GraceConnect E-News, No. 89, Week of March 2, 2015


The eNewsletter for the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
Scott Avey (second from left) leads worship at FellowShift (national conference) this past July.

Confessions of a Worship Leader 

This week's story comes from the Flinch Conference blog. Flinch is the national conference of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches in 2015, to be held in New York City in July. Today's author, Scott Avey, who will lead worship at Flinch, is worship pastor of Grace Community Church in Frederick, Md. (R. Dallas Greene, senior pastor). He has been involved in worship arts for more than 10 years in churches of many sizes and compositions. He has an undergraduate degree in music education and master’s degree in ministry from Grace College and Theological Seminary.

I’ve been in worship ministry for more than 10 years… working with churches from a church plant (30 people) to 3,000. The culture of worship in churches has great diversity that is both wonderful and enigmatic. Of particular interest is the expectation upon worship leaders to speak or not to speak.

During a season, I candidated with several different churches, some in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches and some outside of the FGBC (gasp… I know). I quickly saw there are pastors who basically tell their worship leaders: “play the song then sit down… please don’t talk. Your job is to be the song leader.” Then there are congregations who love it when the worship leader provides verbal teaching. In some cases, they even feel like “hey, the songs are nice and all… but you need to give us some sort of verbal introduction or context.”

In my observation, the "speak" churches are usually those who come from an educational model of church. (That is, the senior pastor has done a great job of making doctrine and sound thinking a thing of importance.) The "don’t speak" churches may have a greater concern with keeping the service flowing and cohesive. These churches tend to have preaching pastors who prefer to be the primary teaching voice. Most congregations don’t even know it’s a part of their culture either way.

This is not an issue of dogma, and most likely not a doctrinal issue; it’s more of an issue of tradition and culture. As such, there’s freedom for both the "speak" and "don’t speak" crowds. I’m not making a judgment on virtues of either culture. I personally resolved that I wanted to be at a church that permitted, but didn't require it. I can’t help but think that some churches have outlawed worship leader verbals because of bad experiences. So I’d like to be a part of helping worship leaders refine their skills and make positive contributions to the church body.

One of the greatest challenges is simply in trying to concisely and effectively communicate a (usually) profoundly deep and powerful truth in two minutes and 30 seconds or less. My own senior pastor deftly observed that worship leaders condense 30 minutes of content into three minutes, whereas preachers take three minutes of content and stretch it to 30. 

Communication, in any form, is a skill to be developed. This is completely true for worship leaders. Being an artist or musician does not excuse you from the obligation to put truth and words together in a meaningful way. Please don’t use the artistic temperament as an excuse for laziness. A ditzy musician babbling through a verbal segment does not serve the church. I can’t tell you the number of times I've heard inexperienced worship leaders leave the congregation puzzled. On the other hand, in our current cultural context, the musical/worship part of the service is not necessarily the time for a 20-minute discourse on what is a bulwark or Ebenezer or the systematic theology involved in the word "ineffable." It takes discipline, planning, practice, and review for a worship leader to develop this skill. A well-placed and well-timed worship verbal (that’s what I call it) can sharpen and engage the heart and mind of the congregation.

Check out the Flinch Conference website for more information about this life-changing conference! Register now to get the best price. (The first price increase is April 1.)


[Your Turn]


Don't forget, you can register for the Flinch Conference by clicking here. Also, check out the Riskursions page. Riskursions will be taking place on Saturday afternoon during the Flinch conference. 


Shannon Horst, senior pastor of Basore Road Grace Brethren Church in Dayton, Ohio, grew up around mechanical things and a basic idea of how things work. "I certainly don’t mind getting my hands dirty," he explains in his bio. Check out his blog about his mechanical (mis)adventures at
[(Worship) Leader's Corner:]

Here are Scott Avey's 7 Tips for Better Worship Verbals:

1. Plan it ahead of time. There are times when the spirit moves two seconds in advance. But he can also move two days in advance. By all means, ask the Spirit to guide you! I’ve found my most effective verbals have been the ones I have planned in advance and took the time to write down! When working with young worship leaders, I always require that they write what they plan to say, and then cut it by a third. It teaches them the discipline of concise communication and helps avoid the next mistake:

2. Get rid of jargon and verbal pauses. “Um, like, when I was at OB this summer, right before YWAM, we would just worship God. Like, as a church we just need to worship God more…” ‘Nuff said.

3. Anticipate the emotional climate of the moment. If you are coming out of a really high-energy moment, then you do not need to quickly go to some super intimate verbal. It's like worship whiplash. Anticipate the energy level at the end of a song, video, or other moment, and plan how to start the talk. I practice my verbals in rehearsal… with the band. It feels a little weird to speak to empty chairs but it helps me better prepare.

4. Avoid excessive self-disclosure. There is a fine line between genuine authenticity and narcissism. Don’t make the moment about you. The first time you speak, it will likely be endearing to the congregation (if authentic), but if you do that every time, it starts to look self-pleasing.

5. Plan how to end a verbal segment. I’ve seen it happen tons of times: the worship leader doesn’t know how to get out of a verbal segment so it continues in perpetuity until they can find their way out of their mental labyrinth. Prayer can be a good ending, but resist the urge to make prayer pragmatic.

6. Use scripture. I cannot state this enough. This is my no. 1 all-time tip. If I share one of my thoughts or muses, it may or may not bear fruit. But if I share God’s Word, it won’t return void (Isaiah 55:11). You (almost) cannot go wrong sharing God’s word. One of my go-to methods is to feast on one word in a song then find a scripture that goes with it. Or look up what passage was motivating the songwriter when they wrote it. Share the scripture. Have other team members read it. Make it into a video. God’s Word is always worth sharing.

7. Review your verbals. Record it – audio or video, and then listen to it or watch it. I find I almost always talk too quickly. Experience can lead to a rut; evaluated experience can make you better.

Events in the FGBC

March 16-18 – South Focus Retreat, Florida FFA Training Center, Haines City, Fla. (FGBC)
March 20-21 – WLS Class: Women and Scripture, Frederick, Md. (WGUSA) 
April 24-25 – WLS Class: Women and Scripture, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (WGUSA) 
June 15-July 27 – Operation Barnabas, Winona Lake, Ind. (CEN)
June 21-27, 2015  Great Canadian Adventure, Toronto, Ontario (GBC)
June 21-27, 2015 – Encounter Atlanta, Atlanta, Ga. (EWP)
June 23-July 7 City Life Tours East Coast & West Coast (CEN)
July 14-19, 2015 – Momentum Youth Conference, Marion, Ind. (CEN) 
July 23-26, 2015 – Flinch Conference (national conference), Newark, N.J. (FGBC) 

CEN – CE National
EWP – Encompass World Partners
FGBC – Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
GBC – Grace Brethren Canada
WGUSA – Women of Grace USA

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