Marks of a Healthy and Effective BGV
If you sing on a worship team, you likely serve as a "background vocalist" on a semi-regular
basis. Depending on your background, team, church, etc., that can be a surprisingly complex role
to play. I hope to help you feel better equipped to serve in a musically and spiritually healthy
way by sharing some key areas to examine as you consider what will free you up to lead well.
That's right; I said lead!
You are a leader, regardless of whether or not you are "leading" a song.
As a singer on stage, you are entrusted with a platform that can significantly impact the body you
serve. That goes for your time onstage and offstage. Healthy leadership starts before you ever
step in front of a microphone.
1. Self-leadership is an essential piece of the puzzle. So many people want the influence or recognizability of the stage without putting in the effort to cultivate a humble, faithful heart offstage. This means getting in the Word daily––submitting your heart to Jesus in the secret place no one else sees. Self-leadership also means being disciplined in the way you prepare. I am so guilty of blowing this off in the name of "busyness" or the mindset that my role "matters less." It's okay to acknowledge that life gets in the way sometimes, but we don't need to make a habit of winging it. And we certainly shouldn't diminish the value of the role we steward! God's people work hard because it honors Him, not because it makes us important.
2. Modeling worship is another vital element of BGV leadership. The congregation is looking to you for cues – not only what to sing but how. The Bible is direct in its commands about worship:
John 4:24 – "worship in spirit and truth"
Psalm 95:6 – "worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord"
Psalm 100:1-2 – "make a joyful noise to the Lord...come into his presence with singing"
Psalm 63:4 – "in your name I will lift up my hands"
Psalm 149:3 – "praise his name with dancing"
Your job is to teach the body to worship God in a way that brings Him honor and joy! That won't
look identical from person to person, but you have the biblical framework and the positional
visibility to be a leader of worshippers.
I want to make this crystal clear when it comes to musicianship: talent and musicianship are never
our top priority above spiritual health. Ever. But it does matter what we do and how we do
it! Our skill and thoughtfulness have the power—when we're submitted to the Spirit—to remove
distraction and add beauty that draws people to Jesus.
When/how/what you add as a BGV makes a big difference. To be effective musically, you must consider dynamics and color
your primary responsibilities. Here are some straightforward dos
and don'ts that may provide helpful guidance:
1. Try to avoid singing every note of every song from beginning to end (unless your team has asked you to do so for gang vocal purposes). Instead, choose tasteful moments to add unison/harmony. That will often mean waiting until the chorus to jump in and dropping out for quieter moments like down bridges/choruses.
2. Try to avoid standing out tonally. You don't want your voice to overpower or clash with the leader. Instead, blend like a champ! Make it your goal to practically disappear when you're singing a harmony—to be more of a feeling than you are a sound. Consider how you might match the leader's vowel sounds and phrasing; consider how to mimic their volume and tone. The hope is to add shape/color/dynamic in a complementary way.
3. Try to avoid adlibbing in every open space. Adding too much can become a distraction and make it hard for the leader to feel the freedom to lead. Instead, find specific
moments when adding something would be helpful and tasteful—finding just the right
time to jump into an open space can add to the beauty of a moment. If singing a ton of
extra stuff is what's most worshipful for you, you can also simply take a step back from the mic and get after it. Above all, listen to the Spirit when He prompts you!
Unequivocally, the heart is the most significant piece of serving as a background vocalist. It's
what God cares about most. He doesn't examine your giftedness; He examines your heart (1
Samuel 16:7). He doesn't ask for "burnt offerings;" He wants your devotion (Psalm 51:16-17).
This bleeds into every part of your ministry!
1. Humility is essential to the life of every believer, but it is vital to those who use their talents on a visible platform. The Enemy hates when believers walk humbly and freely in their giftedness—it makes them dangerous to him. So he seeks every opportunity he can find to pull your focus, primarily using pride and insecurity (two sides of the same destructive coin).
The key is self-forgetfulness. Singing and worship are simply not about us. They're about Him.
When we remember that, we are free to lead effectively and with great joy. When we focus
inward, we open ourselves up to discontentment, self-doubt, division, and a whole slew of other
problems. That means that when we don't get to lead the song we'd hoped to, or when we don't
get scheduled as often as we'd like or for the ministry we'd like to serve in, we remind our hearts:"This is about Jesus. I am here to serve Him and His Bride."
When you take joy in knowing that God has sovereignly placed you exactly where you are to
glorify Him, the Enemy loses a foothold, and your ministry bears fruit.
2. Servant-heartedness is an extension of humility—it's the lifestyle that flows from the humble heart. The servant-hearted BGV is the person who is willing, flexible, and unhindered by preference. This person has "yes" at the tip of their tongue (but is just as happy to give a "no" when it means opportunity for another person or when it means avoiding unhealthy burnout). This person seeks what is best for the ministry above what is most exciting. This person is not burdened by their desires, whether that be song choice, specific parts they'll sing, what equipment they'll use, what ministry they'll serve in, and on and on. They genuinely want what is best for the team and the body. I am convicted even as I write this because I know I fail here. It is a daily discipline to die to ourselves in every area of life, including the use of our gifts.
Ultimately, what I want you to hear is this: you matter to God. That means you don't need your
gifts or a platform to earn you value—it has already been offered to you in Jesus. You can be free knowing you have everything you need in Him. So go and serve like the beloved child you