Scripture Engagement through the Public Reading of Scripture - Practice Tips
The following are some practice tips that will help you publicly read a passage well:
- Pray. Ask God to first use the passage to impact your life, then ask God to use your reading of the passage to move in the lives of your listeners.
- Study the passage for yourself. You must read and study the passage in depth to convey the meaning of the passage well. Use your observation skills as you study the passage: What ideas are repeated? What do specific words mean? What is the passage about?
- Think about pacing. What is the best way to read the passage to make it clear for your listeners? What words do you want to emphasize? Where would it help if you paused? What is the tone of the passage? You will want to match the tone of your voice to the tone of the passage. Reading a praise psalm with a bored or causal voice is not helpful. Reading a psalm of lament with a cheerful tone of voice is also a problem.
- Mark the passage. It usually helps to print the passage on a piece of paper so that you can make the passage larger (so you can read it more easily) and so you can add “markings” to the passage. Develop your own marking system. For example, you might make a particular mark on words that you want to emphasize, underline words you want to say louder, and put a line between words where you want to pause. Even though you’re reading from a piece of paper you’ve printed, you may want to consider putting your notes into an actual physical Bible so people know you’re reading from the Bible.
- Practice. You must practice, multiple times, your reading of a passage. If you’re going to stand when you read, stand when you practice reading. Practice until your animation of the passage comes easily.
- Reading. When you read the passage publicly, read with emotion. Your reading should match the power of the passage. You’re having a conversation with your audience. Start by looking at your audience. Speak conversationally as if you’re talking to someone across the room while also releasing the passion of the passage. You might begin: “I have something wonderful to share with you.” Slow down by taking deep breaths. You don’t need to look up a lot while you’re reading; it is too easy to lose your place. Your audience knows you’re reading, so you don’t have to always look up. Do finish by looking at your audience, however. You may want to end by saying. “This is God’s Word.”
If you find yourself inspired as you learn about the impact the public reading of Scripture can have on a community of believers, you may want to develop your own public reading of Scripture ministry. One of your first steps is to help educate others so that they can be inspired as well. Do your research, start talking about what you’re learning, and don’t expect overnight change in your community. Expect to start small—perhaps by practicing good, prepared readings in a small group or Sunday school class. To develop a public reading of Scripture ministry, consider the following steps:
- Take time to pray about what a public reading ministry might look like in your context. Who can be a reader—just pastors and elders, or are other members of the congregation included? How will passages be chosen? Will your ministry involve regular group meetings or simply a schedule of gifted readers who prepare individually for their reading?
- If you are not in a pastoral role but are passionate about seeing the ministry of public Scripture reading implemented in your church, consider scheduling a meeting with your pastor to discuss your vision. Ask about current methods of Scripture reading and why they’re done that way. Ask if your pastor could envision the public reading of Scripture taking a more integral role in regular worship services and suggest steps that might be taken to achieve this.
- Choose a book, article, or other resource to pass on to anyone interested in becoming a regular Scripture reader for your church or ministry (see Public Reading of Scripture Resources page). This will give them a good overview of what is expected and let them know how seriously your ministry takes public Scripture reading. Such a resource will also serve as preliminary training for new readers, though individual instruction may be also needed.
- Consider selecting readers who have life experiences appropriate to specific passages. For example, having a parent/child team read Ephesians 6:1-4 (either in a tag-team verse-by-verse format or reading the passage twice, one right after the other) might give a new perspective to the reading. If appropriate, the voice of someone who has experienced grief or loss might uniquely draw out the passion of Psalm 30:8-12 or another passage expressing sorrow or triumph over sorrow through the Lord.