Shelby Rollins on Leading Congregational Singing

Podcast Episode #82

Shelby Rollins joins the podcast to talk congregational singing.


Jason mused over the trajectory between his underwhelming childhood Halloween experience to actually currently living at the Nightmare on Elm Street.  Daniel shared how his family has assimilated the strange holiday into his American lifestyle after coming from a South African perspective.

Worship Leader Interview

Jason asked Shelby how the experience has been so far to create vocals lessons for Worship Artistry.  “It’s been an interesting combination of familiar and unfamiliar,” Shelby said.  She’s excited to combine her experience in creating and teaching vocal parts with video vocal coaching to create Worship Artistry lessons.

Can the congregation sing it?

“There’s such a need for strategy when it comes to vocal arranging. Whether you’ve got one person or 15-20 in a choir, so many songs that have been popular… have become very hard to sing,” Shelby explained.  It can be easy to overcomplicate a song for a congregation, lyrically or melodically, but it’s important to bring along all members of the congregation in the songs and their message within the whole set.  

Writing for your congregation leads to a heart for your congregation.

Engagement of the congregation is more important than recreating a worship leader’s personal experience with a song, and writing for your people can help foster a congregation of worship.  Often songwriters want to write the next hit, but writing for your congregation widens your creative lens and leads to a heart for your congregation.  

Write for your people.

Shelby just returned from a songwriter’s conference and came away with a fresh passion for writing for connection, realizing that you need to be able to pastor your people first and foremost, in order to lead them well as a worship leader.  When writing for your congregation, ask, "how can this be voiced to give them words to sing so that they can sing this in their dark moments and struggles?"

"We are pastors," Jason added. Musicianship is important but it’s secondary to our heart for them. Jason added, “if I have a heart for my people, I’m going to want to write songs for them.”  

Member Mail

“I’m getting involved as the only worship leader at a church plant next year.  I will likely be the only musician/singer to begin with.  The church will be small, around 20 people to start with but I want to be able to bring my best to allow the congregation to come to a place of worship. My question is really in two parts.  First, how would you go about creating a set for that first service?  I would normally choose songs I’ve done in the past, for familiarity, but beyond talking with the pastor, I don’t really know how to proceed.  Is there anything that you would do for a church plant that you wouldn’t normally do on a Sunday morning? Also, how do you begin to build as a team from just myself to eventually, a full, five-piece band so I could make the most of your resources?”                                                        -Cameron

What do we want this culture to be?

Daniel suggested creating a set that makes members feel at home and comfortable immediately with familiar songs.  “When you plant a church, you have an opportunity you will never have in any other church and that is: to build a culture from scratch,” added Jason. Most importantly, ask right off the bat, “what do we want this culture to be?"

Creating an inspiring worship time coupled with visionary leadership.  Look after people with whom you connect over their ability to play.  Build with what you have, spend time to make it sound good, and mentor people along in the process.  If you have vision, you’re approachable, and always inviting members, your team will grow.  Seek God about what he wants for your community and hold it loosely to see what he will do with it.  


Pastor your people through leading them in worship, attuned to how you can best connect them with God.  No matter the size or age of your congregation, foster a culture of worship, always inviting others in on the journey.

Jason Houtsma is the co-founder and guitar teacher at Worship Artistry, where he is helping musicians of every level answer the call to worship with passion and confidence. Jason has been leading worship and writing music since he was 15 years old and currently serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA. He is husband to Alli and father to Bjorn and Asher.

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Weekend Warriors

Most of us here are weekend warriors. That said its nice to be able to raise the bar for both the leaders and the congregation.

God Bless you guys

Going hoarse while singing

I have started volunteering to lead worship for a group of high schoolers at my church every Sunday morning, and have been building a team of high school worship leaders. I’ve noticed that when I preach or sing more than a couple of songs I start to get hoarse. I’m a fairly introverted computer programmer, so all of this is well outside my experience and comfort zone. Will this get better over time, or am I doing something wrong? Should I be concerned about doing damage?

Also, by the end of our morning, I am completely exhausted, and I just want to curl up and watch football. I assume that part cannot be fixed. :)