One big part of developing artists at CCC is long term training. We use many different methods, including just providing them the ability to share with each other what they have learned over the years.
Here is an example we just used:
Hey CCC Worship Leaders,
About a month ago I sent out an E-mail with two questions for all Worship Leader.
1) How do I spiritually and prayfully prepare myself to lead others in worship in the week before I am on?
2) What practices do you use to memorize lyrics in the week before you worship lead?
Thank you all for your responses and I hope these help us all better prepare for the biggest responsibility we all have; leading others to see Jesus.
My one suggestion is when we have a song that has a series of quick 'one-liners', I try to remember the first word of each line and often I'll use an acronym. If I can remember the first word, the rest of the line comes to me. Like in Hosanna:
HEAL my heart and make it clean
OPEN up my eyes to the things unseen
SHOW me how to love like you have loved me
BREAK my heart for what is yours
EVERYTHING I am for your kingdom's cause
AS I walk from earth into eternity
Silly, but the acronym is H-O-S-B-E-A.
As soon as I get done with one week, on Monday morning I begin to listening to the next weekend’s songs. I listen to them every morning when I am out walking with my iPod, in the car, at work, etc. You have to get past memorizing the words early in the week, so you can concentrate on what the words mean and how to apply them to your life before you ever hit stage to Worship Lead. If I was ever to get on stage and I was still dealing with memorization, I am not ready to lead people to God’s feet in Worship. In the same way that the Bible talks about “hiding His word in your heart”, you personally must “internalize” the words you are singing into your own life, before you lead others in those words.
I always start with the chorus. The chorus usually contains the heart of the song’s content and is the easiest to memorize because it repeats. After that, I write the words for the verses down on paper over and over (especially the difficult parts). That helps a ton to remember them.
I read through the Big Idea and pray how God will use it to touch our lives. I ask God how He wants me to communicate the song and any transitions between songs. When we received the related scriptures, I would read and pray over those. I also pray for God to remove any barriers that would keep people from coming to the services that weekend. I daily confess my shortfalls so my relationship with God is strong and unimpeded. I also pray for the rest of the worship team, especially if someone is taking a new step in leading worship.
I always find it really helpful to meditate and reflect on the lyrics of the songs. This way, when I'm leading others in worship, I know that I'm not just leading them in a song, but I'm leading them in much more than that. It's prayer and praises that we are offering up together to God. And for me, when I focus on the lyrics as a heartfelt prayer, then I feel more personally connected to the songs, which then helps me in leading others to sing them. Then, in the days leading up to, and especially on the day of the service, I pray like crazy that God will help me to remember why we are doing what we are doing, and remind myself that He is in control and offer myself up to God and ask him to use me fully to speak to all who come in to service for that weekend. This also helps me a lot with my nerves, knowing and reminding myself constantly that God will be with me the entire time.
As for memorizing lyrics, I just try and get the music as soon as I possibly can and listen to it in the car all the time, so that by the time the weekend comes, it's second nature. It's also helpful for me to sing it without the CD or music just to make sure I really know it! Also, I have found that after meditating on the lyrics and giving them meaning, it's easier to remember them. This really helps me because when I'm not worried about remembering the lyrics during service, it helps me continue to stay focused on the meaning of the song.
I don't know if any of this will be helpful to anyone else, but it has been for me. I'm anxious to hear what other people do and get some more tips!!! Great idea guys!!
Can't say that I have a routine for this one, besides my regular Bible reading/praying routine. I probably need to work on this area a little more. Ok - I definitely need to! I tend to pray to be the least distracting while leading worship so that praising God is at the heart of the worship that takes place.
I listen to the CD 2-3 weeks prior as I can. After learning the tune fairly well from just in the car, I print the words (about a week before) and start looking at them as I sing the songs. A few days before worship leading, I start singing the songs without the CD and wean myself from the printed words. For me, singing without the CD is really key to testing if I know the songs independently. It seems to work pretty well.
Always before I step to the front, I try to think of two things to keep it all in perspective, and to keep me in the flow of a true worship leader who points to God and not myself or anything else:
Think and meditate on who God is - in all his awesome glory, holiness, and bigness.
Think and meditate on who I am - one loved and chosen by God - yet still a sinner saved by grace and a small piece of the fabric.
Prepare to lead - "just put it in God's hands" This can apply to just about anything in life
Learn lyrics - I try to put the song and it's words into a moment of my life. Or a moment in Jesus’ life. Almost like I'm reliving the words. Hosanna for example - "I see the King of glory..." try and actually picture Him on a day where the sun is bursting thru the clouds. "I see a generation rising up..." I picture my kids being this new generation.
One thing I do to help prepare to WL is find out what scripture(s) the song came from. It’s super easy and really helps give a more complete context on what the song’s message is really all about. Then, when you listen to the message and find out WHY we’re singing that song on that particular weekend, it makes it all the more meaningful. For example, if you’re singing “Give Us Clean Hands”, simply go to www.biblegateway.com and type in ‘clean hands’. It will pull up every scripture using those words…and you will soon see that the song comes straight out of Psalm 24. This is also a good lead-in to help set up the song during the service.
Listen, listen, listen. I usually take my practicing with me in the car-the more I listen, the easier the words and form are to remember.
Here's a trick I use with my students a lot: start from the middle or near the end of a song when practicing. Then add more in as you get stronger. Otherwise the songs tend to be lopsided--the beginning is awesome, the end not so much.
Find tricks within the surrounding parts to help you find your way. For instance, if my first note or phrase is really tricky, I will listen to see if I can hear it in the bass part, or the electric guitar. Sometimes one of the instruments plays my exact phrase right before I sing it--how easy!
Prayer and when singing the praise songs I worship with God alone in practice. It is making the songs my own prayer to God.
I try to commit the lyrics to long term memory- that means learning lyrics long before the worship weekend. I also use for short term memory imagery. Picture what is happening in the lyrics as if it were happening when I sing it....example- "I see the King of Glory, coming on the clouds with fire..."
I sing verse for verse, if I make a mistake I do not keep going in practice but return to the beginning until the rough spot is memorized and I can get past it.
Since songs have their own rhythm and rhyme - I try to focus on memorizing the rhyming words to help with what is coming up in the next verse-
Sing in the car during commuting to work and home. Turn the music down so I can not hear the lead singer on CD but just the basic flow of music.
I have the CD in my car for memorization and it really helps me to see the order of the song on paper (ex. verse chorus bridge). I do a final Saturday night practice. I feel like I sing the songs in my sleep and it helps me solidify them if I practice right before bed and review them in the morning.
As far as spiritual prep one of my main goals is that I get on the same page with where God is going in the service so I can get on board with Him. Reading the Big Idea info really helps with that as far as getting direction for how God is moving that morning.
My biggest prayer for myself is for rest. Sunday mornings are long and tiring so sleep is huge.
First, you absolutely have to know what your learning style is, either visual, auditory etc.
When a song is exceptionally wordy, long or just plain old confusing, memorize the verses to how you will move on stage. i.e., the first verse I will sing on the left side and then move to the right for the second, etc.
When getting tongue-tied on certain phrases, use word association or repeat just the phrase 30 times while walking around the house.
If the next line to a song is not coming so easy, I always put the last word of the previous line and the first word to the next line together and walk around just saying those two words. It helps when you are on stage and the mind goes blank.
Wow, that's a tough question.
In terms of learning lyrics, I would say repetition is key. Keep repeating a phrase over and over again until it sticks. Also, sometimes image association is helpful - like being able to visualize objects that help you remember the words.
As for actually leading worship, I think one of the biggest challenges for any worship leader is being yourself. I think it's important to let your own personality come through when leading worship, rather than becoming a carbon copy of other worship leaders you see. Avoid stock phrases if possible, and instead, speak from your heart. Even if it takes you awhile to figure out what exactly that means, being yourself will put the congregation at ease, help them connect to you as a person as well as a leader, and ultimately allow them to worship more freely.
Hope this helps, sorry it took so long to get back to you.