Every worship leader knows about "transitions."
We hear about them all the time - when we go to worship conferences, on YouTube, in magazines, etc. That's because what you do in between songs is important. For two reasons.
One of the downsides of all this transition-talk is that it makes what happens in the service into a gimmick. Lots of leaders seek out transition ideas not because they want reverent non-musical elements in their service, but because they need a filler in between the songs.
Of course, transitions to help you get from one song to the other, but they also have a tremendous impact on your congregation. Transitions are both connective and formative. In the list below, you'll see why the transitions work on both levels.
This transition is probably the second most common among worship leaders, but it's still a good one. But this is more than just leader-starts-the-song. What makes this a transition work is the leader can do this as he or she is praying, talking, etc.
Connective/Practical - Starting song underneath whatever you're saying has two huge benefits. First, it helps the congregation to know you're the leader. When a worship leader starts the song instrumentally, it puts to rest any tension about awkwardness between songs. Secondly, it helps your band to know how to approach the song. It may remind them of the tempo or cue them to take a different approach.
Formative/Spiritual - A leader instrumental is also a great alternative to the big full-band-songs so common in worship music. There's definitely a place for a big rocking song to explode of the stage, but so often those big introductions can make the song (or service) seem like a show. A more mellow transition into the next song reminds your congregants that you're all gathered to worship together - not watch some band play.
These can be tricky, and typically work best as an opening/closing song as the congregation is entering/exiting. This sort of transition should be used wisely to prevent your service from turning into a concert.
Connective/Practical - Plain and simple, this is a way to let your band shine a bit. Getting out of the way and letting them transition into the next song allows them to use their talents for the Father. What's more, congregations typically enjoy those moments of hearing good musicians play well-practiced parts - it's pleasing to the ear!
Formative/Spiritual - There's an emotional depth and spiritual strength in instrumental music. Don't be afraid to entrust the atmosphere of a moment to your musicians. God's Spirit can work through their hands and feet and can open hearts in a way that a vocal might not. Don't be afraid of instrumentals!
A variation of the band transition, this is when you let one instrument responsible for the move from one song to the next. Maybe it's a fingerstyle acoustic piece or a solo piano moment. It's a great way to bring the overall volume of the room down and yet still progress the set.
Connective/Practical - There's one complaint worship leaders never hear: "The music was too soft today." Your people will appreciate solo instrumentals both as a break for their ears and a symbolic take-a-breath moment in your set.
Formative/Spiritual - Quiet moments are powerful opportunities for God to move on the congregation. It's also a great spiritual practice for your band to exercise humility by not playing on every moment of the song.