Thinking Through the Whole Worship Service

Due to the nature of our ministry, my family and I serve in many different congregations. We experience various styles of worship, including a wide degree of competency in the ability of churches to plan and execute a corporate worship service. As I share some thoughts in this article, I would like to draw together some observations that I believe every church can accomplish, no matter how polished, or unpolished, the service.

My comments come under the umbrella of one overarching idea:

Someone must have the full view of the worship service. This person may be the pastor, but is often an associate or even a volunteer worship planner or leader. It really doesn’t matter who it is, but it is important that this “someone” really exists. This is the individual that has the “big picture” of the service. They are able to visualize the entire service, from beginning to end, and anticipate what issues must be addressed so that the congregation is not distracted from God’s work in their midst.

In keeping with this idea, we must remember that the individual parts of the service (or worship elements) serve the whole. Whether your church uses a liturgical guide or plans more of a “free form” service that changes week by week, there is generally some kind of thematic sweep of the service. This might be a theological doctrine or concept or a more general theme, but it’s some kind of focus to which all aspects of the service point.

Certainly the worship music is a key ingredient, but that element must stay in line with the thematic sweep of the service. Lyrics of songs should supplement the theme, not supplant it by introducing opposing or contrary thoughts. Prayers and transitional comments should be considered in light of the theme. From prelude to postlude no elements should be overlooked, but can be planned to serve the broader focus of the service. Even the sermon, yes, is to be analyzed as a part of the service that serves the whole.

Beyond these more conceptual areas, there are several visual and aesthetic issues that arise in many churches. Cords and wires, for example. How can these be wrapped to create a more pleasing visual for the congregation? In addition, we must consider the safety issues of those who may have to walk over those cords and wires. There is not much that will distract a congregation more than an individual up front tripping over wires that could have been easily hidden or run along a different path.

Another aspect of visual importance is the movement of people and props. Do chairs have to be moved? When? Why? How will the people involved move from one place to another? Do they know when to move and where to go? Are there microphones where they need to be? Are there enough mics that one does not have to be moved from one area to another? Are music stands in the way of the congregation seeing the pastor or other people on stage? These questions, and others, can be part of the visualizing process which will make the service flow much smoother.

Finally, I’d like to make some comments about technology. I’m going to suggest that the most common mistake made with technology is the muted microphone. You know what I mean: Someone on stage begins to talk or sing, but their mic is muted and the congregation misses the first few words of their comment or song. Was the sound tech aware that the mic was needed? Was he or she distracted? How can you eliminate distractions for those serving in this area? It is certainly important to provide an order of service so they know what to expect, but we can also give them permission to politely “ignore” those that might try to engage them in conversation just as the service begins (or even once the service is under way). Their attentiveness to details is as important as the musician that is expected to play the right notes!

The other area of technology is both lighting and projected images (and/or lyrics). Regarding lighting let me say that moving lights are really cool. However, cool moving lights do not fit every song or every service. Less is more when it comes to this feature. Remember that this is a worship service, not a concert hall. Only use moving lights if they can directly increase the impact of the thematic focus. For visual images, use the same criteria. Beautiful pictures are wonderful, but when they become the focus they will distract from the purpose of the service. And just two thoughts about projected lyrics: use spell check and a font that is easily readable.

There are many more observations that I could make, but I’ve tried to develop this short list as one that really can be accessible and doable by each and every church. Find someone who will visualize the service before it happens each week and you will find that many of these annoying little things (and others) will gradually dissipate and allow your congregation to focus more readily on the theme for the day.

(Original Post on Sept. 8, 2014 at the Worldview Church: http://www.worldviewchurch.org/worshiparts/articles/22271-thinking-through-the-whole-worship-service)

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Posted on October 6, 2014, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology, Worship Leader and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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