Tag Archives: worship tips

Lay Preaching Basics – Reviewed in Touchstone 2018

Review in Touchstone October 2018 by Rev Dr Lynne Wall.

(Touchstone is the monthly newspaper of the
Methodist Church of New Zealand.)

 “If you have ever thought about becoming a worship leader or a lay preacher, this book is an excellent starting point. Rosalie Sugrue is a competent lay preacher of many years’ standing, who in this book has generously shared from her own treasure trove of experience, wisdom and creative resources.

In the first part of her book, Rosalie introduces the reader to the Bible by providing basic information about content, characters and concepts in both testaments. There is enough to stimulate the mind and encourage further exploration by referring to the up-to-date bibliography at the end of the book.

The author then moves to the nitty-gritty of how to plan a service of worship, giving general outlines and practical tips along the way. There are examples of orders of service, sermon outlines and pointers on presentation.

But this is not just a ‘how-to’ book. Rosalie reminds the would-be worship leader that worship must be meaningful and relevant for the particular congregation. As she reminds the reader, “It is about engaging the soul.” What might suit a café style service in the local parish will not be suitable for a rest home service of worship. She encourages the use of participation, silence, music and visual aids.

The rest of the book is a rich and varied selection of resources for use in worship, most of which are from Rosalie’s own pen. They are the fruit of her background and experience as a teacher and are tried and tested if used in the right context. There are ideas for the different seasons and festivals of the church year, time with children, themes for opening devotions, dialogues and plays, reflections and meditations.

The section of prayers and liturgical resources is particularly useful for the beginning worship leader. For example, there is a fine prayer for Disability Sunday which begins, “God of struggles, strengths and strategies, help us to cope with what we have…”

 It is too easy these days to ‘copy and paste’ material from the internet, even reproducing whole sermons as one’s own. Rosalie reminds us that the sermon “Is the one piece of a service that cannot be taken from a book” [or the internet]. She suggests prayerful preparation and mulling over of one’s random thoughts on a passage of scripture which will help “You explore and firm up on what you believe.” This is what congregations want and need to hear.

This is a practical book which will inspire, encourage and educate anyone who has a calling to lead worship in their local congregation or region.”


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Ten Plays gets great review in Touchstone Nov. 2014

Review by John Meredith in Touchstone – November 2014

“The pattern of Sunday worship is generally fairly predictable, but congregations appreciate something different at family services and especially at Advent and Christmas.

This is scarcely surprising, since the birth of Jesus and the events leading to it shattered the expectations even of those who had long been watching and waiting for the appearance of the Messiah. We have become accustomed to nativity plays featuring grumpy innkeepers and shepherd boys on hillsides, but these 10 plays take us to quite a different realm.

After making suggestions about an Advent wreath and candles, Rosalie offers five meditations that may be used during the four Sundays in Advent, two meditations being read on one of these Sundays. The meditations titled ‘Christmas women’, are the voices of Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin), Anne (Mary’s mother), a woman traveller (one of many women on her way to Bethlehem for the census), the inn-keeper’s wife, and Anna (the prophetess).

These meditations are complemented with an Advent prayer for two voices. There are no bland words here, for the challenge is to think about what the coming of Jesus means for us in our world and what we need to do about it.

These Advent meditations are followed by a play titled ‘No Room,’ designed to promote the work of Christian World Service at a time when the annual CWS Christmas Appeal will be presented to many congregations. The play features two modern day families who learn that making room for Jesus includes making room for asylum seekers and that giving to CWS can help make lives better for people living in dreadful conditions.

There is also a play using 13 characters from the Christmas story with an activity of creating stick-puppets.

For Easter, the other major festival of the Christian Year, there is a play reading based on five women named in the Easter story.

Those looking for something different for Bible Sunday, Waitangi Day, Anzac Day or Wesley Day will also find it here.

One of the appealing features of this collection is the prominence of women throughout. The drama ‘Mahlah and Sisters’ draws attention to five little-known young women in the biblical narrative. Their stand for justice translates effectively to women’s rights and equal opportunities in today’s society.

In another play, voices of women from biblical times and early New Zealand history who used their initiative to build peace and harmony are heard in monologue.

As is stated on the cover, these are short easy dramas. Few props, staging or costumes are required.

Most of the plays work best with a combination of adults and children and lend themselves to reading without the need to learn scripts. All are readily adaptable for different physical settings and availability of characters.

They are highly commended as a resource for any church or group seeking imaginative ways of presenting gospel ideas and aspects of faith in action. Ten Plays is also available as an ebook.”


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Two Worship Tips and a Song

Two Worship Tips and a Song

1. Rehearse

How does it feel to hear the worship leader stumble over a prayer or miss their place in the sermon? As a member of the congregation this is distracting and disrupts the flow of the service. As the leader you get a sinking feeling, knowing you could have presented that part of the worship better. Here’s how to avoid this.

Early in the week of the service, read the whole liturgy aloud, i.e. from the Welcome and Gathering through all the prayers and responses to the final Benediction. If you are going to ask the congregation to share the peace or move out of their seats and take part in an activity, write down the instructions in your edition of the order of service and practise giving these instructions. If, like me, you are not good at praying “off the cuff,” write out all the prayers in full.

Often reading aloud reveals words and phrases that need to be edited or replaced altogether. Maybe you will decide to keep the wording, but highlight a comma or underline a phrase to help you best convey the sense of the text to the congregation. Practise reading the liturgy two or three times mid-week until you are comfortable with it.

At our church worship leaders get the order of service to the office by Thursday in time for it to be printed and for the words of the hymns to be added to the slideshow on Friday. So another tip, is to be prepared well ahead. Start writing up the order of service the previous Sunday night if you can.

Having finalised the liturgy, then finish the sermon, (which you might have been working on for two weeks.) On Friday night read it aloud a couple of times. Mark in pauses, e.g. in your text type [pause]. Also write [Speak slowly] in two or three places to remind you not to rush. Add sub-headings for your own reference, even if you don’t read them when you preach. Make any edits to the text that you need. Move paragraphs around. Even adding a comma or two will help you break up long sentences and make your final presentation more understandable to the congregation.

Read aloud through your sermon once on Saturday to keep it fresh in your my mind.

Being well prepared and rehearsed, will give you the confidence to lead the worship well on Sunday.

2. Use physical objects to engage the congregation

The second tip is to use physical objects to engage the congregation. Words, singing and pictures are great. Holding something in your hand adds another dimension to the experience of worship for those taking part.

On Palm/Passion Sunday this year I asked the small congregation of older people I was leading worship with to make flax crosses. You can see a short video of how to make a flax cross here on YouTube:

We used these readings: Luke 19: 28-40, John 12: 12-16, and the flax, to explore the theme for the service of – Celebration – Struggle – Transformation.

As people entered the church they were each handed a flax leaf about 3 feet long. For the opening hymn we sang: Give Me Joy in My heart, which has the refrain “Sing Hosanna to the King of kings!” While singing this we all waved our flax leaves like the crowds welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem.

Before the sermon my wife and I showed people how to make the crosses using their flax leaves. The video was projected on the screen, on repeat mode, while we did this.

Some people picked up the technique quickly and made several crosses, others battled through to make one with assistance. We then sang John Stainer’s hymn Cross of Jesus, Cross of Sorrow.

Everyone produced at least one cross to take home with them for Holy Week. It was a delight to see people engage in the worship this way. They have probably forgotten the sermon, but will remember the physical experience of waving the flax and making the crosses.

So, worship leaders, use your imagination and take a chance on doing something different in your services.

3. A Song

Kindle a Flame can be sung unaccompanied or with guitar. 

Download a PDF copy of the music here:

Kindle_a_flame_D_minor_5_verses_melody_line

You can sing it through as a whole song. It is also effective as a sung response to intercessory prayers – either just use verse 1 as the response each time or insert a prayer between each of the 5 verses.

Choirs and churches are welcome to copy and perform the song freely. If you are going to record or publish it commercially, please seek permission from Philip Garside first by emailing books@pgpl.co.nz

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As always, your feedback on this blogpost is welcome.

Cheers, Philip Garside