At my church, we record each weekend’s services from start to finish. The sermons are uploaded to the website for downloading and streaming and the music is put on a CD for me to listen back to. No editing, no auto-tuning, no pitch correction, and no overdubbing. Listening back to these CDs is one of the best ways I know of to keep growing as a worship leader.
It keeps you humble
I’m sure none of you ever struggle with this, but sometimes after a service I’m tempted to replay in my head how good I sounded on a certain song, how something I said really came across well, how my glissando on the closing song was awesome, etc. This is pride, in case you’re wondering, and if left unchecked it will lead to major problems. Listening back to a service is one helpful way to keep seeking humility. I realize I didn’t sound so good on a certain song after all, how I could have spoken more articulately, how my glissando sounds totally out of place and distracting, etc.
It’s not a good idea to bash yourself or be overly critical, but a healthy dose of honest self-evaluation will do you a lot of good. It’s also a way of heart-checking yourself each week. Am I drawn to listen to myself sing and/or play a song over and over? That’s a warning sign that God’s glory might have slipped down a few notches on your list of priorities.
It points out your bad habits
I began to realize a few years ago that I had a bad habit of clicking my tongue whenever I said something, probably two or three times per sentence. I also would drag out the last note of a song for waaaay too long, slowly getting more and more flat, creating a sound that I would liken to a plane rapidly losing altitude. I didn’t know I was doing either of these things until I listened back to myself leading worship.
It gives you perspective
In my post on “How to handle the Sunday blues” I mentioned that worship leaders can sometimes dwell on the insignificant after a service (i.e. broken strings, forgotten lyrics, etc.). There have been times after a service when I’ve walked away thinking that we had had a major train wreck on a song, only to listen back later and realize that it wasn’t that big of a deal and we had all maneuvered out of it just fine. When you listen back to the recording of a service after you’re less emotionally invested in it – you’ll be able to more objectively evaluate which issues need to be addressed and which ones can just be forgotten.
Another way it gives you perspective is that you can get a sense of what direction your worship team is headed. I listen back to recordings of us four years ago and realize we’ve come a long way and that we’re headed in a good direction. But perhaps someday I might listen back and realize that we used to be tighter than we are now, and that we’re becoming sloppy. Long term perspective is a must-have when you’re a worship leader.
You never know when you’ll need a record of something
A few years ago I was leading the singing for the Saturday morning session of our men’s retreat. Towards the end I had a strong impression that I should sing a spontaneous/prophetic song over the men, conveying God’s heart of a Father toward them. It wasn’t planned, so it wasn’t written down anywhere. Several men were deeply affected by the song, and later asked me for the words. If we hadn’t been recording, I could have given them a pretty accurate guess of what the words had been. But thankfully, we had been recording the music so this was possible. Most of the time your recordings can just go into a filing cabinet after you’ve listened to them, but every once in a while you might really need them.
It’s good for your sound engineer
A mix straight from the board is hardly ever a good gauge of how it sounded in the room, but it can help point out if there are instruments or vocalists that are consistently too prominent, not prominent enough, nowhere to be heard, if there are issues with microphone placement, etc. If you and your sound engineer can listen back to a service’s recording, I bet he or she will notice some ways they can improve.
If you’re not already recording your services, I’d strongly encourage you to start. It’s not always a pleasant experience, but it will definitely help you grow. At my church we record the services onto a computer and then the sound engineer puts the music on a CD for me, but there are other ways too. Some churches record directly onto a CD, while others still record onto tape-decks. If none of these are options for you, you can purchase hand-held recording devices at most electronics stores. Don’t put it off because you’re afraid of how you might sound. If the congregation has to listen to you every week, you should probably share in the experience too!