Tips for a Worship Singer's Stage Presence

Have you ever been on stage doing nothing for a really long time and not known what to do with your hands?

How do you act and where should you look? We’ve all been there at one point or another, and it can feel pretty awkward. Here are some things to help you with your stage presence.

You Were Made for This

First off, understand that most of the anxiety you feel is all in your head. Nobody’s making a bigger deal about this experience than you are. So stop, take a deep breath, and relax. You’re here–what an opportunity. You get to participate in this moment because have you've been called and created for such a time as this.

God doesn’t prepare you to send you out to the wolves just to watch you fall apart. Be yourself! The more natural and authentic you are, the better. Stand tall, smile, and enjoy it. The more you engage and enjoy the moment, the more comfortable you’ll feel. 

A Loving Audience

Remember that your audience in a worship service isn't actually the congregation, it’s your Heavenly Father, and He’s proud of you. He loves you more than you’ll ever comprehend, so what is there to be afraid of? Absolutely nothing.

Throughout the years, I’ve discovered time and time again that the more you command the stage and leave no stone unturned, even with the mistakes, the more confident you’ll feel. I make little mishaps still, but I also show up on stage like my life depends on it. The mistakes won’t feel like such a big deal because they’re such a small thing compared to everything you’re doing right. You and the audience will be more forgiving if it’s clear that you’re giving your absolute best.

What to Do With Your Hands

So what do you do with your hands? If you have an instrument in your hands, you’re in the safe zone, but if not, you’re probably wondering what to do with these strange appendages you have just awkwardly hanging at your side. It’s funny how we live with our hands and arms all our lives without any second-guessing, but once we hit the stage it’s like we’ve never known they existed. Singing is a conversation, so when you sing think about the words that are coming out of your mouth and use your hands appropriately.

Jody McBrayer, of Avalon, is one of the best at this. I feel like he’s talking to me when he performs because he’s aware of what he’s actually saying.

That’s great Chris, but what about if you’re not singing? It’s simple, be natural. If it’s an upbeat song, clap, dance, and have fun. Sometimes holding the mic is a perfect excuse to be doing nothing with your hands, but the truth is you don’t always have to be doing something. Sometimes doing nothing is the perfect something for the moment. Regardless, be aware of the moment you’re in and respond accordingly.

Conclusion

Remember: be expressive, smile, cry, rejoice, party, and leave nothing on stage. You get this moment, make it count. Interact with the audience, smile at people that are smiling at you. Make them feel like they’re your closest friends and you’ll make them feel like you’re their closest friend.

Many of us act like total and complete fools when it comes to our favorite sports teams, so why all of the sudden are we acting like we forgot how to be real, engaged, and emotional when singing to the One that far surpasses any celebrity or sports team you’ll ever encounter? Bring your heart, your joy, your sadness, and let it pour out through you.

Chris Lockwood is a vocal instructor at Worship Artistry. He and his wife Joy do them together. Chris and his family are based in Nashville, TN. 

Tips for a Worship Singer's Stage Presence

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About the stage

I know that you did not mean anything like I am going to suggest, but I remember being at a Ligioner conference when R. C. Sproul and others were giving messages. A young man who was assisting Sproul made some kind of remark about the stage (this was in a large church in Florida with the largest pipe organ that I have ever seen.) Sproul, a little tongue and cheek lashed on his assistant. "Stage!! he said. "This is not a stage. A stage is where you perform, act, and so forth. This is a chancel." I never forgot that. Sproul wanted to maintain a distance from worldly entertainment by using a technical term for the riser in a church. But now we speak of "stage presence" without a thought. Stage presence is something that Jack Benny, Johnny Carson, Bruce Springsteen, and Lady Gaga have. Maybe we should leave that term to the 'stars' and call it some other term and leave Jesus Christ as the one and only presence at the worship service. Again, I know that this is the furthest thing on your mind, but are we are losing our identity as a church at worship?

Stage or Chancel

Hey! Thanks for the comment. I TOTALLY get that, and, after all these years, it still crosses my mind sometimes when I refer to it as a stage. That being said, whether we call it a stage, a platform, chancel, altar, etc… it’s less about what we call it and more about how we approach it and the heart with which we bring to it. All too often, we church folks can get caught up in nonsense like the color of the carpet, drums, no drums, grape juice or wine for the Lords Supper, Saturday vs Sunday services, etc… it can get really “petty” really fast, but I don’t know that it’s really what the Lord wants us to lose ourselves over when the world is quickly busting at the seams, in need of the Gospel. As long as we are men and women pursuing God’s heart, willing to be obedient, humble, and sincerely worshipping and exalting the name of Christ, I’m not convinced it really matters what we call it in the grand scheme. Again, the name we give it pales in comparison to the heart with which we bring. I’m willing to bet that there have been those throughout history who have maintained that it’s an altar, or a chancel, while living a very irresponsible, ungodly, secretive life, and those who call it a stage, who are the most pure of heart Christ followers, and vice versa. We don’t go to church, we are the church. Therefore, the real altar, chancel, stage, etc. is our whole live’s, every moment. wherever and whatever circumstance we may find ourselves in, and the sacrifice of worship we bring is not just a song, sermon, service, etc, but our absolute everything. Great point to bring up! I love that you asked this. Thank you for asking too. I’m sure there are many that wonder the same thing. God bless you friend. - Chris

Words matter

Chris, obviously your heart is so focused on the Lord and your desire to encourage and worship Him is evident. But, I probably was not clear in my comment. It was not "stage" that prompted my response, it was "stage presence." Anyway, words matter greatly in our faith. Another story. When in seminary, I went to the director of the music program and asked if I could perform occasionally during the daily chapel services. The prof kindly corrected me. First, he told me that only music majors were allowed to do this but gently admonished me that we do not "perform," we "minister." I got it. We are people of the Word. My Greek prof (a noted linguist) would remind us that words do not have a meaning, they have "meanings." Words, therefore have a 'semantic domain,' This means that context narrows the meaning of a word. You know, "I love cookies" and "I love the Lord" show that "love" has a huge semantic domain. So, the Bible is full of terms that are very narrow or what we would call "technical" and lose their one meaning when misapplied. And we, as worship leaders, can stress the meanings of words for our brethren. For example, you mentioned the word "altar" and put it with 'chancel" or "stage." They are not at all the same thing. The Bible is absolutely clear that an "altar" is a place of sacrifice to a holy God. The book of Hebrews goes to great lengths to tell us that the only real altar is not to be found on earth (anymore) but it is in heaven where Christ, the Great High Priest laid down the sacrifice of His blood and life. So, when we sing a song about Jesus, the "Great High Priest" we can actually tell the congregation what that actually means. Or, when Elevation Worship tells us to come to the altar, we can tell our brethren that we are not saying to come up to the stage, riser, chancel, or anything like it. Rather, we are invited to boldly approach the Throne of Grace, where the Great High Priest is seated as King Jesus. Now, that is different and clear. We lose these great teaching opportunities when we go fast and loose with words. Especially today, with biblical literacy is at a low, we must be very clear and teach through our music. In years past, hymn writers would be painfully aware of the importance of their words. It is no longer the case today, so it puts the burden of clarification on us. But when we do it, the church is enriched.

Stage Presence

Understood friend. Just know our heart was to give some pointers for those who don’t know what to do, or how to act in certain circumstances, as there is a level of professionalism expected when it comes with the platform of ministry, music, or anything important. Whether we call it stage presence or not, learning what to do with your hands, where to look, how to respond in certain circumstances can be useful tools to learn, just as a young preacher might seek out counsel on how to craft and articulate a sermon from start to finish, how to maximize the use of the stage, practicing the craft of public speaking, using tools such as dramatic pauses, etc… everything is simply meant to give some helpful pointers, as many, if not most people, serving on church worship teams have had little to no professional experience whatsoever when it comes to standing before a crowd. Thanks again for your time and concern. All the best!