What Do You Say When You Lead Worship? Part 1

WorshipGod 11
Last year at the WorshipGod conference I had the opportunity to teach a seminar called, “What Are You Talking About? What to Say When You’re Not Singing.” I wanted to address the age-old question of what to say, if anything, when you’re leading people in congregational worship. What words can inspire people to worship God as we sing, and what words might hinder them?

I began by sharing that our first focus isn’t what we say in public, but what we pursue in private. Saying the right things without having the right heart leads to hypocrisy. We shouldn’t expect the church to be affected by truths that we ourselves haven’t been affected by.

I went on to share some of the common stereotypes I’ve encountered over the years, either in myself or in others. Maybe you’ll recognize some of them.

The Teacher – From the ten minutes of explanation he provides between every song, you sense he wishes he were the pastor or thinks he should be. Wants you to know he’s much more than a mere musician.

The Emoter – You know he’s moved by something but you’re not sure what. At various times he exhibits tears, laughter, changes in volume – if only you knew why he was so affected. “Jesus! He’s just amazing. I mean, it’s incredible, whoa…like I can hardly believe it…you know what I mean?”

The Mute – You don’t know if he doesn’t have anything to say, fears speaking in front of crowds, or just wants you to figure everything out on your own. Sometimes accompanied by long pregnant pauses between songs.

The Reporter– He unemotionally provides you with information, details, stats, facts. Helpful for someone who works at an information desk. Doesn’t work quite as well when you want to direct people’s hearts to worship God.

The Wanderer – You’re not quite sure where he’s going or where he’s been, but you’re hoping he makes sense to someone.”In Christ Alone. Like, a-looooone, man. I’ve been alone. Like, it’s a bad feeling. Aloneness. Don’t wanna be alone. No way.”

The Cheerleader -Wants you to be excited from start to finish and will use any number of techniques to get you there and keep you there – jumping, shouting, waving hands, moving from one side of the stage to the other, prolonged eye contact, etc. “Here we go! Come on! Let’s sing it like we mean it!”

The Philosopher – Likes to consider possible interpretations and implications of lyrics without coming to any definite conclusions. “You know when we sing that line, ‘Light of the world you stepped down into darkness’ it makes me wonder what kind of step we’re talking about. Was it like a stair step or more like a leap? You know, was it really a step? Was it one small step for Jesus but one giant leap for mankind? I dunno.”

The Mystic – Steve has a distinctive “worship leading” voice that differs from has “normal speaking” voice. It might be a breathy whisper or loud shouting. In either case, you wonder if the Spirit is in the business of voice-modulation.

With all the ways to get it wrong, you could think it’s better not to say anything at all. Actually, I think there are good reasons to say something when we lead worship. I’ll share them in my next post.

40 Responses to What Do You Say When You Lead Worship? Part 1

  1. Rae Whitlock March 24, 2010 at 6:08 PM #

    Hilarious. I’ve always referred to the breathy “Mystic” voice as “worship dude voice” — as in, that’s the voice that just about every “worship dude” I’ve heard uses on stage.

  2. Jon Perdido March 24, 2010 at 6:59 PM #

    Great post! I was able to listen to the seminar. Helped tremendously. I tend to be The Teacher. Thank you for your key thought, “our first focus isn’t what we say in public, but what we pursue in private.”

  3. Kyle March 24, 2010 at 11:15 PM #

    I agree with Jon – the notion of personally pursuing and being affected by truth before we attempt to affect others with them is powerful and important.

    There have been times when I’m leading in corporate worship, and struggling for “inspiration” (I’m not using that term in a theological sense) for something to say that might encourage people in their worship, only to realize that my own lack of personal engagement with God, or with the specific truths of the songs we’re singing on a given week, created the dilemma for me.

    If I want to be an effective leader in corporate worship, I have to first be affected by the truths I’m communicating. Good reminder.

    And, of course, very funny post. It’s good to laugh at ourselves sometimes. We worship dudes can be pretty annoying at times.

  4. Eric March 25, 2010 at 9:57 AM #

    Just let this be our prayer, Lord!

  5. Carol March 25, 2010 at 10:04 AM #

    Okay….someone just made me aware of this site.
    and I’m hooked.
    But…since I lead worship Sunday, I really, really want part 2.
    I tend to be emoter, teacher, (struggling with this for sunday, have so much to say, scriptures/insights (God breezes to be sure…but still it seems alot to say).
    Otherwise I just get super shy (no confidence ) and not say anything.
    So I am very interested in why and what to say during worship leading.
    This looks like a wonderful site. Can’t wait to read more.

  6. Angela Otte March 25, 2010 at 10:05 AM #

    For years I was The Mute. I was terrified about saying something wrong or misleading. Like you said, the key to that is pursuing God on a daily basis. When I spend time daily in His Presence, He leads my words when I lead. I also think we need to plan ahead and have at least an outline of what we are going to say, while leaving room for the Spirit to lead. Thank you for the good laugh and I can’t wait to see your next post!

  7. Rich March 25, 2010 at 10:18 AM #


    I tend to be the Mute with the long pauses…I’ll say something every now and then but I’d rather not fill ‘dead air’ with stumbling. Haven’t quite struck a balance of staying silent and speaking at appropriate times, though that is a goal. Hopefully your next post will contribute to that end.

  8. Ben March 25, 2010 at 10:26 AM #

    I remember when someone first told me I used a “worship voice.” They even had created a hand symbol for it to joke about with their freinds… three fingers for a “W” and two for a “V”… “Worship Voice…” I was pretty frustrated with myself because the problem was, I didn’t even know I did it.

    Since then, I’ve tried to be more conscious of it, but I also began to notice that I speak much more softly even in normal conversation when I’m affected by something or when I’m taking something seriously. It’s been difficult to determine what is my “Worship Voice” and what is just my normal personality seeping through.

    Great thoughts, though… looking forward to the next post!

    • Deborah Ade May 19, 2014 at 8:36 AM #

      beautiful. I’m also learning how to lead others to worship in public. I’ve almost always done it privately. Thanks for the insight so I don’t get to make unnecceaary mistakes.

  9. Steve Toombs March 25, 2010 at 11:42 AM #

    I’ve been a long time reader but this is my first post.
    Guess I’m just a lazy worship consumer…or in worship talk terms…”the mute”. I had to respond to this. Hilarious.
    I think I’ve been guilty of almost everyone one. haha.
    Looking forward to finding some solutions to my ever growing list of “what were you thinking?!!”…and in the words of “the wanderer”…why is the name of “steve” like so always picked on….like truly.

  10. Troy March 25, 2010 at 1:26 PM #

    “Here we go!”
    “C’mon church!”
    “The thought occured to me…”

    Hi, I’m Troy, and I’ve been a recovering Worship Leader for 22 years now.

  11. West B. March 25, 2010 at 2:38 PM #

    Thanks for this post. Your breakout session was immensely valuable, and I go back to my notes regularly.

    One thing that was helpful was the instruction that “the musical leader doesn’t have to do the talking, but we miss an opportunity to care people’s souls – to pastor them.”

    Also, the instruction on brevity was helpful: one thought, one Scripture, one application. I think you also said you would write it out on one page in 100 pt bold Arial font.

    Thanks for your faithfulness.

    • Bob Kauflin March 25, 2010 at 2:40 PM #

      Thanks, West. Very encouraging. I think it was 18 pt. arial, though, not 100 pt. Wouldn’t have much to say…

  12. West B. March 25, 2010 at 4:35 PM #

    Yeah – i thought that was kind of crazy, but considering the source… ha-ha! :-)

  13. Carol March 25, 2010 at 8:35 PM #

    It occurred to me, that I say that a bit.
    yes, 100 point font..doesn’t leave much room. lol

  14. Ken March 31, 2010 at 1:41 AM #

    Man, this post was hilarious! I had fun laughing at myself as I read all those descriptions. Good job on summing up the different stereotypes, I’m sure many of us can see ourselves in those descriptions. We gotta be able to laugh at ourselves right? Humbling in a fun way… thanks!

  15. Ben Seidl April 13, 2010 at 10:49 AM #

    I really dug this. My wife, Jasmin, translated it into German.

    “Was soll man sagen, wenn man Lobpreis leitet? Teil 1”


  16. chava ordaz April 21, 2010 at 12:51 AM #

    Very interesting, I found this very encouraging as well as a think to be really considered. But as you said the key is to seek for Gods glory in everything we are about to say or do.
    I want to read you the next posts.
    thank you Bob

  17. Melody Grove August 12, 2013 at 3:28 PM #

    Bob, only you could get away with such a satirical synopsis. :) I can boast that I’ve heard it all, and have been blessed by every impartation…because each characterization is a representation of our where our humanness intersects the Holy Spirit’s leading. When we put the word and the Holy Spirit’s leading to song…It’s a dance of the spirit, mind and soul. I have long since reconciled myself that his sovereign leading through the worship leader is always meant for good, no matter how it is filtered through their frame. Many times I’m taken by surprise, but more than naught, the Holy Spirit within me affirms the emphasis and I am undone in broken unity.

  18. JR Taylor August 12, 2013 at 4:11 PM #

    I love this list, although I have thoughts on the “worship leading” voice that I hope adds clarity to what may have been an oversight (or maybe it’s a disagreement).

    An important consideration of speaking during worship (and I’ve coached developing worship leaders under my care in this) is that you speak in a way that is dynamically consistent with your singing. If the worship leader is singing a song gently, I would like for him/her to speak gently. Likewise, if the singing is big and strong, I would expect the speaking to match appropriately. It’s not about trying to sound cool/spiritual/whatever. It’s about being considerate and communicating effectively.

    (wow, just realized this post is over 3yrs old – I thought it seemed familiar! oh well, I’ll post this anyway!)

    • Bob Kauflin August 12, 2013 at 11:26 PM #

      JR, totally agree with your comment. Thanks!


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