What Do You Say When You Lead Worship? Part 3

mark-and-ryanI’m aware that for many people reading the question posed in the title of this post, their immediate and firm answer is, “Nothing!”

I, too, have been the victim (and the perpetrator) of comments during corporate worship that are more distracting than helpful. That’s why I want to list ten practical aspects today that hopefully will keep a well-intentioned, zealous leader from misinterpreting what I’ve been saying.

1. Recognize that God’s words outlast ours.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16)

If I say something, I want to direct people’s attention to the unchanging truth of God’s Word, rather than my own creativity or insights. Sometimes simply reading a Scripture is the best thing to do. Have a Bible  with you when you lead, and don’t read Scripture casually or quickly. It’s also helpful to memorize, or at least be very familiar with, any Scripture you refer to.

2. Plan the progression of songs so you don’t have to say that much.
I’ve found that speaking sooner is usually better than later. It’s helpful to consider how last lines and first lines connect. If a song doesn’t need an introduction, don’t give it one. Starting with the chorus sometimes makes a better transition from the last song. While there’s no “rule” that says we can’t say something between every song, it’s generally not a good idea. You only need a road sign when you turn.

3. Behold the beauty of brevity.
Say what you need to say: one thought, one Scripture, one application. If you have trouble following what you’re saying, your listeners won’t fare much better.

4. Brief phrases (spoken or sung) between lines of a song can accomplish the same goals as longer comments.
Rather than speak between songs, you can say something during a song. But don’t interject phrases so often that people grow immune to your comments. A few ideas:

Repeat a line (“This the power…this is the power“)
Contrast a line (“I am not skilled to understand…but you know it all“)
Expand on a thought (“How deep the Father’s love for us…displayed at the cross“)
Add to a thought (“How great is our God…you rescue sinners“)

5. Varying the length, timing, sources, etc. of what you say can keep people from checking out mentally.
Simply put, don’t do the same thing every time you lead.

6. Don’t underestimate the value of preparation.
Two minutes of speaking might take two hours of preparation. It can be helpful to write down what you plan to say. That will help you to organize your thoughts, avoid rambling, run it by your pastor, and keep it from going too long. But don’t read it! I’ve found that the more time I’ve taken to prepare, the easier it is for me to share spontaneously and from my heart.

7. View testimonies, personal illustrations, and non-biblical quotes like spices – use them sparingly or they ruin the meal.

8. Don’t assume you have to play your instrument while you’re speaking.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t require musical accompaniment to do his work. Ask someone else to play, or talk without the music.

9. Prayer is speaking, too. The same principles apply.
Consider thinking through how you’ll pray. Root your prayers in God’s promises, not simply our responses. Remember you’re praying for the group, not just yourself. It can be helpful to use phrases from songs to deepen their impact.

10. Ask others for feedback to find out how you can grow.
Your pastor, your spouse, your children, and a good friend are all good options for finding out whether what you’re saying is helpful or not. And remember that every mistake is an opportunity to grow.

One final point. It’s not necessarily the lead musician’s job to talk. It could just as well be the pastor, and in some cases, should be the pastor. But every worship leader could benefit from thinking more carefully about how, when, and why to say something when they lead. Sad to say that after 30 years, it’s something I’m still learning.

You can read part one here, and part two here. The message these posts were taken from can be downloaded for free at the Sovereign Grace Online Store.

Nic Cross has some great thoughts on this topic. You can check out his post here.

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27 Responses to What Do You Say When You Lead Worship? Part 3

  1. Brian Taylor March 26, 2010 at 12:13 PM #

    Great series!!!

  2. Zach Nielsen (Vitamin Z) March 26, 2010 at 12:24 PM #


    This is hugely helpful. When I was a young worship leader this would have saved me hours of anxiety!


  3. David March 26, 2010 at 12:35 PM #

    I have found your example to be as compelling as your reasoning. I remember seeing you lead at T4G in 2008 – I called my wife just to tell her how you were leading. I was stunned. Your example transformed how I lead and subsequently, how our church worships. Since that time, we have attended both WG conferences and have grown so much. Your precision in leading worship is a model which I try to emulate. Thank you for teaching on this central issue. You continue to serve well.

  4. Matt McMorris March 26, 2010 at 12:57 PM #

    Another great post… Much of what you have said in this three part series has helped a good bit. I plan to apply it to my ministry as a worship leader. I will be taking some time today to look at Sunday’s set list and really think through how it fits together and what might be said to tie songs together and point hearts to Christ.

    Thank you for posts that push us to grow in our abilities for our Saviour!

  5. Chris Patton March 26, 2010 at 1:04 PM #

    I very much appreciate these comments.

    Something I’ve learned and am learningf: If you have something to say – say it succinctly and clearly. Stop when the thought is over. Don’t endlessly elaborate. Don’t strive to “create an experience.” Let God by the Spirit through the Word do what He pleases. If you’re words aren’t meaningful, no amount of emotion or repetition can change that.

  6. Rich March 26, 2010 at 1:50 PM #

    Wonderful information.

    How about adding another option: teaching the congregation to make the most of inevitable silence

    Here’s my take on it: http://sounddoxology.blogspot.com/2009/11/dead-air-making-most-of-inevitable.html

    • Bob Kauflin March 26, 2010 at 2:21 PM #

      Rich, great post. Thanks for thinking carefully about what we’re doing when we lead people in corporate worship.

  7. David March 26, 2010 at 3:45 PM #

    I forgot to mention…
    This is an intriguing statement:
    “8. Don’t assume you have to play your instrument while you’re speaking.
    The Holy Spirit doesn’t require musical accompaniment to do his work. Ask someone else to play, or go without it.”

    I wasn’t sure if it really applied to me until I took your cue from each of the photos which accompany this series of posts – only pictures of guitarists!
    A little bias from a pianist?!?!
    Hmm…I’m left wondering. :)

  8. Paul Hayes March 26, 2010 at 4:22 PM #

    Bob, Thanks for this very helpful instruction. Apparently, I’m not alone in “tongue-tied moments” up front!
    It is such a challenge to try to show people Christ.


  9. Noel March 26, 2010 at 7:07 PM #

    There is a big difference between a song leader and a worship leader.

    Maybe try involving others to read scripture, intro a song with a short testimony related to the song, or even leading in a prayer. Who says only the pros and worship people can be directly involved?

  10. Chris Luk March 27, 2010 at 12:05 AM #


    Thanks for your helpful and practical insight on this topic (and many other topics too)!

    After reading Part 1, I realized that I had (at one point in time) been every single one of those personalities while leading musical worship. I found it laugh-out-loud hilarious, but also great to reflect upon my own style of leadership.

    What I have been teaching people, when in instances like these, are the “ABC’s of sharing”, be:
    – Audible
    – Brief
    – Christ-centered

    Or, in your words, be:
    – Audible (The value of preparation, Don’t assume you have to play your instrument while you’re speaking, Ask others for feedback to find out how you can grow)
    – Brief (Behold the beauty of brevity)
    – Christ-centered (Recognize that God’s words outlast ours, Magnify, Apply, Clarify, Inspire)

    Looking forward to more of your insights and guidance :)

  11. Mark March 27, 2010 at 10:00 AM #

    What about affections when speaking? I feel the affections in my heart, but my natural tendency is to be soft spoken outwardly, and this can lead to me sharing a glorious truth in a less than glorious way. Could you recommend some ways that I could become more passionate when I speak?

  12. Marshall Stoy March 27, 2010 at 10:53 PM #

    “Two minutes of speaking might take two hours of preparation.”


    Thanks so much, Bob. Grateful for you, brother.

  13. Gardner Pippin March 28, 2010 at 8:45 PM #


    Very grateful for this series of posts.

    The one thing that has come to mind over the past week of tuning into this is the word Pastor. I’ve been a huge proponent of the term “Worship Pastor” ever since I heard it. Whether we like it or not, we are Pastors. Worship leaders lead songs, Worship Pastors lead people.

    As a young traveling worship pastor I continually ask myself many of the things you’ve addressed. I think the most encouraging and revealing thing for me that you posted was “not always saying the same stuff.” Because I’m typically in a new place every weekend and repeat some songs, I often use the same scripture. Definitely will remember that as I prepare in the future.

    Thanks for your selfless heart to share and encourage those around you. Hope to meet you face to face one day and learn more from your experienced heart.


  14. Gary Miller March 29, 2010 at 2:47 PM #

    This is a great 3 part series. You can never go wrong by quoting scripture, it never changes.

    Great posts guys, thanks for sharing! Keep up the great writing.

  15. Cole Jennette March 29, 2010 at 6:26 PM #

    Great post Bob.

    To add something, I always tell my younger leaders that any time they can bring new understanding of the lyrics of a chorus or bridge, to do so.

    We might be singing Hosanna, but no one understands what it means. Or we might be singing about his love and our people need to hear a testimony or a promise rooted in his love. We’ve seen incredibly breakthrough in those moments when our people suddenly understand and can sing with more enthusiasm and truth!


  16. Gangai Victor April 7, 2010 at 9:02 AM #

    Nice series Bob, especially loved the much needed importance given to set progression and song transition.

    Useful tips for any kind of worship leader.

  17. Zach Terry April 8, 2010 at 11:37 AM #

    Just want to say thanks for the impact you are making on my worship Pastor. He heard you recently at Southern Seminary as he has several times in the past. Each time he is with you I can notice and obvious change both on and off stage. Keep up the great work bro.!

  18. chava ordaz April 21, 2010 at 1:10 AM #

    I really appreciate this great series Bob, I am going to apply all of this useful thoughts and teaching at my church in México, I love all this useful tips and the importance that is given to them. I now realize that I have much more to learn.

  19. Amit April 23, 2010 at 2:55 AM #

    Excellent post.I want to thank you for this informative read, I really appreciate sharing this great post. Keep up your work..
    bba india

  20. Andrew April 24, 2010 at 1:09 PM #

    I was fortunate that I learned the first one early on. I read somewhere about evangelism and it said that it is really good to point people back to scripture because God says it so much better than we can. loved the three part series

  21. Martha May 7, 2010 at 4:03 AM #

    Regarding #8: “…or talk without the music.” That is a radical statement. Are you sure you meant it? ;-)
    I have often felt that the worship team is trying to manipulate me (instead of letting God speak for Himself) by playing highly emotional music while someone is speaking or praying. While emotion is certainly a component of worship, it is nice when musicians do not always do that. Smooth transitions are excellent, but we do not need to fear a moment of silence or non-musically-backed speaking.

  22. Londy February 16, 2012 at 9:03 AM #

    Thank u so much dear may God bless u.


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