1 Corinthians 14:40
But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
As worship leaders, we do a fantastic job discovering new worship songs, preparing our bands for those songs and coordinating team schedules. We are in tune with our congregation’s preferences and tendencies. Worshiping the Lord is one of our favorite things to participate in, anytime. However, sometimes we are the worst at creating seamless worship transitions. I don’t think it is because we don’t want a great transition, it’s that we cannot put ourselves in the place of a congregant and see through their vantage point. We aren’t great at hearing what they hear. And some of us cannot put ourselves in their place as they come into a worship service. Below are several scenarios and ways you may want to engage your congregation.
Any good event, of any kind, is about flow. An airplane takes off, soars for a while, then descends. A football game has four quarters. Each quarter has a different emotion or push to it. Worship services need to have a well-defined service flow. While you may not be the head pastor at your church, I’m assuming you do have some input as to where worship songs are placed. Or at the very least you have say over how they musically transition. Being an effective worship leader means you are effective at each assignment required. Learning how to transition songs well needs to be at the top of that list.
A worship transition (primarily in between songs) usually has both a musical and speaking component. Both should be planned out before your first rehearsal to be really effective. While you don’t have to have every word transcribed, you should have the bones of what you’d like to say. The reason is simple: you already know what song is coming next. I believe with all my heart that the Holy Spirit knows on Tuesday what he wants to do on Sunday. You can plan ahead.
As you prepare your speaking transitions, make sure you remember the time of day/year of those joining you for worship that day/service time. Are they tired because this is the last thing they are doing after working in the yard all day? Are they just waking up because this is the early morning service? Does this service primarily serve younger people? Older? Mixed? Knowing who is in service with you and what they may be going through will help you communicate specifically to them. You’ll be much more effective if you know your crowd.
Do not use prayer as a transition. This is easily the most over-utilized transition tool and done inappropriately it can grieve the Holy Spirit. If you are praying simply so the guitar player can tune down a half-step, find another way. Prayers that are for the purpose of anything other than direct communication to God are unwise and, to be honest, lazy. Only use prayer when you know prayer should be used.
Some worship leaders ought not talk as much as they do. You know who you are. There may be someone else on your team, or your pastor who are far more qualified to make transitions. If that is the case, let them. However, if you are going to speak, prepare, prepare, prepare, prepare. Some of the greatest pastors in America prepare their sermons two months in advance. Why would their worship leader then phone in their speaking time? They wouldn’t! Take time to write out what you want to say, even if it is just an outline. You’ll be more confident and those you are speaking to will be able to follow you easier.
Now, for the content of a good transition. Make sure your transition either has something to do with the song that is about to be sung or the theme of the message about to be taught. You want to keep continuity flowing in the service. If the next song is about the Holy Spirit then don’t spend time speaking about the majesty of God. Also, don’t go over two minutes and when you speak, speak confidently. You are not the pastor, let him preach. You are the worship leader, lead worship.
You also need to make sure and plan your transition out of worship. What is coming after your set? You should let your pastor decide his preference as to whether you hand him a lively or calmed group. Be conscientious of what he’d like to do with the day. You don’t want your part of the service to feel like the end of service if it’s just the middle.
As an aside, do not use Hillsong/Bethel videos be your source of learning how to make song transitions. Those videos are well produced and are often taken from worship conferences. Think for your congregation and who they are. While those renowned leaders may be who you look up to, they don’t know what it is like to lead your congregation. Only you do. Step into that role.
Transitions as a worship leader are important and worth preparing for. I’m curious to hear how you plan out your transitions. Are you guilty of using prayer as a transition when you probably shouldn’t? What would you add to the list of things to remember when thinking about flow as a worship leader? I would love to hear! Comment or private message…