We all have them, verbal ticks, repeated sayings, you know, call them linguistic ruts. Worship leaders are no different. Over the years we have developed several words and phrases that are so common they have become cliche’s themselves. These words and phrases we use in an effort to make our ministries more effective can have the opposite effect. They can actually block people from hearing us and actively engaging. But without someone to point them out, many of us carry these into our ministries, unaware of the effect they have on how our spoken words are received.
In an effort to shed some light on these common sayings I asked a group of worship leaders from around the country, across denominational lines, to offer up things that they wish we would all reconsider, rethink, reword, or even just drop, from our worship leading vernacular. As I list these, I hope that you will listen with an open mind. Ask yourself if any of these apply to you and if you could benefit from a new direction in your verbal leading. Remember, these come from your peers reviewing us all, including themselves.
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“Let’s give the Lord a clap offering”
I grew up in church in the 1970’s being asked to give God a clap offering all of the time. While there is nothing technically wrong with this instruction, there are a couple of concerns:
Is this just a way to see if the people in your church are awake/alive? Are you doing this every week? If someone asked you why you say this to your congregation, what would your answer be?
“Now this time, really sing it!”
While we all seem to want to “help our folks out” with a little instruction (or sometimes a lot of instruction) this one can be problematic. What if the last time really was the best they have, at least this week? You basically just told your congregation that they are substandard singers. Instead, if you really want to be encouraging, tell them they are doing a great job and you can’t wait to hear what the next verse sounds like.
“This is going to bless you SO much!”
So how am I supposed to feel if it doesn’t bless me? Am I doing something wrong? Instead of telling people how they should feel, why not just present the song and let your congregation, with the help of the Holy Spirit, decide for themselves how it impacts them.
Always using super spiritual language that you would not use anywhere else but church. Remember, if your outreach program is actually working there are likely to be non-Christians in your congregation. Will they understand what you are saying?
Any comments we make should be rooted in the Word. There are times when what leaders use to “exhort and encourage” others may not be an example of a true heart for worship but rather a desire for the appearance of worshiping. Teach and direct, but make sure it is God focused.
“Lord, we invite You into our worship. . .”
God actually initiated the invitation to us to come and worship. According to scripture, the presence of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is already a given. Now, if we want to ask God to make us more aware of that presence, be more receptive to that presence, then we are more correct in our leadership.
And now for the BIG 4! (these four were mentioned more than any others)
“Everyone get your hands up!” (or some other directed action/reaction in worship)
Even our culture says, “I’m kind of over being told to throw my hands up in the air.” (Lorde, Team) While I have been known to make the occasional instructive direction in order to teach about worship responses, going overboard seems to be taken negatively in many circumstances, especially when used to excess.
“Lord, we just. . .and we just. . .and God we just. . .”
Two specific things to consider here: Much like the sound “uh” and the word “like,” the word “just” has apparently become a place holder while we try to decide what we will say next. If you actually mean to use the word “just,” then when it is used this way it is an apology. The Bible more than once tells us that we are to boldly come before the throne with our prayers, requests, joys and offerings. Using the word “just” this way literally minimizes our request and limits what we are asking God to be concerned about.
The number one cliche from across denominations? It’s similar to the one above.
“Father God, we just . . .”
And that’s it! Other notables include “the worship whisper,” “personal worship in a congregational setting,” and “anything said with sarcasm or condescension.”
I am sure you can think of more. Some of you may have an issue with some of these. The best advice I can give is to watch or listen to recordings of yourself leading worship over the course of several weeks. Listen for repeated phrases, verbal ruts, and consider substituting something else. Remember, words mean things and they are important. We need to be sure we are using our best words when we lead worship.