When we hear the title “Worship Leader”, many of us immediately picture a musician leading us in song during our Sunday morning worship. This is a fair, yet incomplete picture, of the worship leader. Certainly song plays a large part in the role of being a worship leader, but by no means does song encompass everything a worship leader does on a Sunday morning.
Often the worship leader is required to welcome the congregation, pray on behalf of the congregation, and send the congregation back out into the world. There also seems to be an expectation that a worship leader will offer words in between songs. This may occur once during worship, or it may occur more than once. Worship leaders often find themselves reading Scripture as well.
The point I am trying to make is that a worship leader is not only a song-leading musician, but also an orator. The questions becomes, then, what do I say when I am leading worship? I am going to offer some thoughts, suggestions, and examples (when appropriate) for three occasions that worship leaders may find themselves needing to speak: the Gathering, extemporaneous prayer, and the Sending.
When you welcome the congregation, you do not need jokes or clever remarks. In fact, a good morning is not necessary (although it may be appropriate). Instead, draw on Scripture to gather the congregation together. You do not need to put the verse on a slide or even print it out to put on your music stand. Consider the following example:
Based on Hebrews 10:25
It is good to gather together, for as the author of Hebrews says, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together…but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
This gathering word is simple and straightforward. Explore other verses and words of encouragement and love to gather your congregation together for the celebration of Word and Table. I would encourage you to memorize some gatherings to start incorporating into your worship gatherings.
The best way to become better at praying “on-the-spot”, or extemporaneously, is by reading prayers. Whether you read prayers from Scripture, a prayer book, or another source, reading prayers will give you language that will improve your praying. I ask you to remember two things:
First, remember that you are praying on behalf of the congregation. Learn to pray inclusively. If your prayer opens with “God, thank you for this beautiful day and all the blessings you have given us,” and you go from there, you are only praying on behalf of a few of your congregation. Learn to pray in way that anyone in any season of life can pray with you.
Secondly, think through your worship order and prayers before the service. Consider the progression of your service: what would be an appropriate kind of prayer here? What are key attributes of God, themes in the Redemption Story, or words that may best fit here? This will guide you when the time to pray comes.
Just like the Gathering, I would strongly encourage you to draw on Scripture for your sending words. Paul has quite a few already written out for you! You may need to adjust the wording a little bit, like this:
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Without distorting Paul’s words, we may say:
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Go in His peace.
Again, the benediction, like the gathering, is simple, straightforward and sends the congregation out not only with a word of peace, but with encouragement and confidence. Corporate worship has clearly come to an end, and you do not even have to say, “You are dismissed!” Again, begin memorizing benedictions and over time the practice will get easier.
As you continue in your service and in your calling, allow me to give you this benediction:
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20, 21
Jason Palmer is the Administrator of TalkingWorship.com. Jason has a Bachelor of Science in Ministry with a Worship Arts Major and Music Minor. He has lead worship for evangelical churches for 7 years and desires to see worship leaders become confident in their calling.