Each denomination has its own approach to worship
planning. Like many others, worship planning in Community of Christ
congregations is shared among many people, ordained and unordained. In some
cases a team collaborates to plan worship; in other cases the presider and/or
speaker does the planning. The method is not as important as the resulting
quality of the worship experience. Of particular emphasis in worship planning
and worship experiences is allowing space for the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit
is in the planning and preparing, the resulting worship services are ‘led by the
The most efficient worship planning I have experienced
involved collaboration of these four main functions:
This does not necessarily represent four different
persons. The presider may also be very creative, representing both functions in
the planning process. However, it’s important that all four of these functions
are represented in the planning process, otherwise inefficiencies and poor
worship experiences result. Here are two problematic examples.
In one congregation a team plans the worship services
and then “hands them off” to the presider and speaker. PROBLEM: The role of
presider includes watch care over all the specifics of a service. If the
presider isn’t involved in the planning, she or he will miss the logic and
detail behind the plan. If the speaker doesn’t have a chance for input into
worship planning, the result may be a service that is totally unconnected to
the speaker’s message.
In another congregation, the designated presider
plans the service. PROBLEM: As mentioned above, this can lead to a
disconnection with the speaker’s message. This also goes against the old
adage, “Two heads are better than one.” As a lone planner, the presider’s
perspective is limited and the resulting worship service can only represent
her or his experience and frame of reference. Worship experiences are much
richer when collaboration takes place.
The third function involves collaborating with those who
are creative. Not all presiders, speakers, or even planners are blessed with
creativity. As worship planning teams are organized, be sure that creative
people are included – those who think outside the box and make suggestions that
will ultimately bless the congregation.
Often musicians are only involved at the end of the
planning process rather than up front. Too often the assumption is made that the
musician can respond and “perform” whatever is planned, without time for
preparation. Even musicians who can ‘play or sing anything’ need time to prepare
if authentic ministry is to occur. In addition, musicians are often creative
people who have wonderful ideas for enriching worship experiences.
Collaboration does not necessarily mean another meeting at
church. The planners can connect through e-mail and phone calls instead. This
type of back-and-forth communication involving the four functions yields fairly
efficient planning. More importantly, the collaboration enriches worship so that
the congregation has meaningful and memorable experiences.
Once it is determined who will be doing the worship
planning, here are some additional steps I would recommend:
- Start with a scripture and associated theme as a
focus for the planning. If a sacrament is involved in the worship, make it
the central focus of the service.
- Consider what elements of worship most effectively
communicate the message of this particular service.
- Determine the ordering of the worship elements and
the energy flow of the service. What should the energy architecture of the
service look like?