If you are asked to serve as a host at a church gathering, how can you best prepare yourself for this vital role? When I am given a hosting opportunity, there is a process I go through to prepare. Here’s what it generally looks like for me:
Collecting Information: First it is essential to gather any information you can about the needs, focus, and intentions of this particular gathering. What is the general theme or feel of the worship time? What is the message time about, including the primary Scriptures? When I am collecting information, I look at lyrics or listen to songs online so I am aware of what the feel of the room will be. If there are videos to be shown or other art forms for that day, I look at scripts or links so I am fully up to speed. Usually I have a conversation on the phone or in person with the individual coordinating the service so he or she can give me any backstory that will be helpful.
Assess the Context of My Part: Sometimes a host comes up more than once in a gathering. However many moments I am asked to handle, I want to be especially clear on what I am following and what I am leading up to. I see myself as a bridge and a guide. There is an intellectual flow to a gathering and there is also an emotional flow. I must match my tone and attitude as much as my words in anticipation of what the congregation will be thinking and feeling. Imagine the gathering and its flow before you write down anything. Picture how God might be at work during these moments.
Write Out My Words: I don’t believe the best hosts “wing it.” To avoid clichés and choose words with tremendous care, we must be thoughtful in advance. I write out all my words, careful to note the major ideas I am asked to convey – this includes prayer, or comments, or announcements, or the reading of Scripture. I also try to time out what I have written to see if my plan falls into the limits given for hosting – often, I realize I need to do some editing! When I am writing, I attempt to craft seamless transitions from one thought or idea to another. The goal is to make announcements not feel like announcements, but like a part of the whole vision and journey of the day.
Negotiate # of Announcements: Most churches try to announce way too many events, and then they wonder why the hosting part takes 10 minutes! If I look at a list of requested announcements and feel there are far too many, I will go to the appropriate staff member and ask if we can possibly trim them down. It is best to only announce 2 or 3 events - at the most - and only those initiatives that are applicable to all or close to all of those attending.
Recognize the Significance of Any Prayers You Lead: I discovered that for many people, listening to someone else lead a prayer is a vital part of their transformation journey. Many people don’t realize they can talk to God with normal human words and openness. Remember when you lead a corporate prayer that it is just that – a group expression. Use a lot of “we” words, including everyone. Be real both real and reverent.
Write Intentional Words About the Offering: If you are asked to invite people to worship through their giving, give some thought to how you can bring a moment of inspiration or Scripture or a personal story to this part of the gathering.
Memorize! Once I have written out my words, I work on memorizing the entire piece so that I can establish connection with eye contact and heart. I bring up some small note cards just in case, but avoid like crazy reading anything except for Scripture. I will rarely deliver my words exactly as I wrote them, and that is ok. But I seek to hold onto key phrases and keep the overall flow in my mind through diligent preparation. It helps me to practice out loud, even in my car on the way to church!
Read the Room: Finally, even with all this preparation, it is vital for me to be fully present in the room during each gathering. Sometimes God surprises us with moments that don’t go quite as we imagined. Sometimes the movement of the Spirit is unmistakable, and we sense that everyone is truly on holy ground. The worst thing a host can ever do is violate a moment. Experience the gathering along with everyone else, and prayerfully seek to respond, even to funny moments, with the appropriate kind of spirit and warmth and genuine presence.
People often ask me if I still get nervous before hosting – and the answer is “Yes, still a little bit.” That is normal because what we do as a host really matters. But I try to remember above all that this is not about me. Hosting is an opportunity to serve each person who took the time to come to church – those who have known Jesus for a very long time along with those who are brand new and feeling awkward. I am given the privilege of helping to guide them all through this hour together. So take a deep breath, trust that your preparation will serve you well, and give God your very best every time you host.