Chapter 1: The Recitation Leader
Although participants memorize scripture, memorizing scripture is not the primary goal of a recitation ministry. Similarly, although participants study the Bible, a recitation ministry is not strictly a Bible study group. It is true that participants stand on a stage and speak to an audience, but a recitation ministry is also not a Toastmaster’s club.
The goal of recitation ministry is more than memorization. It is the live encounter that a reciter experiences through the Holy Spirit as that person shares the truth that he or she has grown to understand from a passage of the Bible. The reciter experiences both sides of the communication equation—hearing the message and speaking it. The reciter becomes intimately close with both the original author of the message as well as its recipients. The purpose of a recitation ministry is to connect people with the message of the Bible personally, to make the written stories, teachings, and praises have heartfelt meanings in the lives of those for whom it was intended. Our vision is to have the Bible communicated accurately and understandably whenever and wherever it is spoken.
This book is about the activities and responsibilities of recitation leaders and about making them aware of the possibilities available and the challenges that may arise. This is meant to encourage everybody with the heart to step up to the challenge with the tools to build a successful ministry.
The Activities of a Recitation Leader
The position of recitation leader is unusual. It is less of a leader and more of a recruiter, scheduler, researcher, encourager, director, and coach. The people whom you lead participate of their own volition, and they can leave at any moment. The recitation plan that you set is simply the one that you devise. You ask people to do the thing that most of them associate with anxiety (i.e., public speaking), while simultaneously requesting that they start with the thing that most people find difficult (i.e., memorizing). Then you have the audacity to request that they act naturally. You will have no leverage to force participation, no carrot to entice activity, and no trophy to capture achievement. You will be utterly at the mercy of the participants. And despite all of that, you will wonder why, after each meeting and rehearsal, you feel less stressed and more alive. You will grow new friendships as you meet and work with people whom you previously didn’t know. You will deepen your love of the Word and find the Holy Spirit at work in and around you. It is by no means a thankless job. Indeed, it is a job for which to be thankful.
The activities associated with being a recitation leader are listed below, and we will be elaborating on these in the pages that follow:
• Collaborate with the teaching team to determine suitable passages (Chapter 2).
• Determine the type and elements of the recitation (Chapters 2 and 10).
• Recruit people to recite (Chapter 4).
• Study the passage with the reciters and disciple them (Chapter 5).
• Rehearse and coach reciters in onstage delivery (Chapter 6).
• Ensure the reciter is prepared (Chapter 7).
• Coordinate with the technical and teaching teams (Chapters 8 and 9).
• Support the reciter during the recitation (Chapter 9).
• Ensure that the recitation is documented (Chapter 11).
• Select and prepare visual elements (Chapter 8 and 12).
The Qualities of a Recitation Leader
To be successful, it is essential that a recitation leader possesses or seeks to attain some key qualities. Although there are many qualities that enhance leadership, the three qualities listed below underpin every activity and grease the skids of the recitation toboggan.
“The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live” (Deuteronomy 30:6 NIV; emphasis added).
Keep this passage in mind throughout your involvement with recitation in any capacity. The goal, the “so that,” is about loving the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. This goal can be achieved even if the recitation isn’t perfect or, for that matter, even if the recitation is never delivered.
“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”
—1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV).
For a reciter, the path from agreeing to recite to delivering the recitation can be bumpy. There will be challenges that cause the reciter to doubt him- or herself. It can be a daunting journey. As you guide a reciter, occasionally turn your thoughts back to the first time you were preparing to recite, and this will keep your expectations reasonable. Remember that you can't treat every reciter the same, you must meet them where they are and lift them to the next level. As a leader, you must build up the reciters with honest feedback and encourage them. Honesty and encouragement are not always best friends; however, they can be made to work together. Sometimes, speaking the truth in love means keeping your mouth shut. You will occasionally need to restrain yourself from giving “helpful advice,” and instead, focus on what the aspiring reciter is doing right. Reciters need a cheerleader more than they need a critic.
Delight in the Word
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
—Psalm 1:1–3 (ESV)
If you love to hear the Word of God spoken, then you are in for a treat. As a recitation leader, you will be involved in many rehearsals, in which you will hear the Word recited endlessly. You will spend time grappling with the subtlety of interpretation and probing the depths of understanding the Word. This will be a joy for everybody involved if you genuinely delight in the Word.
“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
—James 1:23–25 (NIV)
The beginnings of a recitation are frequently dependent on the leader seeking God’s direction and developing a plan that involves a passage of scripture, one or more reciters, the teaching leadership, and a calendar. The leader gets the ball rolling, conspiring with the Holy Spirit to select passages and pair them with people. A recitation doesn’t just spontaneously happen. It requires intent and preparation and a spark that gives rise to the fire.