Publicly reading scripture well / by Ben Stapley

Many churches read a passage of scripture during their services.  That could be the psalm which a song was based on, the passage the message will focus on, or a benediction to conclude the service.  Regardless of when scripture is read, or who is doing the reading, it should always be done well.  Below are some practice and performance tips to help a drama team member, worship leader, or teaching pastor present scripture in a compelling manner.

Practice Tips

  • If you have pew/chair bibles, make sure to practice with that version.  You don’t want to cause confusion by reading from the ESV when everyone is looking at the NIV.
  • Practice out loud.  You won’t know what words you will stumble upon until you try to say them.
  • Enunciate.  By the time you present the passage, you personally will have read it over many times and be tempted to speed it up.  But remember, it will be the first time the audience hears it, so go slow enough to enunciate each word for them.
  • Make sure to use your voice, face and body to express the passage.
  • Hold the bible or device you are reading from at a 45 degree angle at chest level.  If you hold it at your waist, your voice will become unnaturally low.  If you hold it at your face, the audience will not see any of your facial expressions.
  • Have a range of dynamics in your reading.  You don’t want it to be melodramatic but you also don’t want it to be monotone.  Play with the speed, emotion, volume & pitch to bring the passage to life.
  • Practice with a copy that allows you to mark up the text with cues and instructions.  There maybe particular words or verses that you want to emphasize.
  • In order to read a passage well, you first need to understand it.  Take time to meditate on the words and meaning throughout the week.
  • If the passage is tied to the teaching, touch base with the teacher about any difficult-sounding names or places.  Verify that both teacher and reader say them the same way.  You can also visit ESV.org and listen to someone else read the passage.

Performance Tips

  • Warm up before you go up.  This will avoid a frog from being the first thing out of your mouth.  You might want to take a couple of sips of water to prevent cotton mouth.
  • Speak to the back of the room.  This will make sure you don’t come off as small and insignificant from the last row.
  • Make as much eye contact as possible.
  • Dress comfortably and avoid distracting clothing.
  • Bookmark the page in your bible or app so you can turn to it quickly.
  • Read quickly enough to communicate the movement of a narrative sequence, but slow down at key points.
  • Make a clear vocal distinction between narrator and characters.
  • Understand and express the emotional weight of the passage.
  • Check with the teaching pastor about what to emphasize.