If you are like me, you love the church. You love the worship service. You think about it constantly. You are a student of worship services and dwell on each aspect of the service and how to improve it. I have struggled, however, for years on how to best lead the “announcement” or “service hosting” moment. Where should this moment fall in the service? Why does it sometimes feel like it takes the energy, vibe, or spirit out of the room? How can we do this more effectively?
So, today, let’s tackle the “announcement” time at your church.
The reality is that this is a crucial moment in your weekend worship experience. Below, I’ve got 11 tips to breathe new life into this moment of worship.
1. Change your mindset from “I’m giving the announcements” to “I’m moving people to action.”
Rich Birch of UnSeminary has a “Church Hosting Clinic” video series to help those doing serving hosting at their church. He makes the case that the hosting moment is not about giving the announcements, but rather, it is the time in the service to move people to action. In his studies, this hosting moment averages five minutes. Those five minutes’ primary purpose should be to drive people to action. If we have no call-to-action, we likely aren’t including the right announcements or using this moment as effectively as we should. So, our job is to provide a clear call-to-action rather than overloading information.
2. Build trust with the audience in the first 7 seconds.
Author Vanessa Van Edwards has studied public speaking and analyzed thousands of Ted Talks. She claims that the biggest question people are asking of public speakers is, “Can I trust in you? Can I rely on you?” She also reminds us that first impressions are vital, and so there are strategic things we can do in the first seven seconds to build trust with those attending. She recommends that in the first seven seconds, never waste your words on “please be seated.” She also believes that positive body language is vital. Two great things you can do with your body in the first seven seconds are 1) smile and 2) make sure your hands are visible and open. This shows you are not concealing or hiding anything.
Also, according to Van Edwards, here’s a fun fact regarding body language. The most popular Ted Talks use 465 hand gestures, while the least popular use 272 hand gestures in 18 minutes.
Finally, on this point, author Steven Robertson also reminds us that Gen Z has a highly sophisticated 8-second attention span or filter. So, use those first 7 (or 8) seconds wisely!
3. Spend 20% of your time building rapport with the audience.
Suppose you have 5 minutes to do service hosting. In that case, it’s entirely appropriate to spend 1 of those 5 minutes (or approximately 20% of your time) building rapport with the audience. This is the time to share some of your personality in a fun or unique way. It could be that you have a joke you want to share, a current event to talk about, or something personally happening to you that would help the audience trust you. Whenever I receive the service hosting notes for the upcoming service, I think of quick ways to engage with the audience.
4. Practice beforehand to eliminate any script.
The single best practice you can do when it comes to service hosting is practice. Practicing beforehand will help you test the overall time, your transitions, etc. It also provides the benefit of knowing your material well enough to not need any prompt, card, or manuscript. Not having any card or prompt in your hand shows you know your stuff, which helps build rapport. It also keeps your hands open to develop more gestures into your moment.
5. Answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” that your audience may be thinking about.
The number one question marketing agencies ask is, “What’s in it for me,” also known as the WIIFM. Marketing agencies know their customers well enough to understand how their product, event, or program will help their customers. Our churches should operate similarly. At the end of the day, we are not building our churches to make our own name or ministry great. We are building our churches for the sake of helping not only those who attend become greater followers of Jesus but also to help reach those who aren’t even a part of our churches yet. If the announcements we mention aren’t helpful to our people in some way, shape, or form, they don’t deserve stage time.
6. Focus on the benefits and not the features.
Borrowing again from Rich Birch and his hosting clinic, too many service hosts focus more on the features than the benefits. It’s easy and natural to get too far into the weeds and list out the details of an event, program, or ministry. What’s better, however, is to talk about the “why” of any particular announcement. A great question to ask of any announcement is, “How will this help people grow in their faith?”
If your church is like mine, your communication team usually does a great job of displaying all of the correct information on the side screens. Usually, the event, program, or ministry details are listed, as well as the website or where to go for more information. Your job as the host is to keep things simple and help people see how this will help them grow in their faith.
A quick example of this would be if you are talking about launching a new season of small groups. Rather than just listing out a website or the details on where to sign up, mention why small groups are important. Relationships happen in small groups, and we are wired for relationships. We live in a more disconnected world than ever, and loneliness is rising. So, now, you could share about a relationship you have developed or grown in your own small group. This is far more effective, speaking of which…
7. Tell stories and testimonies.
Stories and testimonies are more compelling than information. They move people to action more than anything else. Suppose you are getting ready to announce an annual event that you have done in the past. In that case, it is extremely wise stewardship to review this event from the past year and find a story or testimony to highlight. For example, if it’s a servant event, you can focus on its impact on someone else’s life or even the life of someone who served at the event.
To go along with this, ensure that after events, ministries, or programs, follow-ups or surveys go out to those who participated. It’s often in those answers that you can craft really compelling stories to share with the church.
8. Eliminate the words “we” and “us” from your service hosting moments.
Nothing makes me cringe more than when a service host says, “We need you to volunteer at our upcoming _____.” Nope, sorry. That’s not compelling or engaging at all. This language doesn’t have the concerns of the ones attending the church in mind. It is only thinking of filling slots for something the church is doing.
So, a tip to help you get away from using this type of language is to try your best to avoid saying the words, “we”, “our”, and “us” from your service hosting moments. This is likely the hardest tip on this blog to put into practice. So, hear me say this. It’s more about the spirit of the law than the letter of the law. But, by trying your best to eliminate these words from your hosting moment, you will automatically be thinking about the person who attends your church.
If you take out the words “we” and “us,” then you can focus on using the most powerful word in serving hosting, which is “you.” Again, remember this moment is a call to action. This is where you get to invite someone into living for something beyond themselves. So, as you share about a servant event, for example, you can use language like, “Here’s what you can expect if you serve at this event: You can expect to see smiles. You can expect to experience fulfillment. You can expect to help change someone’s life.”
9. If you give a “Free Gift” to guests, tell people what the free gift is.
Typically, in most service hosting moments, you will welcome any guests (this is highly recommended by the way). This is just a pet peeve of mine, but too many churches settle into some announcement that says, “If you fill out this card, we’ll give you a free gift.” I love that churches are generous. But nobody signs up or gives their information out anywhere else without knowing what gift they are getting in return. So, tell people what gift you are giving to them. And a side note: if you don’t think the gift is that mentionable, you probably need a different free gift you can be proud of.
10. Avoid filler words.
Every public speaker has them. Whether it’s because of nerves or just out of habit, we can fall back on saying the same word, words, or utterances. Early on in my days, it was “um.” Then it was “you know.” Lately, especially in the hosting or transitional moments, I’ve noticed myself saying the word “excited” a lot. And while my excitement typically is genuine, I don’t need to say it as much.
11. Watch yourself back.
The only way I even knew, or have known, what my filler words are is to watch myself back. There was a great service not long ago in which I led a baptism moment at the church for 12 baptized people. The moment felt right. It was amazing to see lives changed. When I watched it back, I saw God move, but I also noticed I said “excited” at least once every minute. It was just too much. So, not only can watching yourself back be a good exercise to locate your filler words, but it will also show you other things about yourself. You’ll be able to see your body language, how you use gestures, etc.
If we spend all of this time preparing to do the service hosting, we might as well take up the opportunity to watch it back to get better the next time.
I hope these tips were helpful to you. Here are a couple of challenges I would offer to you for this upcoming week:
Challenge 1: Don’t use the words “we,” “our,” and “us.”
Challenge 2: Don’t say, “please be seated,” or waste your first seven seconds. Show your hands and be creative with the first seven seconds.