7 Tips For Reading Liturgy (and 3 more for announcements)

by Bobby Gilles

in Church Communications,Worship Leading

Here are some guidelines I’m developing for liturgists (leaders of liturgical prayers, responsive readings and church announcements) at Sojourn Community Church of New Albany, Indiana, where Kristen and I serve.

  1. Understand the text. Pray for the Spirit’s illumination on the passage you’re presenting.
  2. Practice reading aloud beforehand, just as you’d practice singing or playing worship songs. Don’t wing it. Don’t think, “This is easy. I learned to read when I was a little kid. I’ve got this.”
  3. Make eye contact at the beginning and end of the reading. No matter how long the reading is, you can quickly memorize the first sentence. Look at your congregation while reciting this sentence, to help focus their attention on your words.
  4. Emphasize verbs, particularly action verbs (verbs that express action; verbs that a person, animal, thing, or force of nature can do). This will make the reading flow well, and help draw your congregation into the passage.
  5. Pace yourself well. Nervous people often read too quickly. Read at a comfortable pace, and pause after key sentences or phrases. If you breathe from your diaphragm as you read, this will help you read calmly and deliberately, because your breathing pattern won’t physically allow you to rush your words.
  6. Avoid the tendency to adlib a preface or an afterthought that exposits the passage. You are not delivering a sermon – not even a short homily. You are leading the congregation in a liturgical reading.
  7. Don’t try too hard. We counsel our singers to sing in a way that helps people sing along, rather than to deliver a virtuoso performance that will leave them breathless. In the same way, our readers must remember that it’s not about them. This isn’t your chance to shine, to have everyone remark on your speaking skills, your charisma, your humor, your charm, your gravitas. This is about serving the liturgy.


The announcements are an especially difficult part of a liturgist’s job. Most of your other readings come from Scripture, so they contain the inherent power of God’s Word.

People will immediately know that the announcements are not God’s Word – they’re the “business” part of the service.

What follows is the standard template for Sojourn end-of-service announcements. Below this template you’ll find several tips that, in addition to the guidelines above, will help you.

Note that all of the underlined areas in this template represent the words that never change, week to week. You can memorize these words, which means that that only one sentence changes each week – the sentence that talks about whatever specific event or two we’re promoting that week.

Announcement Template:

Thank you for joining us today. If this is your first time here then we invite you to fill out a Connect Card, located on the seat-back in front of you – it’s a simple way to introduce yourself to us. You can turn in your Connect Card at the Welcome Table on your way to the parking lot.

We’re excited about upcoming event and upcoming event. You’ll find details for these and other upcoming events in your bulletin, so be sure to take it home with you.

Have a great week in your Community Groups. Your pastors will be praying for all groups today. If you’re not in a group yet, you can learn about them at the Welcome Table, or just ask the person next to you.

We begin with a Call To Worship and we end with a Benediction, which is our blessing for the road …

(Benediction then follows)


  1. Stick to the script – this will keep the announcements well under a minute. People know that the service is pretty much over. Their minds are wandering to what’s next (pick up kids, talk with so-and-so, visit the restroom, get lunch, etc).
  2. Avoid the temptation to provide details for the upcoming event you’re promoting. Just refer your people to the bulletin, where the details are already written down for them.
  3. Occasionally you’ll have to announce something that will happen immediately following the service (ex. “Remember our potluck after the 11am service. We hope you can join us!”) In these instances, just be sure to keep the other announcements extra tight.




bill smith February 17, 2015 at 10:08 am

A Liturgist is someone who has formally studied liturgy, and attained a degree in the subject area. The person who reads is called a Lector. There is no such thing as “reading liturgy” since the Liturgy itself is the whole act of the assembly. There are roles within the Liturgy. Liturgy literally means “the work of the people” in worshipping God. The Liturgical celebration is first and foremost seen as being inspired by God, and belongs to Him; we are participants.

Bobby Gilles February 23, 2015 at 8:22 am

The primary definition of a liturgust is, “one who adheres to, compiles, or leads a liturgy” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liturgist). A secondary definition is one who has formally studied liturgics.

I’ve written about liturgy as “the work of the people.” In this sense, “reading liturgy” is shorthand for “leading the congregation in the liturgical reading.” I think this is clear to my blog readers, but I’m sorry that you didn’t find this shorthand helpful.

Also, I understand that “Lector” is the traditional title of the one who reads — it’s a title we don’t use in my tradition. I have nothing against it — we just don’t use it. Perhaps we should.

bill smith February 23, 2015 at 9:26 am

Thanks for the reply.

Bobby Gilles February 25, 2015 at 7:27 am

Thanks Bill!

Yes, it’s good to stay close to the source material. When I speak of my tradition, it’s that of the evangelical “free church,” and revivalistic tradition, which is in many ways an un-tradition (for instance, in the sense of having generations of people who don’t observe the church calendar, who think of themselves as “non liturgical,” etc.)

And because of that, it would probably be prudent not to let myself fall into “shorthand” ways of speaking like “read the liturgy,” since it’s prone to misinterpretation. And as you say, liturgy is the work of the people, not just words on a page that someone reads.

bill smith February 25, 2015 at 12:04 pm

I was good friends with a Congregational pastor in NH. He was telling me some of his older members were upset that the new worship band was leaving its instruments set up in “the sanctuary”… He chuckled and said “I told them we were Congregationalists….we don’t even have a “sanctuary.” ” Its funny how churchy jargon is used sometimes.

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