Throughout my years as a worship leader, I’ve worked with a number of volunteers who were not comfortable on stage, got the shakes, and had little to no experience working with a microphone. Everybody has specific issues to work on, but there is a single common issue I’ve seen, without fail, that every volunteer needs to come to terms with. It is the hallmark of a home-grown, volunteer service and is never found in a professional production. The stampĀ of the volunteer service is this:

Dead time.


I’m not talking about long pauses, either. Five seconds of quiet on a stage is an eternity of discomfort for the congregation and breaks the flow of a service more than a screaming baby could ever hope to. When I need a scripture reader to come to the stage, or a musician to start a song, it’s almost always the same issue:

They don’t want to look stupid.

Standing on a stage in front of a room of people, nobody wants to start too soon, come in the wrong way, or otherwise embarrass themselves. There is a sense in which this is a leadership issue. The people on stage need to understand that they are the ones that make it safe for the congregation, not the other way around, but first it’s better to focus on the mechanics. At my church, we borrowed the studio technique of the cross-fade to describe it, and it’s helped a lot.

In a cross-fade situation, a new audio signal is dialed up before the old one fades out, preventing any silence from occurring. This allows the mind to switch over to the new activity without going into a state of searching. In a church setting, this requires that everyone taking the platform knows if they are needed to start something, what comes before them, and where their cross-fade point is. Part of our pre-service review after sound check on Sunday is to make sure that everyone that will be on the stage is up to speed, but first it’s important that they understand the concept.

Below I’ve included an illustration that we use to demonstrate this idea to new volunteers. It’s been a great tool in helping them understand how this works, and it gives them the confidence to take the stage before silence sets in. I highly recommend taking your people through this idea; you’ll see a big improvement in the professionalism of your services.