Those of us who attend church regularly have been in worship services that just seem to flow perfectly. Every song transitions perfectly into the next. Every word said is poignant and meaningful, adding beauty and context to the service. Every word on the screens is in place. Everything just works.
Not all services roll like that.
There will always be hiccups in worship flow. A guitar string that strays out of tune. A false start on a contemplative song. A mumbled fumbled song introduction.
The key is, as much as humanly possible, to avoid the avoidable. To plan the musical and artistic elements of corporate worship in such a way that the Holy Spirit has no manufactured competition for the attentions of the attendees.
With flow in mind, here are ten ways to improve worship service planning…
- Pray. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and wisdom in your planning. Seek His direction first.
- When possible, coordinate the theme with the sermon series. If you know the sermon outline, topic, and/or scripture references beforehand, steer the music in that direction. If not, have a general theme in mind.
- Fast to slow, praise to worship. When I plan, I intentionally pace the songs in the set with the faster songs first, and the following songs decrease in tempo. I also try to change the worship perspective of the songs from singing ABOUT God (praise) to singing TO God (worship).
- Use transitions wisely. When playing back-to-back songs in compatible keys, use a string pad, keyboard vamp, drum fill, or some other musical device to tie the songs together. If a cold stop is necessary, have something prepared to say while the previous song ends and the next song begins.
- Limit or eliminate instrumentals. Too often, an instrumental in corporate worship is an opportunity for the congregation to look at each other, wondering what to do. If the song calls for a solo of some kind, talk through it. Read a verse. Prepare a timely phrase. Or, simply skip the solo altogether.
- Take care with new songs. I don’t do new songs as the last song of the set, because the last notes sung should be sung together and should be reflective before the message. When introducing new songs to the church, I do them early in the set, talk about some of the doctrinal elements of the song, and I add them to services three weeks running – introduce it, learn it, sing and know it.
- Visualize and “listenize” the set. Walk through the sights and sounds of the song set in your mind, so that you are very familiar with what will be happening.
- Leave room for the Spirit. If you are prayed up in anticipation of a service, and you sense the Lord leading in a different direction, don’t be afraid to go there.
- Know the songs cold. Period.
- Leave the results to God. We can prepare, rehearse, and pray for a service. Then we have to come to an understanding with God. We have to admit our limitations, understand that mistakes will happen, and trust the Holy Spirit to work through our frailties. He wants to accomplish something in our worship. We have to trust Him to do so.
Worship planners… did I leave anything out?