Two Worship Tips and a Song
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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As always, your feedback on this blogpost is welcome.
Cheers, Philip Garside