Who doesn’t love Pandora Radio? They have mastered the art of putting together a playlist that works to suit my given mood. Their most recent ad campaign is pure genius: ‘the next song matters’.
Now there’s a truth for all Worship Leaders! How do we maximize the impact of that next song, moment, or service element? So often we put all our focus on the songs and then find that the overall flow of the worship experience is lacking. We end up feeling like song leaders who are simply leading songs, not worship leaders who are pastoring an experience. After all, are we not liturgists and story tellers, weaving together the most important story of all?
“It’s not long that tiny moment of anticipation before the next song”, the folks at Pandora remind us, “but it’s all the time we need.”
Never underestimate the power of that moment and the words you choose to enhance it. Proverbs 18:21 reminds us that words are powerful, ‘life giving’. Words are one of the most effective tools we have to transition between service elements. Knowing when to use them, what to say and how to say it, can transform a worship service in powerful ways!
Here are some things to consider and remember as you choose your words:
- Be real and relatable.
If appropriate, share a personal story or struggle. Earn the right to lead people in worship by giving them a glimpse of who you are. This levels the room (i.e. removes the separation between stage and seats). It allows those you are leading to say: ‘that person is just like me’.
- Use humor to break the ice
Catching someone by surprise with laughter (by sharing something they can identify with), captures attention (French Philosopher Simone Weil said: ‘Attention is the only faculty of the soul that gives us direct access to God’). Once you have their attention, you can lead them to a deeper place.
- Provide a memorable scripture or thought.
Sometimes a well placed scripture or a well planned but seemingly spontaneous one-liner can be the thing worshipers will carry with them all week (don’t tell the preacher!)
- Don’t over share or talk too much
There is nothing worse than verbal diarrhea from a worship leader. It becomes self serving and it’s the quickest way to lose people. Respect the timing and the trust of your role and be self aware!
Recognize when to talk and when to just let the service flow.
- Don’t get ‘teachy’
That’s the preacher’s job – otherwise known as the ‘teacher’! You are the worship leader.
- Let the song speak for itself
If you have to explain the song, then maybe it’s the wrong song. Set up is different. Remember the difference between ‘assumed knowledge’ and ‘needed knowledge’, and don’t insult your listeners.
- Be inclusive, don’t be exclusive
Be sensitive to unbelievers. When telling stories of answered prayer, give voice to unanswered prayer. Be inclusive of different people groups i.e. single parents, victims of abuse, childless couples etc.
- Balance inductive and deductive
Sometimes you need to tell people what to do. Other times you need to ask them questions to allow them to own their response to God in worship. i.e.:
“Clap along, sing it out!” (These are biblical forms of physical worship.)
“Is Christ the focus of our worship today? Does He deserve our full attention and obedience?”
- Avoid fillers
Don’t use the same phrase over and over every week i.e. “Here we go”. C’mon church”. “Nicely done” … oh, and stay away from ‘umm’ and “aaah”. (Record yourself and listen back.)
- Invite input and evaluation
Send your verbal transitions to people for feedback and collaborate with the teaching pastor to enhance the cohesion of the overall experience.
- Always be aware of who is in the room
Know your demographic i.e. a 35-year-old crowd is going to resonate with different verbal transitions than a multi-generational room.
Learn to verbalize in ways that the people in the front row and the people in the back of the room all understand.
- Bring scripture to life
Have people read it then read together. Read it over them. Pray through the psalms. Pray through the Lord’s prayer. Corporate reading of scripture is always appropriate.
The best verbal transitions are often the most planned and memorized. This actually allows for more spontaneity – just like greater musical freedom is enjoyed when we KNOW our music.
One of the greatest joys of the worship pastor’s role (apart from stewarding His presence) can be having a ‘hand in glove’ relationship with the teaching pastor. You prepare the room for the message, you hand it off, and then you get it back in even better shape to lead worshipers in response.
We need to keep our ears open to the Spirit and our eyes open to the room.
Our job is to lead worshipers from where they are, not from where we are.
The next song matters!
How we lead into it matters even more.
Never underestimate the power of a moment!