S ometimes it can be daunting and overwhelming to turn a good idea into a creative worship experience. To help, I’ve pulled an easy checklist of essential strategic elements every worship service needs from chapter 11 of my book, Taking Flight with Creativity: Worship Design Teams That Work.
Get your hands on this compilation of helpful ideas, tips, and also a strategic checklist that will help you plan great worship. Just click the big button:Get Your Creative Worship Checklist!
The short version of the checklist.
Use this list of seven items as an itinerary for your next worship meeting. It’ll help save you so much time. If you can’t click the link above you can use this list. The PDF at the link (here it is again) has some additional questions and clarifying statements for each of the seven items.
- The Text – the primary passage of Scripture on which worship is based.
- The Main Idea – the single, central theme, derived from the text, that is the driving concept for everything in worship.
- The Human Condition – the real life problem for which the gospel is the solution.
- The Title – the name of the service, and something that would make a copywriter proud.
- The Metaphor – the controlling visual image that captures the main idea and connects it to the congregation.
- The Featured Story* – the story that embodies the theme and shows what it looks like in action. (* the asterisk means this concept is new since my book on worship design, Taking Flight with Creativity. I outline it in this blog post.)
- The Goal—the next step or “call to action” that you’d want people to take in their faith life as a result of the service.
The big idea behind the checklist.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to overcome in creative arts ministry is the loss of a singular narrative experience in most modern worship.
Much of modern worship finds its model in a rock music concert experience that places highest value on an interrupted flow of songs, for the purpose of creating affect or an emotional connection.
While I don’t disagree with this, per se, worship is more than affect, and a variety of well-composed and sequenced worship elements including songs, congregational songs, prayer, spoken words, video, interactive experiences, and sermon, can do more than simply a song block + a sermon to communicate a single theme.
Further, just as stories have a beginning, middle and end, worship does well when designed with a beginning, middle and end, leading people through a sequence of elements that serve together, in balance, to communicate a singular theme.
Traditional Protestant liturgy communicates a single idea fairly well, depending on the theme, but traditional liturgy’s primary means of communication is cerebral — loving God with the mind — and I advocate a more experiential, embodied worship event (as well as more current stylistic choices) — loving God with mind, heart and soul.
Ideally, the main idea of the day is so present throughout the worship experience that by the time the congregation reached the high point of the event, the sermon, the preacher feels that the audience is completely engaged, as if he is already in the “red zone” and about to score a touchdown.
How to organize the meeting.
Organize the weekly meeting according to five specific deliverables:
- Debrief highs and lows from the previous week, for a maximum of 10 minutes;
- Listen and reflect on the big picture of the coming week, given by the preacher, 5 minutes;
- Clearly name the strategic elements for the service (scripture, theme, title, metaphor, human condition, story and goal) for the service, using the checklist above, 20 minutes;
- Identify, review and confirm all final choices for all worship elements, 15 minutes;
- Look ahead to the next week, 10 minutes.
Worship meeting tips.
Here’s a concise set of worship design tips, culled from over 20 years with my sleeves rolled up in the work of creative worship.
- I recommend three tiers of worship planning: a) the annual or bi-annual retreat, for sketching important subjects and compelling metaphors and stories for the coming year; b) series development meetings, 6-8 weeks ahead of the first Sunday, for the purposes of finalizing themes and identifying core messages, prayers, stories, music, and other creative and liturgical elements; c) the weekly procedural meeting.
- Block off 2-3 hours for the series development meetings.
- Keep the weekly meetings to a maximum of 60 minutes.
- Use a timer and set it for the allocated times above or your own preferred set of times. Focus and brainstorm on each item for that amount of time. Don’t let anything distract you. If you have to, make everyone turn off their phones and Internet access.
- As much as possible, seek consensus on each element of the list.
- On the creative session, always ask yourself, how can we best communicate the gospel in this setting and with these ideas? Allow yourself the freedom to re-arrange the usual order.
Get an entire chapter from my worship planning book for free here.
Also, as a bonus:
I describe the concepts in the above checklist in more detail in chapter 11 of the book I co-wrote with Jason Moore, Taking Flight with Creativity. I’d love for you to have access to the chapter to more fully understand these ideas, so I’ve included it as a free PDF download.
Get it as a part of my Complete Creative Toolbox, including 8 practical must-have templates, how-tos and more! Available with an email address here:
To buy the whole book on worship design, click here.
Note: Effective Worship Development is one of 8 Big Steps to Unleash an Outstanding Creative Arts Ministry in your church. Here are the other 7.