A goal of worship leaders is to identify and eliminate as many distractions as possible, so that through the medium of music we can create an environment that makes it easy for people to connect with God. Here are some ideas that will help you in planning worship experiences for your church.
As we plan the worship experience, we should prayerfully ask God what songs and other elements of worship to put together and what atmosphere to set to help people experience God in worship.
Our times of worship should have a natural flow with no interruptions. We should strive for seamlessness, providing a sense of journey from the time the worshipper enters the room for worship until he or she exits.
The Skillful Use of Songs
Songs are to a worship leader as colors are to an artist. Know the songs on your list thoroughly so that God can lead you to the right ones for the worship services you lead.
Worship and Liturgy
Begin to see the worship service as an event from beginning to end. Employ drama, testimony, communion, Scripture readings, prayers, ministry times, etc. into the overall event as tools to help the congregation come into the presence of God.
Determine the Theme or Direction
As we begin to select the music we will use in worship, we should seek God’s counsel on a theme or concept that could be included in the time of worship. It is imperative that we seek the heart of our pastor and discover what God is directing him to share with the church. Some themes may be conducive to elaborating the theme in worship. Others will be difficult or even awkward to develop musically. Spend some time exploring the theme and praying for God’s guidance as you plan the service.
Consider the People You Are Leading
We should present variety in worship. We need to have a pastoral heart of uniting the body rather than dividing the body. Don’t cater to just one generation completely.
Select Relevant Resources
Once you have identified your theme, if applicable, you can start to select the content of your worship service. Only now should you start to select songs, Scripture readings, drama, video, and other elements of worship.
Create a Set List
Prayerfully select songs from your master song list that support the theme and direction you have determined. Write the songs down in no particular order. Write their keys beside them (all possible keys in congregational range). Also note if they are fast, medium, or slow.
Design a Sequence of Events
This is the stage where the worship outline is fully fleshed out. The order in which each movement is included and the specific elements used must be carefully considered and placed in an order that is logical and progressive. Keep in mind the key relationships of the songs you have selected to insure a smooth transition between songs. (Much of this is explained and demonstrated in our Worship Leader Boot Camps.) The worship event should be a logical, unfolding drama and not a selection of loosely strung together items.
Create Musical Segues or Transitions
Determine exactly how you will transition to each song. It is best to keep a continual flow between songs in a set. There are times when pausing or waiting is appropriate; however, these transitions should be the few choice spots in the overall worship flow, not the standard between every song.
Check the Content and Flow
You have now in front of you a nearly final worship service. Take some time to think through the whole worship event and consider how suitable each element is that you have included. It may be helpful to come back to this stage a day or two after you have done your initial work, so you can look at it with fresh eyes. Ask yourself questions like, “How will I move from that item to the next?” “Should I move that item earlier or later into the service?” “Are there too many new songs (should be no more than one)?” “Are there a wide variety of Scripture passages and other elements that the whole congregation will relate to?” “Are there any jarring emotional shifts that people will have to make?” These kinds of questions will help you fix potential weaknesses. You will also find it helpful to run through any musical transitions to check whether they will work – make adjustments sooner rather than later.
Evaluate for Participation
The final step is to evaluate your plan for the upcoming worship event according to the level of participation that will be required of the worshipper. Remembering that worship is not a spectator sport, but a participatory event in which each person contributes as fully as possible, spend some time working through the outline to identify all the ways in which people will participate. Take each worship element and ask yourself how you could use it to facilitate audience participation. It will involve a bit more preparation to have others read, share or act, but this is necessary for worship to be a truly participatory event.