Speaking on stage during a worship gathering is a bit of a touchy subject with some people. Some believe that there should be complete freedom to say/do anything as they feel lead, where others believe every moment should be programed to the minute.
In my opinion, when it comes to speaking during a service, worship leaders have to find a sweet spot on a spectrum between two extremes: The Song Singer & The Second Lead Pastor.
The Song Singer gets up on stage, bangs out songs as they were prepared, and maybe prays to close out the set. There’s no interest in finding places to help lead their church or using scripture to enhance worship, they just want to sing their songs and that’s all.
The Second Lead Pastor tries to incorporate too much content into the time they’re trusted with. They’re spending 3-5 minutes between each song explaining every piece of each song, over-explaining everything until all trace of nuance and space is filled with words. Slow your roll bro, we’ve got another sermon coming behind you.
I believe that that a wise worship leader understands these two extremes and is able to not just find a sweet spot, but can easily flow along the spectrum as needed. Some moments will call for more specific and intensive speaking where others will be better suited by us skillfully singing the songs.
The goal isn’t to find one specific spot on the spectrum, but to rather be so familiar with it that you’re able to adapt to better serve your church.
Why all this talk about talking during a set? Because:
What you say matters on stage matters
theologically, pastorally, & logically.
Firstly and most importantly, what you say matters theologically. As worship leaders, we have a responsibility to understand the theology behind what we’re saying. Besides our lead pastors, worship leaders are the second most visible person during a gathering. Whether we like it or not, time on stage communicates that these people should be trusted.
If we are mindlessly speaking things without first consider if we are theologically correct with our words, then we are doing GREAT harm to our church. I don’t mean to overstate this, but I’m not sure that I can. What we say should help to mold our church’s theology, or how they understand God to be, not confuse or misinform them.
Your pastor spends HOURS pouring over the words he uses as he teaches. How many MINUTES are you spending preparing what you’re going to say between songs this weekend? If that question made you cringe a little, its time to step it up.
What we say from stage also should be pastorally significant. Like I said, time on stage communicates trust. We can either ignore that, or we can leverage that trust into opportunities to pour hope and life into our churches.
There is something special about a worship leader finding a moment to share form their personal experience to help a song or a point connect even deeper. I can still remember the time I heard a worship leader share about how they were adopted as a child, which completely shaped how they viewed God’s love. You try and sing How He Loves after that.
Every weekend, there are people (hopefully) who come to our churches who are broken, hurt, scared, scarred, and shamed. As we lead, we can help people learn how to worship in light of all that with our words. We have the opportunity to pastor to people who need to be lead, who long to be lead. So lead pastorally.
Finally, what we say from stage matters logically. This seems so elementary, but I can’t tell you how often (myself included) we can be guilty of terrible logic that can leave people scratching their heads rather than focused on God.
Once you figure out what you want to say theologically and pastorally, make sure that you can communicate it logically. Logic is the subconscious glue that provides stability when communicating. When I say logic, I mean finding the best way to say what you hope to communicate, using reason to provide clarity.
Especially when it comes to communicating great mystery that is God, it is easy to just throw a bunch of church words together so that it sounds good. Our goal should be to use logic to clearly and succinctly communicate the great truths of God. Less is more, simple is better, don’t forget that.