Creating Speaking Transitions in Worship
Creating Speaking Transitions in Worship
As promised, it is time to finish the transition mini blog series. Last time we talked about musical transitions, this time we will talk about speaking transitions. For some reason speaking transitions tend to be an area that really freaks out us musicians. We can sing and play in front of thousands, but ask us to speak in front of ten and we get weak in the knees. I, myself, have had to work hard at this part and even sometimes still fail at communicating well, but spoken transitions done well can really hit home the message and/or theme that you are trying to convey to the congregation. This is a skill that needs to be worked at and not neglected. So, here we go. I am going to let you in on a few tricks I have learned.
First off, I want to share the type of spoken transition I tend to use most on Sundays: reading of scripture. One of my professors in my worship program actually challenged us in this. In a class talking about doing spoken transitions, he looked at us and basically said, “Why try to come up with your own words when you already have God’s? God’s words will be better and more effective than anything we can come up with anyway.” Those wise words stuck with me and I use this weekly.
The key is to find scripture that matches the theme of what you are trying to hit home. If you want to take time to expand on that scripture feel free, but remember that you are paid to lead worship and not give a mini sermon. You need to respect the pastors time. (I try to keep my expanding to a minute or two, if I even have that amount of time. My church stays within 20 minutes for worship and it’s my job to meet that expectation weekly so my pastor doesn’t have to cut down what God has lead him to preach.) Remember that expanding on the scripture isn’t necessary. If you want to just let the scripture sit with the audience, that is just as good. Sometimes, verses carry weight enough by themselves and it is best to just let the words sink into the congregation.
How do you find scripture you ask? Well, I use a few resources when I am working on my transitions.
First one is worshiptogether.com. During an interview with an older worship leader I got turned onto this website. It has some wonderful material! Theme, tempo, ccli number, etc. but the best is scripture references. On this website when you click on a song you get several scriptural references that are found in the song. Basically, you get to read the scripture that helped form the song. What could be better than to use the scripture the song was based off of? You get to read to the congregation the verses that inspire the very song they just sang or will sing. You get to share the heart of the song.
A downfall to worshiptogether.com is that sometimes newer songs, or not as well known songs, will not be on there. You can search similarly themed songs to find scripture on there, but it does make it harder to locate some. If you cannot find any verses for the song that work there why not just google? You never know what articles or interviews an artist has done over their song that will provide you with what you need.
The second resource I frequently use is Youversion. Youversion, made by Life Church, is a wonderful resource for getting into scripture. Another cool tool it has is the ability to search for scripture based on theme. If you click on the search button it will pull up a page to search the Bible. This is where you can find specific themes to search by. Click the one that goes with the song you are doing, or the theme you have chosen for that week, and you will find several verses that you can use. Something I urge you to do here is to study the context of a verse before using it. Read around the verses, read a quick commentary, dig into it. It would be terrible to read a verse totally out of context.
Lastly, pull from your personal time with God. I have always heard, and experienced (in the times I have preached) that you can know what a pastor is learning and going through by the sermons he preaches. I don’t know if that is always true or if it applies to all pastors but it’s not a bad idea to use as worship pastors. What has God taught you lately? What verses has you brought into your life in your studies? Usually we find ourselves pulling in songs that speak to us when praying over the set so, why not do the same with verses? Make sure what you are going to read goes with the theme and if it checks out use it. People want real and what is more real then sharing verses that God has used to teach you lately? Also, these verses will mean more to you at that time, you will be able to have more passion about them, and you will naturally possess more knowledge of them that will easily help you expand on them if you choose.
A few extra scripture transition tips to add. First idea, is to memorize the verses you want to use. This helps in a few ways: it allows you to not stumble over the words, it allows you to be smoother in your time of transition because you are ready as soon as it is time, and you don’t have to pull out your Bible or device to read it. Memorizing the verse makes it becomes more than just a verse to you, because you have now hidden it in your heart. Remember that the congregation can only worship as deep as you can lead them, so if you aren’t learning God’s word and spending time with them how can you take them into a time of deep worship? I would recommend that you check out an app called verses. This app is an amazing tool to help you memorize scripture. I have memorized several verses because of it.
Another option for spoken transitions would be to investigate the story of how the song was written. If it is a hymn, there are several books out there for this very purpose. “Then Sings My Soul” by Robert J. Morgan is probably the most popular for this use. (I have one by William and Ardythe Petterson called Hymns that is similar.) Google can be your best friend on this. Try googling this subject and a lot of times you will find articles that have been written from an interview or by the artist about the meaning of the song. I have even found facebook posts that have explained the song. You never know! Youtube is another place you should check to find background on specific songs.
No matter where you find it, telling the story of the song is a great way to help people get a deeper meaning of the song. Don’t believe me? Check up on “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan, then listen to the full version of the song with the third verse and tell me then it didn’t effect your connection to the song.
To end this point, song stories don’t just have to be the composers. It is okay to share your personal story of how a song has effected you. For example, “Do It Again” by Elevation Worship is a song that I have a strong connection with. I was struggling with seasonal depression when this song came alive to me. The verses and the bridges almost brought me to tears because I was reminded that God has never failed me and HE WILL DO IT AGAIN! Be transparent with your congregation, authenticity from you will help breed authenticity from them. If you are willing to show your emotions and scars they will learn to do the same.t
Scheduled Testimony/ Time of Prayer
First off, scheduled testimony. It’s okay to have others share in these spaces. Schedule someone you know that has a powerful testimony that involves the theme you want to share. The same professor I talked about earlier brought to life “Great are You Lord” by the former group All Sons and Daughters (the fact they broke up still break my heart…). When he introduced the song for the first time he told the praise team, a story of his father having health issues and problems breathing. He talked about faithfulness of his dad and he was still willing to worship even though the breaths he was using to sing those praises were harder to give out… That touches us all… That Sunday, the song felt more powerful because there was this extra passion and conviction in the song. The professor shared it with the church and, if I recall correctly, even had his dad share it personally. I was talking to Tyler, who attends this church now, the other day and he said this is still one the songs that the congregation responds to well and that was almost five years ago now. That is the power with sharing a testimony during worship.
Next, prayer. Lead your congregation in a time of prayer. An easy way to do this is to use your prayer to summarize what God has spoken to you in this time. What things stuck out to you in your preparation? What key concepts do you want the congregation to grab ahold of? I use this spoken transition to end the worship and lead into the sermon. On the technical side, it is also a good way for your band to leave the stage without being noticed on the technical side. And on the spiritual side, it is a good way to leave the congregation focused on the ideas that the worship set was suppose to point them towards.
Rehearse What You Say
Some people might disagree with rehearsing what you will say but, before you stop here, I plead with you to finish this last section.
It seems to go against our nature as Worship Pastors/Leaders to write out and rehearse the very words we will say for our worships sets. The thoughts I have had and heard are statements like, “That hinders the Holy Spirit!” or “You cannot plan what to say until you are in the moment because you don’t have the emotion.” or “I just want to let God lead me with what to say.” I hate to say this, but this mindset of not preparing our spoken transitions is why I think us Worship Pastors or Worship Leaders have a bad reputation as babbling, saying the wrong things, and are asked to not speak. Do you think your pastor just shows up on Sunday and says, “I didn’t prepare anything because I didn’t want to hinder the Holy Spirit’s guidance on me?” That would be ridiculous, right?
When it comes to planning the worship set and transitions, I think the Worship Pastor/Leader (WP/WL) has the same obligation to spend time in God’s presence and in His word earlier in the week when preparing for Sunday. To limit God to only being able to speak to you in the moment during your set is kind of insulting to Him. Allow him to prepare your heart and words for worship and it will run so much more smoothly. Here is the other side of it, if you are prepared better spiritually and mentally because you prepared earlier in the week aren’t you even more prepared to go off script if the scripture leads you? Preparation actually makes going off scripture easier, more natural, and, I will even say, more spiritual because you already have a guidance from the Holy Spirit that has been established several days before through the personal time you spent with Him.
In summary, Prepare, prepare, prepare. Let God lead you on Monday instead of the thrill of the moment on Sunday. Scripture is, I beg to say, the best resource to pull from when it comes to these spoken transitions. How can we say it better than God? Use the stories of the composer and yourself and/ or teammate to help the congregation connect with the song. It can build a lasting bond to the song because it makes the song more personal. People love realness, so don’t be afraid to show it. This applies to song stories and testimonies, which in a way can be considered the same thing. Prayer is a get tool to summarize the theme, point out the key concepts for people, and share what God has laid on your heart doing the worship set. I usually use it to transition out of the worship time into the sermon. Again I will say, prepare! Don’t wait for Sunday in the moment to go off your head on what to say. That will lead to disaster more times than we are willing to admit. Don’t blame our laziness on the Holy Spirit and allow Him to move in our hearts earlier that week. Don’t be afraid to rehearse what you are going to say! Sometimes I have even found that if I make it just between God and me when I am practicing He can lead me to a new place just by me going through the words. He can reveal a truth to me in my personal time of preparation with Him that helps Sunday even more. I hope you can at least use some of these tools and this article makes your spoken transitions better. As always, if you have any questions or comments you can contact us on any of our social media platforms or through our website. Go innovate everyone!
Love you fam!