The flow of a worship service is a journey. As with any journey, we have an initial starting point. It is essential to meet with your pastor before you do anything else in planning your flow. You need a sense of where his message is going to go that Sunday and then find out the key Scriptures that relate. That is step one in planning your worship journey.
The next step is prayerfully looking over your master song list. This is the creative brainstorming time. Begin to thematically pull songs. This is also the time to be thinking about a nice blend that best includes a wide range of ages and cultures. (Personally, I find it best to include at least one hymn and one modern chorus, but maybe an older chorus as well.) We’re not just leading twenty-year-olds; we’re hopefully leading everyone from teenagers to senior citizens. So it’s important to keep a balanced diet. It is vital that you think corporately; create an environment where music isn’t dividing your congregation, but actually drawing you together.
After your theme brainstorm, you begin to prepare yourself as a host; you are inviting people on a journey and along the way you have to use your practiced skills—from the very beginning when you come out and say good morning, to the point when you leave the stage, making way for the Word.
The opening song is an important one. When you have your theme list, you need to think: What would be a good opening song that gathers everyone? It’s good to mix this up a little bit too. If the last three weeks in a row you started with some real pep-rally, high-octane songs then the following week, just to so you don’t fall into a rut, start off with a hymn. A tender hymn will open the service on a contemplative note and you may be surprised how people appreciate that range—too much of any one thing gets dull. Always remember: it’s part of your job to be creative from Sunday to Sunday, that means don’t settle for just doing three fast ones and three slow ones. Use variety in song choice as well as tempo.
I know this sounds a little over the top, but it’s a good idea to graph your flow. There is something about seeing the sequence in one, two, three, four, five, six dots on the page. You can see if the worship variety is too level or if it’s too jagged like teeth on a jack-o’-lantern. While you graph, this is a time to expand your thinking. You are creating a journey with songs and prayers and Scripture and spoken word—everything and anything available to you to host people into connectedness with God. Look at the journey on the page and be open to prayer transitions, to Bible readings, to passing the peace. Do this with intentionality and do it with skill, and it’s a great idea to practice this as well. We practice guitar, we practice keyboards; it is just as important to practice the art of leading. Like our instruments, the flow of the service is a learned art that can add or detract from the journey of worship.
Republished by permission from Worship Leader Magazine
Paul also has a DVD series in which he covers the subject of flow in a more complete and visual manner. Order DVD