Book Review – Leading Worship Matters
Augsburg Fortress has published a number of books
under the “Worship Matters” banner. Being both a book junkie and someone who is passionately interested in liturgy and worship, I just couldn’t resist getting these books. I have found all of them helpful and easy to read and use, but there is one in particular that has proven very beneficial in the area of worship leadership. Leading Worship Matters: A Sourcebook for Preparing Worship Leaders is written for the person training the worship leaders, but includes many helpful handouts and resources for those who will be taking on worship leadership roles.
The book clearly ascribes to the belief that worship leadership is the responsibility of the entire assembly gathered for worship, referring to Principle 8 in The Use of the Means of Grace, a statement on the practice of word and sacrament, adopted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA): “All the baptized share responsibility for the proclamation of the Word and the formation of the Christian assembly.” The introductory pages continue with theological, missional and practical reasons for including lay members as worship leaders. What I appreciate, though, is that at no time do the writers take these roles lightly, but rather emphasize training and reflection. As stated in the introduction,”Leading worship is not, of course, simply a matter of standing up and directing traffic; it is a ministry that requires prayer, thought, and practice” (p. 9). Another important point – there is no expectation that every congregation needs to follow an exact formula. The content of the book is applicable to a broad range of contexts, leadership, and worship styles. For example, in the chapter on Communion Ministers, there is acknowledgement that there are as many ways to distribute communion as there are assemblies, and the emphasis is placed on being gracious and graceful ministers, “caring for this meal as something both precious and familiar” (p. 125). The tips In the “Tips for Communion Ministers”, include: Serve with grace and purpose; Serve with joy; Worship while you serve; Know that you are serving Christ” (p. 133).
The various worship leaders roles covered in the book include: Assisting Ministers, Readers, Intercessors, Acolytes, Ushers and Greeters, Communion Ministers within the assembly, Communion Ministers sent from the assembly, Altar Guild, Tech Ministers, Musicians and Cantors, Children’s Sermon Ministers, and a section on Worship Space, written by a number of different contributors. Each section begins with an extensive Overview of the role, providing a historical background, practical guidelines, and the joys in serving in the role. This is followed by a Summary of Duties, Tips, How to’s on preparing for Sunday and Worship, followed by Sample Training Outlines, Newsletter Articles and Letters of Invitation. Also included in the book is a section of reproducible Helpful Topics. All the items that can be reproduced freely are on the included CD. With the amount of useful and applicable information included, it makes the thought of beginning or expanding a lay worship leadership program seem very doable.
The two sections that I have used for leading training sessions are Assisting Ministers and Intercessors. The Intercessors was a new leadership role in our congregation, whereas the Assisting Minister training was a refresher for most of the attendees, although we also had some new Assisting Ministers in attendance. Each training session lasts about 60 – 75 minutes in length. Both groups of people appreciated the discussion that was encouraged throughout the session. For example, in the session for Assisting Ministers, there is the suggestion to discuss baptism and to look at the baptism liturgy, in light of the spiritual gifts given by the Spirit. Thinking about what it means to live as a baptized child of God provided encouragement to the people attending the training, and a greater interest in the practical part of the training which followed. In addition to the CD, there is also a video featuring lay worship leaders in action, which we did not use in our training, but is there to provide a visual for those who would find that helpful. These training sessions were quite easy to lead and yet were robust enough that people found them very beneficial, providing them with confidence to take on the leadership roles.
Other books in this series include: Getting the Word Out: A Handbook for Readers, Serving the Assembly’s Worship: A Handbook for Assisting Ministers, Altar Guild and Sacristy Handbook, and Worship Matters: An Introduction to Worship (Leader guide and Participant book).
Leading Worship Matters: A Sourcebook for Preparing Worship Leaders. Edited by Melinda Quivik, Suzanne Burke, Martin A. Seltz, Julie O’Brien. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2013.
Reviewed by Kathryn Smith, MA Christian Studies and a member of All Saints Lutheran Anglican Church in Guelph, Ontario