Tips for Leading Liturgy

Here are some guidelines I’m developing for liturgists (leaders of liturgical prayers, responsive readings and church announcements) at the church where Kristen and I serve.

1. Understand the text. Pray for the Spirit’s illumination on the passage you’re presenting.

2. Practice reading aloud beforehand, just as you’d practice singing or playing worship songs. Don’t wing it. Don’t think, “This is easy. I learned to read when I was a little kid. I’ve got this.”

3. Make eye contact at the beginning and end of the reading. No matter how long the reading is, you can quickly memorize the first sentence. Look at your congregation while reciting this sentence to help focus their attention on your words.

4. Emphasize verbs, particularly action verbs (verbs that express action; verbs that a person, animal, thing or force of nature can do). This will make the reading flow well, and help draw your congregation into the passage.

5. Pace yourself well. Nervous people often read too quickly. Read at a comfortable pace, and pause after key sentences or phrases. If you breathe from your diaphragm as you read, this will help you read calmly and deliberately, because your breathing pattern won’t physically allow you to rush your words.

6. Avoid the tendency to adlib a preface or an afterthought that exposits the passage. You are not delivering a sermon—not even a short homily. You are leading the congregation in a liturgical reading.

7. Don’t try too hard. We counsel our singers to sing in a way that helps people sing along rather than deliver a virtuoso performance that will leave them breathless. In the same way, our readers must remember that it’s not about them. This isn’t your chance to shine, to have everyone remark on your speaking skills, your charisma, your humor, your charm, your gravitas. This is about serving the liturgy.

Announcements

The announcements are an especially difficult part of a liturgist’s job. Most of your other readings come from Scripture, so they contain the inherent power of God’s Word.

People will immediately know that the announcements are not God’s Word—they’re the “business” part of the service.

What follows is the standard template for our end-of-service announcements. Below this template you’ll find several tips that, in addition to the guidelines above, will help you.

Note that all of the underlined areas in this template represent the words that never change, week to week. You can memorize these words, which means that that only one sentence changes each week—the sentence that talks about whatever specific event or two we’re promoting that week.

Announcement Template:

Thank you for joining us today. If this is your first time here then we invite you to fill out a Connect Card, located on the seat-back in front of you—it’s a simple way to introduce yourself to us. You can turn in your Connect Card at the Welcome Table on your way to the parking lot.

We’re excited about upcoming event and upcoming event. You’ll find details for these and other upcoming events in your bulletin, so be sure to take it home with you.

Have a great week in your Community Groups. Your pastors will be praying for all groups today. If you’re not in a group yet, you can learn about them at the Welcome Table, or just ask the person next to you.

We begin with a Call to Worship and we end with a Benediction, which is our blessing for the road …

(Benediction then follows)

Tips:

    1. Stick to the script—this will keep the announcements well under a minute. People know that the service is pretty much over. Their minds are wandering to what’s next (pick up kids, talk with so-and-so, visit the restroom, get lunch, etc.).
    2. Avoid the temptation to provide details for the upcoming event you’re promoting. Just refer your people to the bulletin, where the details are already written down for them.
    3. Occasionally you’ll have to announce something that will happen immediately following the service (ex: “Remember our potluck after the 11 a.m. service. We hope you can join us!”). In these instances, just be sure to keep the other announcements extra tight. 
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Bobby Gilles
Bobby Gilles has written several of Sojourn Music’s popular worship songs for albums like The Water And The Blood, Over The Grave and Before The Throne. He is content manager for sojournmusic.com and has mentored songwriters and led many Sojourn songwriting workshops as part of Pastor Mike Cosper’s worship ministry. Bobby is also Sojourn Church Director Of Communications, and works with Lead Pastor Daniel Montgomery to communicate Sojourn’s mission and vision. He co-wrote the children’s book Our Home Is Like A Little Church, published by Christian Focus. As a former radio disc jockey and music director, he was twice named a National Top 10 Finalist for Gospel Music DJ of the Year.