There are times in the service that the worship leader can help the congregation in the journey of worship by speaking. It is vitally important that your verbal transitions are well-thought-out and planned ahead of time. Too often worship leaders speak without preparation and often the result is ineffective rambling that may actually hinder worship. Therefore, it is important that you take time and script out what you will say at each juncture. Then, memorize the key points and rehearse what you will say overall. Make it conversational in tone. Writing out your speaking parts will help you organize your thoughts to make what you say valuable to the worship time.
One of my favorite worship leaders, Paul Baloche, is one of the best at bringing along a congregation to freely worship. A number of the thoughts in this section are gleaned from an interview with him that you can watch here.
You should not see yourself as a leader of songs that is checking off each song in the set. Rather, see yourself as a leader that is pastoring and guiding the 20-minute journey of worship. You will be conversationally pastoring the people through song, scripture and prayer.
Our goal is to honor God and
help others bring their worship to the Lord.
Our goal is not to be “slick.” We need to show humanity. Think more like being family and less of creating a concert/big show venue feel.
Before you step on the platform, pray for the people you are about to lead. That will help you get your focus in the right place. We are here to serve. Give us a heart for the people we are about to lead. Let us be mindful of the brokenness and difficulties people are walking through. Give us a sensitivity to your Spirit. Release your Spirit on this congregation right now.
Some types of speaking you can use:
- Quote scripture. Using the Word of God in worship is powerful. Find ways to infuse your services with scripture. Check out the Verses of Praise resource for lots of choice verses to commit to memory and use in worship. Bible passages can inspire, instruct, admonish, convict, and so much more. Many of these other categories can also engage the Bible in those times.
EXAMPLE: “Psalm 30:4 says, ‘Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name.’ Let’s join our voices singing praise and giving thanks to our God this morning.”
- Use a portion of the song lyrics. There might be a powerful portion of the song text that can be used to help focus people’s worship.
EXAMPLE: His Mercy Is More. “Do you think about the fact that a Holy God can love a sinner like me and you? That despite all our shortcomings, God loves us? As you sing this song, really shout out the gospel because while our sins, they are many, His mercy is more! “
- Lead in a ministry time, such as people thanking God for their blessings, confessing their sins–based on what was just sung.
EXAMPLE: If you were singing Blessed Be Your Name, you could speak about “every blessing you pour out, I’ll turn back to praise” and encourage everyone to think of some blessing from this week that they can turn back to praise. “We just sang, ‘every blessing you pour out we’ll turn back to praise.’ I wonder if you have taken the time to do that this week. To praise God for all He has done for you and the blessings He has poured out on you. Take a moment to offer Him praise right now where you are.” As the music is playing underneath, give the congregation a moment to offer their praise. Then the music segues into a song such as, Your Name, which gives the congregation another way they can voice their praise (and the song fulfills the textual link transition related to the name of God).
- Pray. Offer a prayer that ties in with what has just been sung or perhaps bridging to the next song idea.
EXAMPLE: Way Maker into Goodness of God: “Father, you are our Way Maker, our Miracle Worker, our Promise Keeper, our everything. We come before you today asking that you would move in our midst and turn our lives around. Reach into our brokenness and bring hope and strength. Your mercy never fails us. You always hold us in your hands. Thank you for your faithfulness…”
- Share some background of the song. Sometimes the story of the song can help engage people’s minds and hearts in a great way as they connect with what they are singing.
EXAMPLE: Victory in Jesus. “In 1939, a stroke rendered Eugene Bartlett partially paralyzed and unable to continue his popular gospel music career. He spent the last two years of his life bedridden. Amid such bleak circumstances, he wrote his final and most beloved song, ‘Victory in Jesus,’ an optimistic number that has been sung by millions in worship services and recorded by gospel’s biggest names. As we sing this today, think of no matter what you are going through, as a child of God, you can declare VICTORY!”
- Theme idea. There may be opportunities to weave in ideas from the sermon topic or other theme of the day to help connect the songs to the theme and engage the people’s hearts and minds.
EXAMPLE: Theme: Reaching the World for Christ. Song: God So Loved. “We are commanded to take the gospel to every corner of our world. We need to proclaim it to the weary, share it with the thirsty to come and find mercy at the cross because God so loved the world that He gave us His one and only Son to save us and whoever believes in Him will live forever.”
- Worship teaching. You can interject sound bites in the service to help people understand what worship is, our focus of worship, acceptable postures of worship, etc. Scripture is powerful in proclaiming this as well.
EXAMPLE: “Psalm 134:2 says, ‘I will lift my hands in the sanctuary and bless the Lord.’ Throughout the Bible we find that worship is physically active and often involves lifting our hands in praise. As we sing this song, feel free to lift your hands in the sanctuary and bless the Lord for all He has done in our lives.
- Teach about an attribute of God. The church needs to understand and worship the various attributes of God. If a song you are using speaks to one of them, take a moment to help the congregation understand it. This is another area you should use scripture to illuminate truth. You can find a helpful article at klamm.us/attributes.
EXAMPLE: Great Things. Attribute: Faithfulness. “The Bible tells us “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.’ Our God is faithful. Amen? He may be safely relied upon. We can fully trust Him. Faithfulness is part of His divine character. No matter what you are going through today, just know that our God is faithful. He will not let you down or turn His back on you. Trust Him with everything.” Segue directly into the 2nd verse of the song, “You’ve been faithful through every storm…”
- Welcome/admonition/instruction. See the section on Opening/Welcome below for details.
There are five primary places to consider speaking:
It is important to build a bridge as quickly as possible with the congregation so they trust you. The first minute can set the atmosphere for the remainder of your time of leadership by your posture and how you greet the congregation. You need to be your “most authentic self.” You are not a gameshow host. Be gentle. Speak to the congregation as you would to a group of friends to invite them in to a time of worship.
EXAMPLE: “Good morning. It’s great to see everyone. Let’s begin to find our seats and let’s prepare our hearts to worship the Lord. Let’s begin to turn our conversations to the Lord as we begin to sing our prayers this morning (music begins). Let’s stand together…”
I would strongly recommend you utilize scripture in encouraging the people to join together in worship—to help them place their focus on God. There are numerous verses of praise in the Bible that are very effective. Check out Verses of Praise.
EXAMPLE: “Good morning, friends. Welcome to church! As we begin to worship the Lord, let us look at the scripture in Psalm 51:15: ‘O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise.’ We have come together this morning to declare the praise of our God openly and boldly. Let’s stand and open our mouths and let His praises sound forth. Let’s declare His worth right now!”
In the welcome, we want to help people understand why we are doing what we are doing in worship (perhaps through a scriptural exhortation) and what is expected of them (stand, sing, praise God with your mouths, etc.).
If there is a particular emphasis or theme that day, you can set that up in the opening as well.
#2 Before a Song
You can use any of the ideas outlined in the “Types of Speaking” section as the intro of the song is being played. If the intro is strong, you might begin with quiet music moving to the strong intro at the completion of your speaking.
#3 Within a Song
In turnarounds to verses or extended interludes, you can help people by setting up the next stanza, quoting scripture that is relevant to the song, or otherwise encouraging their worship and praise. It might be just a sentence that will help the congregation be more participative and connected in their worship of God.
#4 At the End of a Song
As you are closing out a song and the outro is playing, you can quote scripture, pull a phrase from the song you just led that can help the congregation focus, or you could offer a prayer with closure in mind. Rather than ending there, you may spontaneously return to singing a portion of that song in a more unplugged manner (see the section on planned spontaneity).
#5 Between Songs
In most cases, you will want to seamlessly connect songs to flow smoothly as discussed earlier in this training. However, you can craft the instrumental music that connects the songs so that you can speak during this time. Here you can quote scripture, pull a phrase from the previous song that can help the congregation focus, or you could offer a prayer.
After you plan your worship flow, it will be important to work through the plan to get a good feel for it. How will each element connect? What would be helpful to say, if anything? Once you decide where you should say something, write it out, memorize key points and rehearse it with the timing you will have. It should be rehearsed with the band so they can be prepared as well.
If you are afraid of public speaking, immerse yourself in scriptures that you can quote in worship. Commit many to memory. God will bring them to mind as you lead. As you continue to script your comments and rehearse them, God will give you more confidence in leading His people in worship. Commit this to fervent prayer.
Realize, however, that too much talking will cause a break in continuity or progression. Some verbal transitions are helpful, but less is usually better. Short scripture passages are best.
Leading the journey of worship is a great responsibility as we carefully plan to disciple our congregations through gathered worship.