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Improve Your Worship Planning

By Lynn Hardaway

You already have systems in place to make the church functional; they may not be formally organized or even verbalized, but they exist.

Someone plans the morning worship service; they choose the songs using some kind of system, decisions are made about who will play what instrument, who Bywill pray for the offering, who will take the offering, how the invitation will be handled, which announcements will be made. The pastor uses a system of some sort to determine what he will be preaching during the service. In many churches, the bulletin delineates the service; someone, somewhere, decided what order the service would follow.

The questions a declining church must ask is,

“How can we improve our planning system to produce a better worship service?”

“Are there changes we can make that would allow the Spirit of God to have more freedom to move among us?”

Some suggestions:

1. Plan the messages in advance and communicate them to the music team; this is a simple way to get on the same page together. If one-year sermon planning is too much for you, try six months. Plenty of resources are online to help calendar your sermons.

2. Choosing songs the congregation knows, or can easily learn, is another simple step in the planning process to make the service better. In my opinion, some of the contemporary praise music is fine for a concert-style worship service, but discourages the congregation from singing because the melodies are too complicated and “unsingable.” Introducing new music to a congregation is essential, but choose wisely. God’s people are instructed to sing and they want to sing from hearts filled with praise; if you are forcing music upon them that frustrates them, you are hindering their worship, not helping it. If you are choosing hymns, you may have to explain the meaning of words that have fallen into disuse, like “Ebenezer” and “waft” and “wistful;” not understanding the words can be as frustrating to the worshiper as not comprehending the melody.

3. Revisit the standard order of worship in the bulletin and rearrange it to incite a worship event rather than a liturgical event. Be careful to secure the blessings of the decision-makers before changing the order; this may be a “sacred cow” that must never be changed to some. Prepare the congregation ahead of the change rather than shocking them when they pick up the bulletin.