By Greg Johnson
I was recently in a worship service where the worship leader was praying between songs. Normally, I would be praying, or at least agreeing in prayer with him, but for whatever reason, I was really listening intently to his words, and they made no sense whatsoever. His prayer was ripe with spiritual references chained together to create a tapestry of nonsense, like, “Creator God, we thank you for the reconciliation of the Spirit and the repentance of those who have gone before us to make a way for you in Jesus.” HUH? Or, “Father, we pray that everyone who has come here in this place to experience all of us and the one who made us in the image of the Father, we fall before you today and pray that we will be glorified because of the goodness you have given in Jesus.” HUH? I’ve also heard worship leaders tell stories that I’m sure had a point during inception, but got lost in translation, like, “This song talks about being consumed from the inside out, and it reminds me of the other day when my wife got frustrated with me because every time I take off my socks, I put them in the hamper inside out, and she hates to have to handle my dirty socks…” So, dirty socks are equivalent to a dirty soul…HUH? Yeah, I could do this all day, but here is the point: If you are going to be in front of people, you have a responsibility to BE PREPARED and HAVE SOMETHING OF SUBSTANCE TO SAY.
Effective communication begins with preparation. If you are a worship leader, then you are keenly aware Sunday happens every seven days. That means once a week you will have the chance to lead people through an experience with both musical and verbal communication. This is where I believe is a pretty big disconnect. I see a trend where much value is placed on music and artistry, and little value is placed on what happens between each song. As a result, worship leaders tend to spend a majority of time planning and executing musical proficiency (song selection, arrangements, musicianship) and little time thinking about transitions and communication (what happens when the music stops). A large part of your role as a worship leader is facilitating a dialogue between the people in the seats and their Creator. You can either make it “awkward first date” dialogue – uncomfortable silence or nervous rambling – or comfortable and seamless, creating an environment conducive to connection with God. So, give the same priority to planning what you will say as you do what you will play. Two thoughts on this: Script it and rehearse it.
Putting your transitions on paper will help organize your thoughts. So, script, edit and memorize. This flies in the face of spontaneity, which most prefer, but the very reason to script is because shooting from the hip rarely ends well unless you are an exceptional communicator. Remember, these are still your words, you just thought about them ahead of time – and the Spirit can speak to you on Tuesday as you prepare as well as he can on Sunday in the moment.
Rehearsing those thoughts in context will help you feel the transitions real time. From a time perspective, keep your thoughts to 90 seconds or less. As a rule, if you can’t say it in that time frame, it’s probably best not to say it at all. Of course, there are always exceptions, but don’t let your “inner preacher” take over and milk a concept for 5 minutes, especially if you didn’t prepare in advance. That is a recipe for rambling, and may provide someone the opportunity to “exit” the worship experience.
Talent will carry you while music is playing, but when the music stops, your true heart will be on display. Realistically, what you say, or pray, tells a much bigger story than what you sing. What and how you sing reveals your talent, what you say reveals your heart. So, take time to prepare your thoughts. It could be the very thing that connects someone to God.
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