The Worship Team’s Guide to Transitions

The Worship Team's Guide to Transitions

We talk a lot about songs. We talk a lot about music. We talk a lot about worship. But an often neglected (but no less important) aspect of leading worship is how you approach transitions.

In this post I want to give you an outline for how to think through your transitions each week. And this is something you should think through and give as much attention to as the songs themselves.

Why Are Transitions Important?

Think about what is most important on Sunday morning. Nothing is more central than the people of God connecting with the presence of God. We don’t want them to have an experience with music or a sing-a-long with the band. We want hearts connected with their maker.

I’ve done transitions very poorly and God has still moved. But it also was a distraction. I’ve said “crap” instead of “clap.” I’ve had plenty of unintentional, awkward silences. I’ve even knocked over a mic stand.

With that being said, things will happen. But let’s do our best to think through the whole worship set as if we’re telling a story or scoring a film. Be prayerful in your planning. Be intentional in your decision making.

A Few Transitional Ideas

1. Identify & plan every transition – Leading a three-song set? You have four transitions to plan and rehearse. How will you enter into song one? How will you transition from one to two? Two to three? How will you exit the third song? These transitional moments aren’t just an opportunity for you and your team to sound slick and polished. It’s not for you to be impressive with how air tight your worship set is. It’s a way for you to prayerfully pastor your congregation with what is good for them in worship. Sometimes that’s a quick, slick entrance into another song. Other times, it may be a “planned” spontaneous moment to linger in God’s presence.

2. Rehearse every transition – Rehearsal isn’t just about getting through songs. It’s about outlining a story. And each of your transitions is a part of telling that story. Make sure your team knows each transition. Make sure roles are assigned. Who is starting the next song? How long should they wait to begin?

Also, worship leaders—outline what you’re going to say. Think through even the slightest vocal cues. Don’t leave this to randomness. Leave this to prayerful, pastoral reflection. Some questions to ask:

– How can I give this song context through the Word of God?

– How can I draw attention away from the band in this moment?

– How can I encourage people to sing out more?

– Is there a responsive reading that would strengthen this moment?

3. Vary how you transition – Not every transition should be the same. Even with a set, it’s helpful to vary how your songs blend together. Here are a few ideas:

– Spoken challenge – Sometimes a little spoken challenge can go a long way to blend songs together and make it feel more “human.” Utilize those transition moments to re-connect with the room.

– Repeat a chorus – Rather than just ending a song, a great way to transition is to sing the chorus again, but with nothing but keys or an acoustic guitar. Allow the raised voice of the congregation to fill the room. Again, another way to make those moments feel less “produced” and more real.

– Medley a simple hymn – Hymns are incredible transitional songs because they tend to disarm people and unify more generations. Sometimes these transition moments with a hymn generate more momentum than a full song.

– Intentional silence – Don’t be afraid to lead people into silence and space. Transitions don’t always have to be the avoidance of silence. Silence is only awkward when it’s not led well or pastored through. But when done well, it can be a very healthy practice for your church.

– Blend songs together – A transition we do every week is connect our opening song click/loop to the opening countdown video. That’s a simple way to always have a great transition there. Since we’ve determined we don’t need to flow in that moment or talk too much, it works well. You can do the same with certain songs in your set. Rather than ending, pausing and clicking off a new song, have the drums begin the next song before the previous song dies out. Find creative ways to make the transition seamless and rehearse it.

Remember, the goal of our transitions, rehearsal and planning is to connect hearts with God. We want to create an undistracting atmosphere that helps people see the perfections of Jesus more clearly.

I’d love to hear from you about this. How do you approach your transitions?

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David Santistevan
David is a Worship Pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, PA.

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