Worship Planning

>As I speak to other worship leaders across the country, I am amazed at the varied processes they use to plan worship services. Anyone who does it very often understands this is a process that is constantly changing, but I thought I would explain how I go about it. Maybe it will spur some ideas in someone else.

I took the Willow Creek model and married it to the leadership systems concept taught by Ministry Advantage. It may seem cumbersome at first glance, but the end result is very nice. It requires lots of advance planning by the coordinator (read: “Worship Minister”) and it in includes a large number of volunteers (read: “unpaid lay ministers”). This is born out of the concept that worship planning is too important to rest in the hands of one person planning it for an entire church body.

First, the entire thing is bathed in prayer. Everything starts there and it continues throughout. That can’t be understated. Another driving concept behind this form of worship planning is the holistic nature of worship. I believe that everything presented on that one hour Sunday morning should work to drive that day’s particular theme home. The message, songs, prayers, anything that happens, should all be consistent in nature. People have different learning styles (writing, reading, listening, visual, etc). This translates directly to what happens in worship as well.

Beyond that, please understand that it takes a while to get the system to the point I am about to explain. It is a long and lengthy process of recruiting and training people. Ideally, the process begins at least two months out. I divide worship planning into four different committees. The first is the Theme Team. Their job is to create a sermon series relevant to our Mission, current events, holidays, or needs of the church family. This is a small team with the Sr. Minister as the head. This way, the teaching minister does not have to kill himself to come up with an entire series or direction all by himself. They assist him in roughing out the ideas and main points of the series.

When this is complete, the series is turned over to the Resource Team. They spend two weeks compiling everything they can find that even remotely connects with what the Theme Team has set forth. Almost nothing is out of bounds for worship resources. Songs, videos, skits, special presentations, liturgical dance, scriptures, etc. There is no bad idea here. What someone may consider a bad idea may spur a good thought in someone else. If they cannot find what they are looking for, suggestions can be made for creation, e.g. write a song about the indwelling of the Spirit, or a drama about heartbreak.

When they have their “toolbox” filled, they turn it over to the Design Team. This team is lead by the Worship Minister. Their job is to take the ideas presented by the Theme Team and the tools presented by the Resource Team and form them into a whole for a great worship experience. This is where the holistic nature of worship really comes into play. The Design Team makes everything flow together smoothly and thematically. At one design session they may plan just one Sunday or several. It depends on how much time they have, how full their toolbox was, how far ahead the Theme Team has gotten, etc. But at this point, the goal is to have a completed worship service three weeks out from the actual Sunday. This allows plenty of time for rehearsals, studies, set creation, multimedia creation and tweaking.

The fourth and final team is the Review Team. This is headed by one person, but the membership of the team rotates. On each Sunday, this team is given a form that includes important information: the theme of the day, the resources used, etc. The main question is, “did we hit the mark?” This is completed and turned back in where it is shared with everyone else allowing for course correction and lessons learned.

All this for one Sunday. As you’ve probably figured, this process is constantly revolving. In order to stay ahead, the Theme Team has to be forecasting their direction pretty far ahead of time. The Resource Team has to constantly be cataloging ideas and resources. The Design Team has to stay on top of the schedule so that they can remain at least three weeks out. And the Review Team has to keep their membership rotating and trained. We rotate so that the same people don’t sit in worship every Sunday and do nothing but “critique” and miss worshipping. We train the reviewers so that they gain a better understanding of how we plan, and possibly allow for them to move up to one of the other committees in the future.

As I said it’s pretty involved, but that’s the point. The more people are involved, the more your church identity shows up in the worship. The more people are involved, the more invested your church body becomes in the worship.

It also takes the heat off the Worship Minister for the mistakes that are made. On any given Sunday, 15-20 people will be responsible for the content of the service, and only two of those are staff. But that’s a small plus. šŸ™‚

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