How to Do Church Service Planning in Advance

How to Do Church Service Planning in Advance

August 5, 2015 by

Nothing says “church service” like cruising down the highway in a Volkswagen Beetle with all of your friends.

Let me explain…

We were just out of high school, and our ride was a pristine, cherry red vintage Beetle with a white convertible top. We spent a lot of weekends with the top down driving around our small town. It wasn’t a spacious ride, but we didn’t mind squeezing in. We savored the head-turning attention as we cruised the streets.

As I’ve pondered those joy rides, I’ve realized they share a lot in common with our Sunday services. Besides being enjoyable, both move people to a destination, and both can be captivating. Both are also limited on space. There’s only so much you can pack into either one if you’re going to have room to breathe.

What if taking more time to plan your worship service in advance helped you find room to breathe?

Every Sunday, leaders step up, speak and sing out to equip and inspire their people to walk with God. Our message is great, but space is limited. In many churches leaders get barely an hour for worship. What do we put into that hour, and how do we best prepare for it?

Six years ago I was living in a frustrating blur, rushing from one week to the next planning worship services. Our team would meet on Tuesday mornings, and we would come out with a whirlwind of activity. We had a mere four days to prepare what we had just decided for the weekend. Sure, planning happened, but nothing was a sure thing. Every detail was open to change until services began. In short? Mild chaos.

The burden and stress of this weekly cycle drove us to consider a better way—a service with breathing room. Since our 70-minute time limit was immovable, we knew we had to change. We chose to begin planning services several weeks in advance, versus just one service planned one week at a time. The result? Our worship services improved when we created space to plan, prioritize and then implement the plan weeks in advance.

Quality increases when we eliminate last minute changes.

There are lots of ways you can do this at your church. Here’s how we do it at ours:

  • We started slow. Initially we only added one additional service to our weekly planning discussion. Then we started talking two weeks out and ended by recapping the plans for the current weekend service. When you meet to plan your next service, why not commit to planning the following weekend too? Do that for a month, then add another week of planning to the discussion. Slowly repeat, adding a weekend until several weeks are planned in advance. Today we plan seven weeks out year round, except for Christmas and Easter services, which we begin planning three months in advance.
  • We come to planning meetings prepared. Over time we realized decisions don’t feel as rushed if everyone comes to meetings ready to talk about the following weekend. So we ask people to come with personal pre-planning already accomplished. Worship leaders select songs and create a road map for the weeks we are discussing. We decide who will be on stage (host, worship leader, etc.) ahead of time, as well as who will handle the transitions (welcome, communion, offering prayer, etc.). We put everything that’s planned outside the meeting into Planning Center Online. This provides greater opportunity for us to process the most important things in the weekly meeting and simply review and tweak the details as needed.
  • We eliminated last minute changes. We also found that quality increases when we eliminate last minute changes. Now we have a weekday cutoff for any significant changes. (A significant change is anything that disrupts workflow because it requires an hour or more to make it happen.) Yes, this means there have been times when we’ve had to say no to senior leadership (gasp!), but that’s rare because our leadership cares deeply about our team and also plans several weeks in advance.

Considering all that, you might have some of the same concerns we had when we first got started.

“But we want the Spirit to lead us, and that requires last minute changes!”

We found having several weeks to seek the Spirit’s leading gave us more time to listen before we acted. We have more time to meditate, pray and seek God when we think six to eight weeks out. Last-minute changes have become the exception rather than the rule.

“But planning more than one service will take too much time!”

It takes about one-and-a-half hours to review seven services. Yes, you have to manage the time well and not plan every detail, but we know what needs work and are preparing now for what will happen two months out. By the time we get to four weeks out, few if any significant changes are needed, and if they are needed we have time to work on it.

“But we need to have the pastor’s message before we make any plans!”

Does it help to have the pastor’s outline or script to prepare for the service? Sure. Is it necessary? No. It actually works well for us to select a theme that will simply compliment the topic for the weekend. Trust that God can lead you in preparing the service even if your pastor only plans week-to-week. Give yourself permission to plan independently of your pastor’s sermon preparation. We do, and it works!

We found having several weeks to seek the Spirit’s leading gave us more time to listen before we acted.

True, it’s curiously consoling to do things the way they’ve always been done, even when they don’t work. But what would life be like if you chose to shift your planning cycle and do things differently? What if taking more time to plan in advance helped you find room to breathe—both personally and in your worship service?

Post By:

Gerry True

Gerry True serves as the communication arts pastor at Oak Hills Church where he currently leads four teams of artists who use their creativity in communication, production, worship and technical arts. He lives in San Antonio, Texas, with his beautiful wife Karen and two delightful leaders-in-the-making kids, and you can follow him on Twitter at @GerryTrue.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

Comments are closed.

Featured, Think Ahead

, ,