Posted by Tim Cole on 15 July 2013

One of the most awkward situations for any worship leader is when you have someone singing in your band (or who wants to sing in your band) who just can't sing. How do you deal with a situation like that? Should you just ignore it? Is it the loving thing to do to let anyone who wants to just "have a go" whether they have any gifting or not?

To begin with, let me say, that it's my view that anyone involved in leading worship should have a certain amount of skill/gifting. There's not actually much in the Bible specifically about the practicalities of leading worship, but one of the verses that can be directly applied in this situation is 1 Chronicles 15:22: "Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it." That gives us some clear guidance that those involved in leading worship need to be gifted musically. I know not everyone will agree with me, and some may say that it is the heart that matters more than talent. I totally agree that the heart matters but you need a good balance of sufficient gifting and correct motivation. I wouldn't want someone leading worship if their heart was clearly not right, and if their only goal was to get attention for themselves, but equally I wouldn't want someone leading who really couldn't sing or played their instrument badly. I don't think it's too much to ask to find people who have both skill and character and I think that that is the Biblical approach.

So what you do about the person who wants to sing in your worship band but is a really bad singer? Well, I think a lot of times “prevention is better than cure”. I make it clear to everyone who wants to be involved in a team I'm leading that there is a certain level of skill that is required. Anyone wishing to join the team needs to audition and demonstrate to me that they have a certain level of ability. Now, don't think I treat this like a TV talent contest; I never tell anyone they are “terrible" or “can't sing", I always try to be constructive, helpful and loving. If the person really can not sing well, I sometimes suggest that they consider going and getting some lessons for a few months before coming back and trying again. In my experience, people who are serious usually do that and most often improve sufficiently to be included as part of the team. Generally speaking I have found that those who are just looking for a quick way to “get in the spotlight" won't bother to go to the effort of going and getting lessons. That means the process often has the benefit of not only making sure that those involved in the team are skilful, but also that they are going to be committed, have a heart for worship and a willingness to improve and learn. Those are the kind of people you want, not people who lack talent and are essentially attention seeking. Those sorts of people can and almost always do cause a multitude of problems.

But, I hear you say, isn't the "loving thing" to let anyone who wants to “have a go” even if they are a terrible singer? I actually think that's the least loving thing you can do. Most people can tell when someone is a really terrible singer and by putting them on a stage you are potentially exposing them to public embarrassment and ridicule. Most people who can't sing end up finding out eventually and it's a lot more hurtful for them to find out by overhearing an unkind comment and to feel that everybody has been laughing at them behind their back. I think the loving thing to do is not to put a person into that situation to start with, but it does mean that you, as the leader, will need to exercise courage and tact, and potentially have a difficult conversation.

Remember, our gifting is not what matters to God, and in dealing with situations like this above everything else, as a worship leader, you need to treat people as you would want to be treated. Always deal with these things in a respectful and loving way.

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