Gangai Victor’s guide to getting better at using words in worship.
Speaking is probably the no. 1 pet peeve people have against worship leaders.
More specifically—what we speak, when we speak, how we speak, and above all—how long we speak!
Now, this doesn’t mean we should stop speaking all together! But, a greater focus on speaking well, will help us add value to the worship with our words, instead of them becoming a hollow distraction.
Singing songs is only one component of our worship—speaking the right things at the right time matters too in the interest of building a positive connect with the congregation.
Here’s a simple 7-tip guide to get better at using words in worship
1. Plan ahead
When planning worship, don’t stop with just creating great set-lists. Visualize the moments in the set when it would be appropriate to speak. Prepare for those moments with scripture verses, an inspirational insight, or maybe even something about the song.
You don’t need an airtight memorized script; but don’t leave everything to the last moment either. Plan the content (brief points) around which you will be speaking, in advance. This will shield you from nervous random rambling.
Think of it as any other conversation—how would anyone feel if you close your eyes and talk to them? Not cool, right?! So, open those eyes and look at your people. If that scares you, here’s a public speaking trick: start by looking at the heads of people (their hair basically!) instead of their faces. People will still feel like you are looking at them.
And smile too while you’re at it.
Let’s say you want the congregation to experience worshipping with uplifted hands. “C’mon people, lift those hands” would sound a bit instructional, and may put off some people.
Instead, we could try something like, “You know, the Bible tells us in Psalm 134:2 to raise our hands and bless the Lord. Can we try that now and use our hands to praise Him as we continue to sing to Him?” You see, ‘we’ and ‘us’, are better than ‘you’ and ‘do’.
I loved how Paul Baloche did it during a concert—“The Bible tells us to praise the Lord by lifting up our hands. For those who are comfortable with this posture, why don’t we raise our hands…” (I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the idea).
Be invitational, conversational, and one-of-the-congregation instead of using ‘me’ vs. ‘you’ language. There are not too many people out there who like an aloof megastar.
4. Pick your moments
Don’t speak between every song in the set—that would make us annoying one-trick ponies. If a lyric needs more explanation, do it at the beginning of the song on top of the musical transitions. You could say a few words during an instrumental solo too.
And btw, stop calling out every line in the song when people have it on the screen anyways—not clever! If need be, call out only the first line of the next song section (verse, chorus, bridge etc.), so that the person managing the slides, the band, and the people are all in sync with you.
5. Include emotions
People connect better when we rope in emotions and feelings, so feel free to use emotionally descriptive language.
Examples: “Let’s experience the joy of singing to the Lord freely!” Or “How amazing, friends, that we are able to join with Heaven now as we worship the Lord!”
6. King of the content is… the King!
Like the songs that we sing, our words also need to point to God—nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. Talk more about the Lord, and less about ourselves. For e.g., suppose we are singing “You Alone Can Rescue”, we could say something like this:
“Friends, this song is a wonderful reminder that no matter how great the divide, the grace of Christ is far greater; it’s more than enough for all us! Maybe some of us are feeling frustrated at not being able to beat a particular habit, or a sin. Instead, let’s lift our eyes to the grace that has already rescued us! This grace will surely lead us home! Trusting this grace, let’s sing the chorus again with joyful and thankful hearts!”
To sum up—let’s choose words that glorify God, and draw people to Him.
7. Watch the clock
No matter how wonderful a speaker you are, the worship leader’s speaking can only make passive listeners out of the congregation. One of our more important goals is active participation. So consciously practice brevity and limit yourself to 30-45 seconds. If you want to speak longer, you better be super-led by the Spirit! Also, to maintain clarity and focus, it helps to share just one thought or scripture verse at a time.