My name is Emily Ward and I have the absolute honor of leading worship as a background vocalist at the Stone for the past 5 years. My journey of singing started when I was very little and after I gave my life to Jesus, I knew that I wanted to use music for Him. I started leading worship during my senior year of high school and not only fell more in love with Jesus, but fell more in love with music and with worshiping God through music. It has been 15 years of serving and worshiping Jesus through music and I have learned so much throughout these years. One of the things I love as a background vocalist is getting to serve the worship leader. For me, this looks like a variety of different things and let me be the first to say that I am, by no means, perfect in these things, and certainly do not have it all figured out. These are things I keep in mind and I ask the Spirit to do in and through me.
Know your role.
As a BGV this is exactly what you are. A BACKGROUND vocalist. You are coming alongside the worship leader to enhance his melodies with harmonies, or strengthen his melodies with some gang vocals. But you are not the “leader”. You submit, you follow, you try and not be noticed. You should never come in to a set and do your own thing and overshadow whoever is leading. There are definitely times where certain songs will have instrumental breaks where there is freedom to ad-lib, or there may be certain areas where adding some extra parts would be cool. Have freedom to do that, but don’t go crazy. Check with the worship leader to see if what you are doing is ok. DO NOT be distracting and check your heart. Are you ad-libbing to be noticed or because the Spirit in you is leading you to sing? Your worship leader should never have to worry about what you are doing. Know your role and own it.
There are times when the worship leader has something specific in mind for a certain section of a song. Trust the Spirit in him to lead, and submit to his leadership. For example, there may be a section of a song that he wants everyone to sing melody so it has a “gang vocal” feel. Instead of fighting back and saying you have some killer harmony parts that would be better, submit and trust he knows what he is doing. If he doesn’t know what he is doing…trust the Spirit in him, pray, and submit anyway. God has put him in the leadership position, not you. Hopefully you have or will develop a relationship with the worship leader where you can voice ideas or thoughts, but ultimately you submit to his leadership.
One of my favorite things to do for the worship leader I am leading with is to pray for him. Pray for his heart to be right with Jesus, pray for him to feel the nudging of the Spirit and for him to listen and obey the Spirit’s leading, pray for his voice, pray for his instrument, pray for his speaking, pray for the new songs he just memorized and for the words to be there, pray when something goes wrong and for him to stay focused and to keep leading. Pray that he would worship Jesus fully and humbly. Pray the week leading up to the service, pray during the service, pray, pray, pray!
Help & Be Aware
Help the worship leader out with little things like checking lyrics with the production team, making sure stuff is picked up on stage, and making sure they have water. Anything you can do to lighten their load, do it, but don’t be annoying. Give them space. Give them room. They have so much on their minds. Again..be in the background.
Be aware of what’s happening on stage. Be ready to move a mic stand, push the tuner pedal if they forget, untangle a guitar cord, make sure their cheat sheet of lyrics is where it should be, etc.
Know Your Boundaries
As a woman surrounded by dudes, you have to know boundaries. The guys I lead with are my brothers and I love them dearly, but because I am a woman, I can only get so close. That is HARD! But necessary. Know what is appropriate and what is not. Honor them as your brothers in Christ in how you act, how you dress, the way you respond, what you share, and how you interact with them. Another way I love to serve the worship leaders is loving their wives well! (If they are married.) I have absolutely LOVED getting to know their wives and getting to encourage and love on them. It has been such a joy to my heart as I serve alongside these men in ministry.