I’ve spent a good chunk of life leading worship in student ministry and a variety of other ministry settings. The name of the game is flexibility.
Though I’m grateful for the ability to think on my feet, read the congregation, and in some situations “wing it”, I’ve also grown to love the idea (and the practical need) to plan ahead.
Sometimes, people mistake free-flowing, spirit-led services with a lack of planning. In reality, if you want to get a sense of free-flowing, seamless worship services, you have to plan more, not less!
The spirit can nudge and prod us to plan what needs to be done months and weeks in advance. And of course, there are times when something will change or a leader will sense that God is prompting them to make a change, such as: choosing a new song, extending prayer, or opening up for testimonies. We can always be obedient at the moment, just as we can be obedient to give our best shot at doing as much as possible beforehand.
What does advance planning look like?
Our current model is something like this:
- There are four Sunday morning worship services and the preacher for the day preaches live for all them.
- Two services are in the Family Life Center and are more modern in style; two are in the sanctuary and more traditional in style.
- Message series/ideas are outlined for most of the year by our senior pastor.
- A meeting with staff and volunteers happens once every five to six weeks, usually prior to an upcoming coming series. This meeting is held late in the afternoon to include those who don’t work at the church.
- A Wednesday morning meeting happens weekly to double-check music and flow for the current week and to plan for the next few weeks of services.
- Communication throughout the week on SLACK for potential changes throughout the week and to keep the communication channels open.
In our church there are two part-time worship staff leaders who help arrange the orders – one for the modern and one for traditional.
Here are a few benefits of planning your worship services in advance:
Allows Your Team To Practice & Prepare
When we plan music in advance, it allows team members to practice at home and then come ready to rehearse together. If you don’t plan in advance, there is a good chance that your weekly rehearsal will be the first time your band members hear/play the songs. This creates poor preparation habits and also is a disservice to volunteers who are committing their time.
Decreases The Sunday Stress
When you’re working ahead and not in a week-to-week crunch, you lessen the stress for yourself and your leaders.
Ideas have time to incubate and get better. You can come up with stuff that can really help engage the congregation and make an impact.
Expands The Time Needed For Delegation
When you’re planning ahead, you can invite people in to use their gifts for ministry and give them plenty of time to do it well.
Glorifies God As You Seek To Do Your Best
Advance planning helps us utilize our gifts, our people and our resources to bring the best we can to the worship leader setting.
But what if your church system is sort of stuck in the rut of planning week to week? What if it feels like you, the worship leader, is the only one trying to incorporate the benefits of advance planning?
For those worship leaders who feel like they are trying to get ahead on their own:
- Make sure the components in your control are planned ahead.
- Be flexible with your plan if needed. Of course, you always have the right to make a change, but at least you have a plan going.
- It’s ok if songs don’t totally line up with message texts – just pick songs that point the way to Jesus.
- Don’t bug your preacher too much about future messages – especially if it’s not your pastor’s style. Keep being an encourager and supporter. Cast the vision for how you can prepare more in advance.
- As you invite people to think about Sundays beyond this week, you begin building a culture of planning ahead.