Thursday, February 24, 2011

Five Terrible Ways To Talk To A Congregation

Worship leaders are really good at knowing their strengths.

We're also really good at avoiding our weaknesses. (Who doesn't, right?)

But if we're honest, "talking" to our congregation is one of the more challenging aspects of the job for many of us. Whether you talk little or much in your ministry, here are some helpful warnings about communicating with your people.

In this day and age, speaking to the clique is one of the easiest ways to communicate poorly with your crowd. With Facebook and Twitter and texting and all manner of social media, it's easy to believe your own hype. When that status update gets "liked" by 10 or 20 people from my church or a few folks catch me in the parking lot to compliment that picture I posted, it's easy for me to believe that everybody out in the pews is up-to-date on what I'm about. But that's just not true. That inside joke or film reference may connect with 25% of the people, but the other 75% isn't going to have any idea what I'm talking about. It's good to keep it real and be yourself, but remember that there are a lot of people in that room who are there for your personality. (This is a good thing, by the way. We need more people like that.)

There are moments for rebuke. But they are far and few between. We've all seen it happen, though...lots of times. And I'm not just talking about that one time at youth camp where the speaker shamed that girl in the third row. I'm talking about now - on Sunday - in front of grown ups. I know it's frustrating; you're up there giving God praise, trying to lead folks in worship and they seem to be ignoring you. It makes us mad. But I'm telling you - ridiculing or guilting or shaming your people will backfire WAY more than it'll work. The second you start chastising a room full of people, you're going to seem less like a pastor and more like a crazy person. Crowds tend to shy away from crazy people. (Not counting Robin Williams.)

This one gets us all. Those phrases or prayers or statements that just roll off the tongue - the crutch phrases. We've all got 'em! Worship leaders who don't make an effort to speak in a fresh, thoughtful way can do harm to a worship service. Once the crutch phrases reach critical mass, you run the risk of having a congregation thinking that you're on auto-pilot. I'm not saying you have to feel like a poet every time you open your mouth, but think about like this: you don't dig when the congregation is going through the motions...they feel the same way about you, too.

Testimony and story are powerful parts of worship, but be careful that you don't constantly recycle the same five stories over and over. First of all, you risk the aforementioned "autopilot" situation, and secondly, you silently communicate another message - that all of your God stuff happened in the past. It's very important for your people to know that you're still learning and struggling and experiencing God every day. You don't have to over-spiritualize everything, but look for all of the ways God's moving and teaching you. Share those!

When your talking to my congregation, my word count needs more "we" than "me." It's not my job to be an exposed spiritual nerve, feeling all of these emotions and experiences and then telling everybody how it's affecting me. My job is to lead people in celebrating all of the wonders of God - His justice, His jealousy, His goodness, His glory. Yes, I need to talk about what's happening here and now in every day life, but I need to talk more about "us" and less about myself.

Your turn. We've all seen terrible worship communication. What are some areas we need to watch out for!


Johnny! said...

Bad sermonettes. No one called us to preach. For a reason.