If you have been singing for any length of time, you have probably discovered that nerves can pop up unexpectedly. This is something that took me by surprise a number of years ago. My sister and I have been singing together in churches basically since before we can remember, and as a young child, I was never nervous! Singing in front of people was second nature, and I could get up and do it without any apprehension.
However, as I became a teenager, I started to understand what people meant when they talked about having “stage fright”. An unfamiliar tremor could be heard in my voice, and sometimes I even felt like my hand was shaking when I would hold a microphone. Because I was nervous, I couldn’t vocalize to my full potential. It happened particularly when I was singing in front of my own church, in front of the people I knew best.
Eventually, I got over that season of nerves, and did not have problems again until the past few years. This time, however, it wasn’t just in front of people I knew well, but it would happen at random in other churches. This was very frustrating to me, because here I had been singing in churches for most of my life, and now I felt that my nerves were taking over my music to the point that it might be a distraction from the message of the song. There were even a few times that I messed up the words in a very noticeable way…talk about embarrassing!
As I began to look closely at this problem, I determined to do more of three things. The more I did these things, the more I overcame my nerves. Even now, there are days I struggle with it (again, at my home church. I have no clue why, since I’m sure they love me more than any other church whether I sound good or not!), but things have gotten better.
Three ways to overcome stage fright:
Practice, practice, practice until you (and maybe everyone around you) can sing the piece of music by memory! I accompany myself on the piano when I sing so I have started practicing without the music in front of me unless it is a complicated arrangement. This forces me to NOT rely on the words in front of me as a crutch, but rather to be so immersed in the music that I can sing the words directly from my heart.
Colossians 3:23 says “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” If I am going to sing for the Lord, I want to sing to the best of my ability. The cultivation of musical skills does not happen overnight. It requires dedication, fine-tuning, and most of all, time. I have come to feel that it is better for me not to sing if I have not spent sufficient time in practice. There are going to be exceptions, of course, when you are called upon to sing without much notice, but those instances won’t be so daunting if you make practice your frequent habit.
The more familiar I am with what I am singing, the more confident I am to sing it in front of a group. I have found that the times when I was the most nervous were the times when I had the least time to practice. Maybe the reason I didn’t have stage fright as a child is that I had all the time in the world to practice back then!
You might be thinking that this is the same as practice, but there is a little more to it. As a church singer, you also need to be prepared in other areas of life. An example of this would be to develop a repertoire of songs that you are completely comfortable with. If you need the music to sing them, take your music to church with you every time you go. You never know when the person who was scheduled to sing will wake up sick, and you may need to stand in the gap.
Another example of preparedness is to take care of your body. As Christians, the Holy Spirit dwells in us and works through us when we are willing vessels. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” We are representing our Heavenly Father with His Spirit dwelling in us, and this is going to feel like an even graver responsibility when we are standing on a church platform to deliver a message through song. If we have not prepared our bodies by getting proper rest, avoiding sugary foods and drinks (which are harmful to our voices!), and living a sanctified life throughout the week, we are not going to be at our best, physically or spiritually.
Prayer might seem like an obvious no-brainer, but I am ashamed to say that there have been times that I did not seek the Lord before I sang in church. Remembering that I am singing for His glory alone is a vital part of my music ministry. He controls my voice, my health, and everything else related to serving through song. Talking to God about it beforehand and asking His Spirit to guide my song selection is the key to blessing others with the gifts He has given me.
Practice, prepare, and pray. These are lessons that I have learned through the years and have recommitted to. The more I dedicate myself to these three things, the less afraid I am to sing in front of people.