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.
8 thoughts on “Would You Say it Like That in a Normal Conversation?”
Great post Jamie!
Can you give us an example of how you would phrase that in your own voice?
If you were sitting across from me right now, I’d say something like: one of my favorite verses in the bible is Paalm 103:1 where it says “bless the Lord, oh my soul, let all that is within me bless his holy name”. I love that. But I don’t often do that. To be honest, on most Sundays during worship, my attention can be on a hundred different things as we sing. I want to worship God with all that is within me. I hope this next song helps us do that. It has a line that I love that says we have 10,000 reasons to bless the Lord. If you know this, sing with me, but if it’s new, sing when you’re comfortable…
Awesome, thanks Jamie!
Actually, I introduced ‘10,000 Reasons’ only on Sunday – but I can’t remember what I said! But more to the point – addressing the whole congregation is a bit different from addressing an individual, and your example doesn’t sound weird or off-putting to me. But presumably you’re saying that it doesn’t work there because it’s not you (but it could be someone else).
You’re right, Peter. Addressing a congregation is different than addressing an individual. If you and I were at Starbucks, I wouldn’t be all that worried about phrasing things as carefully, or as formally, as I would in public.
I think most of it comes down to tone. Talk like yourself. Use your normal voice. Don’t become a different person.
In my example of what not to say, I threw in all sorts of churchy phrases like “house of the Lord” and “beloved”, which aren’t bad in and of themselves, and some people might use those with their friends in the car, but I don’t, so I shouldn’t use them when I address the congregation either. Most of it comes down to tone.
Thanks, Jamie. Yes, I agree with you about ‘Beloved’. Actually I’m not sure what term I would use! Our vicar says ‘Friends’ when addressing everyone. I could imagine ‘my friends’.
Well, I don’t know about any of you but I almost always talk to my friends in a strained whisper with my eyes squeezed shut, and say ‘yeah’ a lot. I’m sure we all do that, don’t we?
You must have very strange friends.