One of the best pieces of worship leading advice I ever received was from my pastor who told me to write down ahead of time whatever I planned on saying or praying on a Sunday morning. If I wanted to introduce a song, offer a quick reflection or encouragement, or pray out loud, he suggested I think it through ahead of time and write it down. Very good advice.
The problem was that when it came time to actually say what I had prepared, or pray what I had written out, it sounded canned, fake, and unnatural. It sounded like I was reading off of a piece of paper. The fact that I had to keep looking down at my music stand didn’t help either. The substance of what I was saying was good, but the delivery was bad.
So my advice to worship leaders (this includes me here…) is to not only write down ahead of time what you want to say/pray, but to make certain it sounds like you. Say it out loud. Would you say this in a normal conversation? Is that the word you would use? Would you phrase it like that? If you wouldn’t say it or phrase it like that in a normal conversation with a friend, then don’t write it down that way. Write with your voice.
My test for this is a little strange but I’ll share it anyways.
When I’m thinking through what I’m going to say when I introduce a song or offer a word of encouragement, I picture that I’m driving my car, with my wife in the passenger seat, and some good friends in the back seat, and I want to tell them why we’re going to sing a particular song on Sunday.
Imagine if, while driving my wife and some friends around town and the topic of my Sunday song list came up, I said something like: “Beloved, we’ve gathered here in the house of the Lord and I’m just so excited for what God’s gonna do. This next song says we have 10,000 reasons to bless the Lord, and as we raise our voices as one body this morning I just want to encourage you to really go for it this morning and ‘sing like never before’.”
My wife and my friends would look at me like I was an alien. I don’t usually talk like that. Why am I putting on this weird voice? Why am I phrasing things so awkwardly? What happened to the real Jamie?
How would I sound explaining something to someone in a normal conversation? That’s how I want to sound on stage. When you’re thinking through what to say/pray on a Sunday, try looking at an empty chair, and imagine one of your friends sitting in it. Talk to him. That’s how you naturally communicate. Capture that and communicate to your congregation the same way, if possible. Be yourself and they’ll hear what you’re saying.