The Prelude – Elements of Worship Series (Part 2)

When we consider the different parts, or elements, of the Worship Service it might be thought that we should start with the “opening song.”  That is, after all, the first thing that happens in a service, so we might as well start there in our series.  However, there is something that takes place before that first song, or call to worship, or other specific element that “begins” the service:  the prelude.

In modern church life, many churches do little by way of planning for the prelude.  In fact, the use of CDs and other pre-recorded music is a staple of many churches as the people come to fill the sanctuary to be part of the service.  In the not-too-distant past, however, the prelude was much more deliberate in the life of a Sunday morning, and special attention was paid to the music that was played during that time.

There are a few churches, even today, in which the prelude is a reverent and thoughtful time for people to prepare their hearts for interacting with God during worship.  Encouragement of a hushed, even silent, space in the sanctuary allows those gathering to consider their need for God’s grace and to wait expectantly for the Spirit to work in their midst in that hour.  Whether one can change the tide of modern church culture to enter quietly such as this is doubtful if it is not already a habit of the congregation, but it could be effective on occasion.

Prelude is defined as “an introductory performance, action, or event preceding and preparing for the principal or a more important matter.”  Notice the inherent assumption that the prelude is a deliberate activity.  It is something that happens on purpose for a specific reason, and is a preparation for what follows.  With that in mind, let’s consider what we might do to plan more effectively for the prelude in our Worship services.

The main point I’d like to make about the prelude is that it must be deliberate.  In other words, someone has to think about it and make it part of the planning for the weekly worship service.  This may be, as in some churches, a time for meditation.  However, it may also be a time when enthusiastic interaction and greeting takes place in the midst of the congregation.  Biblically, we could make a case for either, but the argument here is not that it must be one way or another but that it should be planned and deliberate.

Let me say that the use of CDs or other pre-recorded music is a fine choice for many churches that may not have the resources of time or talent to have a live performance during the prelude.  The point is that throwing in a CD off the pile in the sound booth, or letting someone pick their favorite artist to highlight during that time will not be conducive to the preparatory nature and purpose of the prelude.

Spend time integrating the prelude into the whole service.  Allow it to truly fulfill its purpose of preparation.  Try different styles and methods.  Explain it to the congregation.  It will take some work, but will be worth the added effort as the worship planning includes this important feature.


For more of Mark’s writing, see his book list at

Posted on January 19, 2015, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology, Worship Leader and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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