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Friday, October 21, 2011

Worship Leaders: How to Help the Singer with “Stage Fright”

Working with small music groups in ministry is a joy and a challenge. There is an immense amount of joy in being part of the spiritual growth and encouragement to believers as well as an instrument in sharing the message of the Gospel through music. At the same time, we realize that we are working with volunteers who might have some experience musically, but very few actually have professional musical training. One of the most common problems that I have found with these volunteers is the singer with stage fright, being shy or being overly nervous when he or she has to sing solo in front of a group. How can we help these who are involved in the ministry to overcome the anxiety that can hamper their ability to function effectively? Allow me to share five things that I have found to helpful and trust that they will be helpful to you as well.

1. Realize that our worth comes from what Christ has done in our lives, not from any abilities that we might have. We live in a performance based culture where human worth is based on how much talent one might have or how well one might perform. The value of the individual is equated with his output. One of the problems with this line of reasoning is that we become valuable only as long as we are useful or more useful than others. Such a pragmatic view sees those that have little talent, old, disabled, etc., as less than valuable and are a burden on society. They really have little, if any, real value.

When Christ comes into our lives, He gives us eternal life, forgiveness, and true worth based on His own nature and character. Our value comes from what He has done in and through our lives, and we are freed from cultural limitations and expectations that defines our worth. Whether I can sing as good as someone else, or play an instrument as well as someone else doesn't really matter; what really matters is who God says I am: a child of His. I no longer have to compare myself to others to see if I measure up, because my audience is God, Himself, and He has accepted me through His Son. We have no reason to fear not measuring up to the standards of someone because we have already been accepted through Christ Jesus.

2. Be well prepared. There are no substitutes for the hours of practice. Preparation includes many things: spiritual preparation, mental preparation, as well as the preparation that comes from hours of correct practice. Singers that are nervous because they don't know their music from lack of rehearsal have a reason to be nervous. However, adequate preparation can help alleviate those insecurities. Distractions can come at inopportune moments and the singer who is the least bit unprepared will forget words, etc.

One thing that I have found helpful is to have the person sing in front of a mirror. Although it may be uncomfortable at first for the singer, singing in front of a mirror is generally enough distraction to show how well they know the music and is good practice in how to deal with distractions as they come.

3. Sing small sections as a solo first. Before giving a big solo to an inexperienced singer, help them ease into a solo role by letting them sing a short solo as part of a group song. This can help build confidence burden of being responsible for an entire song.

4. When the singer is going to sing solo, especially for the first time, let them practice in the place where they will be singing, but with no one else around. Let them get used to the area and begin to feel comfortable being out in front and not just part of a group. This may take several rehearsals for them to really begin to relax.

5. Encourage, encourage, encourage!
You will be helping and evaluating them during these practice sessions and it is better to find three things to compliment before you even mention one thing they need to correct.

A word of caution. If the Worship Leader cannot find anything to praise them on, then he or she is responsible in at least two ways: [1] they chose the person to do the solo in the first place and should have known better, and [2] they need more training in working with volunteers.

Dr. Frank Stovall, an outstanding voice teacher at Southwestern Seminary while I was a student there once said in class, “if you are teaching a student voice and cannot find anything on which to compliment the student, you have no business teaching voice.” I have never forgotten it. We as “teachers” may have issues of our own that need to be corrected, such as pride, or trying to prove to the person that we know more than they, etc., and need to be more sensitive to the needs of those with which God has called us to work. Look at the posture, their breathing, their enthusiasm, their attitude, etc., but find some things that they are doing and encourage them.

I trust that these suggestions will go a long way to help you when working with volunteer singers, and that God will be glorified in your work and ministry.

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