Every church follows a rhythm in time. Major decisions often center on the pattern that we create. For many evangelical churches, our church follows the time of sermon series. Often 4-6 weeks in length, these series are often topical and strive to offer practical advice for living the Christian life.
The question for worship leaders who serve at these churches is this: how do I plan for these monthly series? A couple of weeks ago we looked at what planning each week may look like for an evangelical worship leader. This week we are going to look at a slightly larger picture, how to plan for the next sermon series.
The Sooner the Better
As the subtitle suggests, the sooner you can learn about each sermon series, the better. This will give you more time to pray, brainstorm, prepare, and practice for the upcoming weeks. I realize every church is different in their planning and scheduling. Your church may plan the year out and provide access to the plan through a cloud, or your church may go series to series. Find a timeframe that works for you and stick with that timeline. Talk with your pastor about adjustments in planning if you need more time.
The next step is plan to time to plan. Do not wait until Saturday night to plan for the new series that starts tomorrow morning. This does not prepare for excellence. Instead, plan to prepare. Schedule time out of every week to plan ahead. It is during this time that you can begin to plan one, two, even three series ahead. So plan your time well.
Here is something you should know about selecting songs in general: not every song you select will fully reflect the sermon. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, to find 4-6 songs that will follow the sermon’s points and ideas is unrealistic. You will have to look for deeper themes to draw songs into the sermon.
Secondly, there is more than one criterion for selecting songs. Your library will not be large enough to select 5 songs that fit perfectly within the outline of the sermon. It’s not realistic. There may be a couple themes expansive enough in your library to do this, but not for 12 series out of the year, every year.
You need to select songs not just for this week or the upcoming series, but also with the congregation’s formation in mind. What do you (and your pastor) want the congregation to be singing? How will this shape your congregation? Does this growth allow the congregation to reach the “stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13)?
For each series, I would select 6-8 songs that you decide are most appropriate for the series. Include a few new songs, and allow the rest to be songs the congregation already knows. The rest of the songs for each week can be any other songs, learned or new. From your little database of songs, select a few each week to incorporate into the service. For the other songs, select ones that your congregation knows and follow the life of your congregation. For more on the art of selecting worship songs, see my recent article here.
Other Worship Elements
Depending on the series, you may find other worship elements or creative expressions appropriate for the topic. For example, in a series called The Life of Jesus, which revisits the major events in Jesus life, you may find it appropriate to recite the Apostle’s Creed. This will allow the congregation to reaffirm central events in the life of Jesus and declare truths that the church has always at all times and places to declare as true. Consider where it may be appropriate to place the Creed within the service. Also consider how many times you want to recite the Creed during the 6 week series. Maybe it would be best for your congregation to recite the Creed every week, or maybe as a way to close the series. All of these are valid options.
If you are a volunteer worship leader, or even a part-time worship leader, planning this far in advance can be difficult to start and keep up with. Keep offering your best and work within the time that you, your pastor, and the church have decided is appropriate for you to spend week in and week out. If you have not done this already, I would highly encourage and recommend that you discern how much time you should spend a week preparing to lead worship every week.
As I mentioned last week, one of the keys to effective worship leading is simply being intentional. These articles offer questions for you to ask and examples to offer ideas and get your creative juices flowing. Read, study, and pray. Grow in your art and calling and as time moves forward, you will find your self more comfortable in stage, steadier in voice, and more sound with your musicianship.
For those of you who are able to serve full-time, plan well. You have been graced to have power over your time, so be a good steward and act accordingly.
Peace be with you all.
Jason Palmer is the Administrator of TalkingWorship.com. Jason has a Bachelor of Science in Ministry with a Worship Arts Major and Music Minor. He has lead worship for evangelical churches for 7 years and desires to see worship leaders become confident in their calling.