This question comes from Joe. I appreciated his desire to grow in the often neglected skill of singing.
How can a pastor-to-be improve his voice to be prepared to lead congregational singing if he is called to a small church where he is the sole staff member?
I took the liberty of asking some of the vocally gifted folks in Sovereign Grace churches how they would answer this question, and here are some of their responses, starting with those that require the least time.
1. Sing at home, taking the words out of the song and just singing on
AH or OH to have the voice open up and get comfortable. Later on, add
2. Practice singing the Psalms in your daily devotion to the Lord.
Keeping it simple and singing more often can help strengthen your
confidence in public.
3. Find a vocal teacher who would get with you for 1 initial lesson in order to find out the main trouble area to work on. Usually, it involves breathing or tension. Ask the vocal teacher for some exercises to work on. You could get with this teacher once every 3 months (or once a month, if time permits) to see how you’re making progress.
4. Get the “Complete Warm-up” CD from The Vocal Coach to work with. I would suggest 20 to 30 minutes a day, minumum, if you want to see progress in your voice. After getting familiar with this CD, there are many others to choose from at this website.
5. Take a voice class at a community college or some applied voice lessons for a semester. Getting an honest assessment on ways to improve your voice will be a blessing to all you serve. It is typically helpful to have someone else bring instruction and observation for 30 minutes each week then go home to practice daily with warm-ups, good body alignment (posture), and learning some basic skills of deep breathing, breath support, breath control, projection, vowel placement and resonance.
6. If you want to get the church involved, set up a Saturday morning seminar on the topic of congregational singing and ask the church members to attend, young and old alike. Invite someone who is gifted in vocal training to come and serve by teaching the congregation a few basic principles of singing together. When the pastoral vision for congregational singing is imparted, coupled with good vocal production habits, it helps everyone enjoy one of the great privileges we have as
a result of the Gospel: singing God’s praises together.
The only thought I’d add is nowhere in Scripture does God imply that leading congregational worship requires a solo voice that’s better than everyone else’s. If that were true, I would have lost my job years ago. Our responsibility is to lead the congregation in singing, not to have them simply admire our voice. However, knowing something about vocal technique can help us sing louder, easier, and longer, as well as make it a more pleasant experience for those around us. It’s shortsighted to think that it doesn’t make any difference how we sing. It’s equally foolish to think that worshipping God in spirit and truth depends on it.