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Youth Services: How to Be a Great Emcee

Youth Services: How to Be a Great Emcee

Finding the right people to put on stage as the host of your youth service or event is really, really important. You’ve got to have the right personalities and presence on stage as you continue to thread the theme/series through the night.

I spent some time thinking about it this weekend, and found that using an analogy from sports broadcasting works well. There’s usually two people hosting in the broadcast booth, and there’s a reason they do it this way:

The “Play-by-Play” Person

This is the driver of the on stage conversation. They are the personality, the king of first impressions, and will set the tone for the program. If they are warm, if they are genuine, if they are funny—it will all help ease the first moments of tension between the audience and the stage. This person would talk the majority of the time. Using two of these people on stage at the same time is like having two drivers in one car—but not having this person at all creates an awkward chemistry of two people who don’t know how to drive the vehicle.

The Color Commentator

This is the person who isn’t driving, but is still fully engaged and along for the ride. This person is responsible for tracking the length of the time on stage and should make sure that the content is focused and hitting home. If the Play-by-Play person gets too far off track, the Color Commentator steers them back on course. Using two of these emcee-types on stage creates some wandering stage moments that never really take the audience anywhere, and it lacks the warmth and energy of the play-by-play. But if you don’t have this person at all, you lose some of the depth and content that the emcee should provide.

Stage presence isn’t natural—some people are very good at it, so you might think it’s natural. But it is enormous work, and countless hours of practice fools you into thinking either you have it or you don’t. Sure, some people’s gifting makes it easier than others, but it is work for everyone. After a service recently, we talked through some principles of basic good stage presence, and this is what we came up with:


Be sure you hold the microphone up to your mouth—people that aren’t used to the stage tend to make the common mistake of holding the microphone away from their mouth. Make sure the microphone is right up near your mouth; rest it on your chin, if you have to. If your hands are filled with stuff, that stuff will tempt you to move the microphone around too much. Either memorize what is on the cue card, or put it on a music stand in front of you.


When you ask someone on stage a question, remember to hold the microphone up to their mouth, too. Typically by this point in the service, even a rookie emcee has figured out they need to hold the mic up to their own mouth, but too often they forget to help the crowd hear the other person on stage, too.


Someone has trusted you with the entire stage—and remember that everything is the message, not just the sermon. You now control the room—you are there to build energy in the room and excitement toward the next element; you’re there to bring the crowd down to what’s next, or you’re introducing something. Either way, you’re not the star of the show—you are driving the vehicle, and the passengers are what people want to see. Know what you’re there to do and get off stage!


If you’ve got an opening line/bit/joke, it will really help get you started on the right foot. Equally important, a great run onstage ends with a fizzle if you’re not sure how to end it all. If you’re throwing to video, sell it. If you’re introducing a person, make the transition obvious. However you come in or leave the stage, make sure you have a plan.  

by Josh Griffin
Author, 99 Thoughts for Youth Workers
Joshua Griffin is the High School Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA and the author of 99 Thoughts for Youth Workers. He has served in youth ministry for 15 years. Visit Josh at MoreThanDodgeball.com.
This article was adapted from a blog posting by Josh Griffin at MoreThanDodgeball.com.
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