When Worship Team Members Are Too Spontaneous and “Free” on Stage

Someone sent me this question the other day. How would you advise her? — Dwayne

“I have a guy I am letting vocal lead a song here and there in the Sunday set. He leads his songs pretty well…I am training him and helping him learn to do vocal cues, signal the band, sing on pitch…etc so he is slowly growing in all this. But during services–while I am leading my designated song or another person on my team is leading their song–this guy will sing “fills” or cue the next part of the song. He doesn’t stay on his vocal line or try to blend with the other vocals. The catcher is he only does this during the actual service never in rehearsal. As you can imagine sometimes this becomes confusing to the band, to my other vocals and the congregation–especially when he tries and sings a riff that goes out or tune or out of his range. (I have had complaints) It is distracting. I just feel like he is going into his own personal worship sometimes and forgetting where he is. I have not ever experienced this with my other vocal leads…there has never been a problem in communication to them …so I know there is a training issue with him and somehow I am not communicating in a way he is understanding. SO I guess my question is how can I coach him? He is somewhat sensitive like all of us can be. Have you ever experienced this and do you have any ideas or ways of communicating to him that could help me encourage and build him up but also correct and train him?” — Sarah

In a case like Sarah’s, here’s what I recommend:

1. Group teach. Use a new song you are introducing for the first time to them. Say “Ok everyone, sew-in-sew is going to sing the lead part on this new song.The rest of us are NOT the leader on this song. We are just the backups. Our job is NOT to stand out, but rather to blend in and support in the background. Thus we must sing only our rehearsed part, and we must be sure we are not as loud as the leader is. Does everyone understand why this is important?” Make sure they all acknowledge it and act as though they agree–especially your challenging person(s).
2. Reinforce. Now that you’ve carefully explained what you need and WHY, you must reinforce that. As you rehearse, look for a time or two when you can pause and say, “for me, I’m tempted to add an extra line in right there. And I’m sure I’m going to want to sometimes during the actual services. But I can’t. And WE can’t. Why? Because that could distract and interfere with what the one leading the song feels led to do. Remember, our job is to be background vocalists.”
3. Teach the scriptural principles. There are a couple biblical principles that need to be taught and understood here. First, God is our audience. Thus, Our rehearsal times are worship services too. We shouldn’t wait until we get on stage on Sunday to “feel led” to do some add-in part. And how we practice something is how we should do it on Sunday–as much as possible. God is able and wants to lead us in advance of Sunday as we prepare and worship in our rehearsals. Second, esteem others higher than ourselves. It’s called submission and humility to respect others and willingly fade into the background. This is being a servant to our fellow singers on stage. There can only be one leader leading any given song. And we must yield to what that leader feels led to do. Our role is to do what we rehearsed in advance, so the leader knows what to expect from us. Think about it, if you were leading a song, wouldnt you want to know for sure if someone else is going to repeat a phrase or do an obligato part? If you don’t know in advance, then you can end up confused and distracted from leading, can’t you? And so does the congregation! You might even get a little frustrated, making it hard for you to personally worship. Let’s honor those who are leading by doing the song as we rehearsed it. That will actually end up giving more opportunity of freedom to the leader to follow the Spirit himself.
4. Apply these principles to the bigger picture. Say, “During the services on Sundays, there is one main leader–besides our pastor–who is in charge of the whole music time. And between songs, that person is the default speaker and seque person. Your job is to listen and support the main leader by remaining quiet and in the background. Now, just so happen, I’m the main leader in most services–lucky for you (smile)! That means giving me that same level of support and respect as I would you, if you were the main leader during the service.”
5. Repeat, repeat, repeat. One time will not be enough to curb this problem and get through to your challenging person(s). There are some deeper beliefs and habits inside him that took years to form about this. Thus, expect it to take some time and much prayer and patience with him. You will have to gently but firmly continue to remind him or her of what you said and why. Do it immediately. For example, the next time that person “goes off” during a service, then immediately after the service take a moment and explain why that’s not normally a good thing. Suggest that it might have better if he or she had been a bit more restrained. Be sure to it in a very positive and encouraging manner. Don’t act upset or defensive about it. Rather say, “We’re on the same team, and I so appreciate you wanting to be a team player.”

How would you advise Sarah? What would you add or subtract from what I wrote her about it? Please leave a comment. Thanks!


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