Why Memorize Worship Songs?
Over the years I’ve had a number of conversations about why it’s important for worship leaders and worship team musicians to memorize their songs. One worship leader I spoke with thought it wasn’t right to memorize a song, another didn’t understand why it made any difference. Just a few weeks ago I spoke with someone who was just beginning to see the benefits of memorizing songs.
My journey to memorize the songs each Sunday took an abrupt turn when we started using my iPad to run clicks and tracks. I had been slowly working on memorizing more songs and was using my iPad for the charts when all of the sudden…my charts were gone! Turns out it was a huge blessing and I’m a much better worship leader for it.
1) Play With Confidence Not From Fear
We’ve all been there. We don’t know a song as well as we should and come service time our eyes are glued to the chart. We're only barley thinking a measure ahead of what we’re playing. The look of fear on our face is painfully visible. We’re just thinking “Don’t mess up! Don’t mess up!” This is no fun. This is no good. It’s hard to honor the Lord or serve our Church when we’re playing from a place of fear.
These next three points are all about mental capacity. We only have so much of it. When we’re consumed with playing the right thing we don’t have any capacity left for the things that really matter.
2) Engage With Your Congregation
When you memorize your songs you’re able to look up and engage. You can lead your congregation visibly. You can get a sense of how your Church family is being lead in the worship time.
3) Engage With Your Worship Leader
A strong musician is looking towards the leader often, picking up on visual cues for dynamics and sections. If your eyes are buried in your music stand you can’t do this effectively. Plus, what happens when the leader says “Lets sing that chorus again”? Are you franticly searching your chart for the right chords or effortlessly gliding into the correct section?
4) Engage With The Lord
Although the times of leading your church in worship are primarily a time to serve they are also a time to personally worship. A team that is personally and visually worshipping is leading and encouraging their congregation in the most powerful way.
All of the above reasons for memorizing songs apply to the worship leader as well as the team musician. But there is another level of application and benefit for the leader.
After memorizing all the songs in your worship set week after week you’ll begin to build an internal library of songs you can pull from at any time. Churches vary widely in how spontaneous they are in dropping songs mid worship service but there are are all kind of environments when this is helpful.
1) Sunday Services
Two Sundays ago I was listening to our Pastor teach during the final service of the day. During the earlier services we had closed with an appropriate song but literally 30 seconds before we went back up to close a different song came to mind that would be even more appropriate. I let the band know and lead it without a problem. It was great.
2) Prayer Gatherings
Through the years I’ve been a part of prayer gatherings large and small where we’ll spend time praying and singing intermittently. If a theme emerges while praying with a group it's wonderful to sing that theme in a song. The more songs you know the better. I was recently leading worship in one of these meetings and several people prayed for faith and boldness. I lead the bridge portion of the song “Oceans” in response.
3) Small Groups
Sometimes it’s just good to bust out the guitar or gather around the piano and seek God. But what if you haven’t planned a set? What if you didn’t bring any music? If you’ve memorized enough songs then no music is no problem.
In my next post I’ll share HOW you can begin memorizing songs but for now I hope understanding why it's important has been helpful.
How has memorizing songs helped you as a musician or leader?
How has not memorizing songs hindered you?
I’d love to hear. Share in the comments below!