Just, like… talk good and stuff (Tips for Speaking in Worship)

Talk_Good_Blog

They’re listening. I know sometimes we wonder how much of what we say from stage is sinking in but they’re catching much more than we might think.

Scary isn’t it. More often than not, the things we say from stage can have as much power as the songs we lead. Actually, when thoughtful spoken words combine with our music the impact is multiplied.

Once I realized that I needed to work on my communication, I began paying attention to other worship leaders to see what I could learn. Here’s some of tips for speaking in worship and pitfalls that I’ve come across in the past couple of years.

Watch yo mouth

I know I gave this one away with the title but video doesn’t lie. In fact it’s brutally honest. If you can watch yourself communicating from stage you’ll notice every little stutter, repetitious phrase, weird pronunciation and anything else that might hinder the power of what you’re hoping to say.

Write. It. Down. (and keep it handy)

Songwriters write out their lyrics, poets write out their prose, preachers write out their sermons, so why not worship leaders? Script out what you’re planning on saying at every moment in the service: welcome, communion, new song intro, that prompt during an instrumental. It will keep you from using habitual phrases, cliches, and not ramble on and on. This includes prayers by the way. (check out the post of word ninjas or my list of resources for prayers)

There are a million things happening on Sunday that you’re paying attention to, so give yourself a handy backup just in case you get distracted. This is particularly helpful for announcements, next steps and instructions for things you don’t do normally in a worship service.

Pause… and take a breath, breathe again. Go

Once you have your script prepped and you’re on stage the adrenaline has a tendency to kick in. You’ve just finished that kickin intro song and the blood is pumpin at 140 bpm just like the bass drum. If you’re not careful you’ll come out sounding like the micro machines announcer guy (if you’re too young to understand google it) or maybe those guys who do the announcements for monster truck rallies.

Help everyone listening not feel like you’re yelling at them or badly out of shape and take 2 good breathes. The first breath calms, the second breath prepares. Breathing is natures natural reset button on tension and anxiety. This will help your body relax and help your speech seem more natural and unhurried.

Say my name, say my name

If I were to stand in front of someone in regular conversation and begin and end every sentence with their name chances are they would either be annoyed or weirded out. So why is it any different when a worship leader prays something like this. Lord God, we are so thankful for the way that you love us Lord God. And we pray Lord God that you would prepare our hearts Lord God to hear your word Lord God… You get the point.

On the other hand, I highly recommend looking at the huge list of incredibly rich names for God like Lord of Hosts, Ancient of Days, Yahweh and incorporating them into your prayers.

Bonus: Try acknowledging the Trinity in prayer (to the Father, through the Son by the Spirit)

Just Stop Saying “Just”

You may want to skip reading this one because after you do it will likely annoy you from now on. You will hear people say this every time they pray because it’s that common. Consider this phrase: “God we just want to say thank you for your mercy, you are just so amazing, etc…

The word “just” is tricky because it can mean (1) only- as in just one thing (2) precisely- as in just enough (3) barely- as in just made it (4) merely- as in just a man or (5) simply- as in just beautiful.

Most people are trying to express emphasis so let’s do it more intentionally by using language that doesn’t indicate things like only, barely or merely when we’re talking to our God.

Worth 1,000

We can script out our words, practice them, get rid of useless, repetitious and diminutive language, but the power of our words pale in comparison to the transforming power of God’s Word. We should be saturating our services with bible readings and meditations on scripture. So if we spend more time speaking than letting God speak we are probably doing our people a disservice. For every word we speak, his are worth 1,000 more.

Hebrews 4:12 says “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. We’ve been given swords, don’t let them lay unused in our services.

Trim the Fat

You’ve got a limited time frame every Sunday to make an impact and anything you say that is not well thought out, helpful or God’s own words is taking away from something else that might help people encounter Jesus. I heard a senior minister once say that what we do is actually harder than preaching a sermon because we have to not waste our words since we only get 30 second to 3 minute sections to speak. So don’t waste words and cheat yourself and your congregation out of valuable time.

So watch videos, write scripts, practice and develop muscle memory, use scripture and eliminate the fluff and unhelpful verbiage.

In addition I highly recommend a blog post by David Santisteven about becoming an effective communicator as a worship leader. Hopefully between the two articles there’s some helpful tips on communicating with your congregation and leading them in worship.

Bob Kauflin has some great posts about this as well at worshipmatters.com

Additional Resources

The Gospel Coalition article written from a Senior Ministers Perspective to Worship Leaders

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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16 thoughts on “Just, like… talk good and stuff (Tips for Speaking in Worship)

  1. I think using the Lord’s name (or one of His names) instead of “um,” “yeah,” or “ya know” is really a huge mistake. It really distracts me when someone prays that way.

    As a speaker, I try and notice words I use too often when I’m speaking (lately, it’s been “absolutely”). No matter what it is, try and replace it with other words or remove it if it isn’t useful.

    • Paul, thanks for taking the time to read the article. I didn’t actually mean replace word clutter with names of God. I meant we could more intentionally use names of God like “Mighty Creator, we thank you that we can see your genius and handiwork as we look at nature. You are the great designer and architect of a very beautiful universe…” something to that effect. I meant instead of carelessly throwing his name out there we purposefully speak more fully to his character and works by addressing him using biblical names. Hope that helps clear up any confusion.

        • Joshua, maybe. I’m inclined to think it’s probably a learned habit from somewhere and just needs to be brought to people’s attention. Then it’s a matter of developing a more intentional habit in language choice. Good point.

    • I noticed that yesterday afternoon when I flipped on a pre-season football game to fall asleep to. The announcer used the word “phenomenal” at least a half dozen times in the first two series. Yes, it was quite distracting and a good reminder that we all have a tendency towards things like that.

      • Kyle, love the connection to what we can learn from “outside” sources as well. When we throw around words like “phenomenal” casually even things that really are phenomenal need a different word because of overuse. Thanks for the comment.

  2. The use of your word “stage” implies putting on a performance -the use of the word “altar” would imply worship..

    • Shirley, thanks for the input. After I wrote the article I came across a saying from Gateway Church in Southlake TX. They refer to the area where the musicians and speakers communicate as a platform. I like that language because it places the emphasis on influence and communication and not necessarily performance. Thanks for taking the time to read and be part of the conversation.

  3. Great, concise article! After leading worship yesterday, I played back in my mind the places where I stumbled on scriptures and excess verbiage, even after writing out what I wanted to convey. Eliminating the fluff and breathing a few times were great tips. I’ll be passing this article on. Thanks for the insight!