal Coach Chris Beatty: My guest author for this blog is one worth hearing, in words and music . Jamie Harvill is not only the author of Ancient of Days, Firm Foundation and many more popular worship songs. He is a pastor and highly experienced worship leader, guitarist, singer and one of my favorite worship leaders. If you go to Jamie’s site at jamieharvill.com you can take advantage of his summer Online-and-phone training classes for songwriters and worship leaders.
When interviewed for a magazine a few days ago I was asked the question, “What would you say are the top three priorities for worship leaders?” My answers are simple but I believe that if heeded and practiced, they will bring fruit to your worship leading experience. My suggestions are based on the teaching of Jesus from Matthew 22:37-40 when He was asked what He thought was the greatest commandment:
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (NIV)
1. Love God. This seems obvious at first but it is a commandment from Jesus. Loving God in every area of our life is our greatest testimony. When we have a passion for God in work, when we play, when times are smooth and when they are rocky, when we are with our families and our guard is down, our passion for God is obvious and it is contagious when others see us living what we lead.
2. Love people. We must live a singular life when we lead people. We cannot be one way with our close friends and then another with those we lead at church. If we lead by influence (and this, in my opinion, is the only way to lead), and we love and respect people–stopping to listen to their story and showing care and concern for them–they will follow us. A true leader is one who never has to force people to follow. If you find yourself coercing others to follow, you are not a leader. People will follow your leadership if you care for them.
3. Bring excellence. My pastor always encourages our team to bring our “A” game each service. We have five services each weekend and it can be easy to “phone-one-in” if we are not careful.
The best way for me to bring my best is to, first, be prepared. I believe proper preparation for our worship leading brings rest. I am relaxed. This, in turn, helps my team and the congregation to be relaxed (people have a hard time focusing on God when you are fumbling around as the leader).
Second, it helps to be focused. I try to train my heart and mind to zero-in on the task at hand for the hour or so before I lead. One tool I use to help me with this is to put a cheat-sheet (notes, keys changes, chord changes, arrangements, etc.) on the floor next to my mic stand so I can look down and find my bearings, if needed, as I proceed through the worship service.
Third, I think rehearsal is so important. I can hear you saying a collective, “DUH!” right about now! We have rehearsals on Tuesday nights so we then have a few days to study the rehearsal CD before we arrive back on Saturday afternoon to lead the services. Two services Saturday and two or three Sunday in multiple sanctuaries. It’s a busy place.
I find that all of these preps bring rest and there is no better way to lead others. When we have a passion for God and people while knowing where we are going in worship, and how we are going to get there, others will gladly follow!
I have many more things to say that I can’t write here in this one post. So, if you want to learn more, I want to give you an opportunity to join me as I am starting two new web-based schools offering virtual classrooms and personal coaching. I will be the main instructor for both tracks. One track is to train and strengthen the next generation of songwriters for the church called Song Schools. The other course, Worship Consultants, is for churches and worship leaders who want to improve leadership skills, team-building and worship services. You can find out more details about each course at songschools.com, worshipconsultants.com and jamieharvill.com. Classes start in mid-July.