Leading services is a ministry, and therefore it has various things in common with other ministries. We should strive to do it as well as we can, in order to glorify God and bless others by our service. Prayerful preparation is an important expression of this aim. It is not helpful to put together a service a few minutes before starting! Moreover, the service leader is more than a 'master of ceremonies', introducing various items in a concert. The responsibility is to lead others to encounter God and play their part in the encouragement and strengthening of his people.

Ministry reflects God's allocation of giftedness, and so those who do not have the gifts should not be encouraged to lead services. It is a role of public leadership within the congregation, requiring that the person should be growing as a godly and mature believer. It involves leading people in corporate prayer and praise, inviting others to exercise their gifts and co-ordinating their ministries for the benefit of the church, using Scripture, prayer and brief introductory comments to link various parts of the service together in a meaningful way.

Our approach should be shaped by a servant mentality, with a willingness to be trained and critiqued by others. We will also need to learn how to encourage those who read, pray, sing, play musical instruments, give testimonies or contribute in other ways. A practical way to provide training, feedback and encouragement is to form a team of people who lead services and have a regular meeting to review what you are doing and discuss new initiatives.

Formality and informality

Services may be formal in the sense that they are not random or entirely spontaneous, but follow a preset pattern or form. However, being formal isn't the same as being impersonal. Gatherings of God's people should be loving and inclusive. Yet, to be personal does not mean being flippant or embarrassed about the structured parts of the service or about mistakes that may be made in what is said and done.

The service leader has to strike the right balance between formality and informality in each particular situation. This will vary according to the nature of the occasion and the content of the service you have planned. Express warmth and friendliness, but do not fall into the trap of letting your own personality dominate the event.

Preparation

Start planning well beforehand, establishing an order of service and making decisions about how each element will be introduced and led. It is usually helpful to begin by considering the biblical passages to be read and expounded and to build the service around this centre. Agree with the preacher about a theme or emphasis for the service, which could be topical or seasonal. You may want to look up additional verses to include in your leading and begin talking to the musicians about appropriate 'psalms and hymns and spiritual songs' to include.

Every service should have an appropriate beginning, middle and end:

a. When we come together, we need to focus on God and put our distractions aside: the point of the gathering is not simply to enjoy the company of fellow Christians! The beginning may involve confessing our sins together and being reminded of the forgiveness of God made possible by the death of the Lord Jesus. It may also be an expression of praise and thanksgiving, acknowledging the way God has gathered us to himself in Christ.

b. If the heart of the meeting is the reading and exposition of Gods word, care will be needed in bringing the congregation to the point where they are ready to listen and learn. We should certainly be praying for a readiness to listen to God's word and to be transformed by this encounter.

c. The conclusion of a service should provide opportunity to respond together to the ministry of the word with prayer, praise, and perhaps also testimony or discussion about what has been taught. The aim of the conclusion should be to focus hearts and minds on living out in daily obedience what has been learned and experienced in the gathering of the church.

You need to have a clear sense of what will happen at each stage during the service. Here are some important questions to consider:

  • How does one item in the service relate to the next? 
  • What will make the service flow easily? 
  • What is the reason for including a particular item at a particular point in the structure? 
  • Will the logic and flow be obvious to the congregation, without too much explanation? 
  • How easy will it be for visitors or those not yet committed to Christ to understand what is going on?
Even if you follow a familiar pattern of service, it is essential to produce a running sheet for the guidance of all who will participate.

Attitude

In the dynamics of the service, it is the service leader who models the attitude everyone should adopt. If the leader is nervous, everyone will feel nervous. If the leader is awkward, others will feel awkward. If the leader is relaxed and seems pleased to be there, others will feel the same way. Be prayerful in approaching this ministry, and make sure to gather with other up-front people immediately before the service to ask for God's help and blessing on the gathering of his people.

Amazing to say, but the service leader is a major factor in a person's whole experience of church for that week, and a person's experience of church is often a major factor in that person's living for Christ in the week ahead.

ServiceBuilder

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