This is my favorite thing to hear in the whole entire world: people singing together, without accompaniment, music that moves their hearts. It is my favorite thing to sing and be part of, too.
I’m blessed with a good singing voice, but I used to be a terrible songleader.
I was awkward, I was uncomfortable, I was apologetic, is what I was. I’d been convinced that nobody (except weirdos like me) really liked to sing, nobody wanted to sing, nobody wanted to sing at church, it was just an interruption that made the service take longer. (Y’all can tell I was raised Catholic, right? ;) ) And so I’d get up there feeling like it was my job to get people to do this unpleasant thing in which they had neither interest nor competence. And that’s the message I conveyed with my tone of voice and my body language: Er, excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you, I know you don’t really want to do this, but could you just humor me here and sing along? I’d really appreciate it. And, um, we’re going to do 3 verses instead of only two, ok? er, if you wouldn’t mind too much?
Somewhere along the way I had a change of heart, or an inspiration, or something, I don’t even remember what happened. I became convinced that people did want to sing, they wanted to praise God in song and make a joyful noise and fully participate in every part of the liturgy including the music; but they were just a little awkward and unsure of themselves, and just needed some help and encouragement. My job as song-leader was partly to give them a clear strong voice to follow; but even more, it was to model for them and reflect back to them how it feels and what it looks like to sing songs of prayer and praise to God.
So from the moment I stepped up to the mike, with my whole heart and tone of voice and body I was saying, Good morning! I’m so happy to be here with you today, and to have the honor of helping you sing. Isn’t it wonderful to be here together so we can lift up our hearts and voices to the Lord?
And the best part, seriously, is when I can step back from the mike because nobody needs any help right now, and my voice can just be one among the whole assembly.
People will sing if you let them, if you encourage them, if you help them (that’s why they call it “music ministry”), if you have confidence in them. The gathered church is the Body of Christ: the voice of the assembly is the voice of that Body, and its breath is the Holy Spirit.