Most worship leaders tend to focus predominantly on the musical side of worship, and forget that they have the responsibility of communicating with the congregation. When it comes time to speak, they simply wing it and often are flustered in the process. Think about the pastor teaching that same morning, though. Do you think he just gets up there and says whatever comes to his mind right then and there? Of course not! He has a rehearsed message that he wants to get across to the congregation so he makes sure that whatever he says is as clear and concise as possible. Just like the teaching pastor, make it a habit to think through and visualize what you are going to say before it comes time to say it in the service. Here are five service elements to consider:
Many churches start off the service with praise and worship, which means you as the worship leader may be the first person from the stage that welcomes the congregation and invites them into musical worship. It is for this reason that it is important to think through what you are going to say. Be invitational and energetic in your welcome as this will set the tone of the service. Here is an example of how you could construct your welcome:
Good morning! Welcome to ________ church. We are glad you are here with us today. We are going to start today’s service by worshipping God through song. In Psalm 98:4 says to “shout to the LORD, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy!” We would like to invite you to stand and sing with us as we worship our amazing God together.
The Christian will already have a good idea of what is going on, but a new guest may have little idea of what is going on. It is for this reason that you should welcome everyone as if they were coming for the first time and explain why we are gathering. One of the best ways to do this is by reading scripture and giving a precise biblical prescription for worship. Psalm 92:1-5, Psalm 95:1-7, and Psalm 96:1-13 are excellent options of openings scripture readings for a call to worship.
Oftentimes worship leaders might say in their congregational welcome, “Please stand and worship as you feel led.” There are a couple of problems with this. First, while it is freeing for some to have options on how they might worship corporately, to a guest it is actually quite confusing as to what it means to worship as they feel “led.” The whole concept of worship is new to them! The second problem is that while it’s considerate to leave room for people to worship freely, it doesn’t actually lead them somewhere intentional. You certainly don’t want to be dogmatic or dictator-like with your leadership and command people to do anything. Instead, be clear and decisive with your leadership and take them on a journey. The response listed above is an example of an effective welcome you could use for it is concise, compelling, and clear.
Prayer or Bible Verse
The beginning of the service (after the welcome) is a great place to pray or read a Bible verse. The most important job of the worship leader is to help people explore God’s goodness and nature through the person of Jesus. This happens in large part through the songs we sing. It can be awkward to stand up and sing without saying anything else, so leading a congregational prayer or reading a bible verse can really help in drawing people’s attention toward God. Sometimes this can happen spontaneously but plan to add either of these elements because it will become more clear and eloquent.
Explanation of a Lyric
Many times we sing worship songs without having the congregation in mind. We sing song lyrics that mean much to us but forget that some in the congregation may have no idea what the song is communicating. More specifically, we may be singing certain words over and over again that might not even be in many people’s vocabulary. Here are examples of some churchy words you might want to briefly explain to your congregation: Hosanna, Yahweh, I AM, and Hallelujah. We should also give an explanation to a song that we have never played before. Point the congregation’s attention towards a theme, bible verse, or line that has to do directly with the song.
If you are having a hard time formulating the words to say in the moment, make a note on your music about what you want to say in advance. Many teachers use notes in their preparation. Worship leaders should be no different. The more comfortable you get with speaking, the less you will have to write out what you want to say, and the more fluent and confident you will be. For more insight and help on this topic, click here.
Introducing a New Song
When introducing a new song to your church, I like to use an introduction similar to this:
In Psalm 96:1 it says, “Sing a new song to the LORD! Let the whole earth sing to the LORD!” Today we would like to teach you a new song. It focuses on what God says in his word about _____________ . Let’s start by singing the chorus and learning it together.
It’s important to help people realize that there’s a purpose in learning the new song: it teaches a new vital truth about God and how to worship Him. When you can help others to see the importance of why you’re learning a new song, you’ll get many more people on board who might otherwise wish that they could sing songs they are more familiar with, comfortable with, or that are more suited to their tastes. Remember to paint the larger picture for why you’re doing what you’re doing and invite people along for the journey.
Closing the Service
Depending on your church, your pastor or another church leader may close the service or he may rely upon you to do that. If you are closing the service, remember to keep things brief. The sermon has already been given; we don’t need another one! Highlight the main idea from the message and the song responding to the message (if you sang one) and tie it into reflecting upon God’s greatness. Illustrate how the congregation might apply these principles into their lives for the week. It is also very helpful to remind people of key components of your church’s vision at the end of the service. For example, if you church focuses on mentoring and making disciples, you can say something along these lines:
Today we learned about God’s desire for us to avoid gossip and reflect upon how our heart is connected to the words we say. Make sure to unpack this message with your mentor and the person you are mentoring this week to explore and apply this message to your life.
Remember that if you are closing the service, your words will be the last that someone hears. Choose those words wisely and deliver them in a timely way.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Do you enjoy speaking in front of people? Why or why not?
- Aside from musical preparation, how else do you prepare to lead worship?
- What do you think of the welcome example. What would you add or take away from it?
- Name some worship songs you play at your church. With those songs, point out some potentially confusing lyrics. Also think of some Bible verses that would fit well with those songs.
- What are some appropriate/good things to pray for while leading worship?
- What would you include in your ideal closing remarks for a service and why?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.