I am restructuring our creative processes for planning the Sunday services and was wondering if anyone has thoughts to share on what works well for you...Meeting agendas, meeting frequency, people involved, staff involved in the process, brainstorming ideas etc. Any thoughts or ideas are welcomed.

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I often find that having lots of people involved can actually stifle this process as sometimes the more ideas you have the less effective you are. So for me keep the team small.

Of course this will depend on where the church is at etc.one church I went to carried out a brainstorming session involving the whole church (quite a small church approx. 50 people) this was split into groups covering a wide range of topics. The issue with this was that the congregation was a wide mixture of people. Whilst that is good for diversity it became clear that actually, if asked, everyone had a slightly different view on what should happen on a Sunday morning = more confusion and less creation!

Since we've been bumping a few old threads, this is one that didn't get much traction first time around...

We have a contemporary service and a traditional service, and each one has a pretty set structure - for the contemporary service it's a 3-song opening set, greeting each other, children's time, one song, scripture and sermon, one song, prayer requests & related, offering (special music, non-group-singing), communion (band does a song during serving), announcements (particularly, announcements of things we hope people will sign up for as they're leaving church), benediction and an outro song.  We aim for one hour and usually come pretty close.

Our planning process is that I'm responsible for picking the songs, the pastor is responsible for the rest of it.  He does the same sermon both services.  I generally don't know the scriptures and sermon until about mid-week, so we don't even try to find songs that tie into the sermon, we just try to find a balance between too much repetition and too much unfamiliarity in the congregational parts.  Actually, even when I know what the scripture / sermon title are, I find that I usually can't predict what he's really going to say.  If I know there's a special event on a particular Sunday, I may try to find a song that fits for the offering special (like May 10th was Mother's Day, and we have kind of a tradition to trot out Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" for that every year; we have another song that we do when someone in the church has passed away, we get a little slide show and the band sings this song instead of our usual "outro" song one week).

So, for us, service planning is not a question of meeting agendas or frequency - each week, I just know that the office needs a song list by about Wednesday.  And the pastor knows that he needs to get the scripture & sermon title in by about the same time, and the real person in charge is the secretary in the office :-)  Over the longer term, we "negotiate" things, as in it took me about 20 years & four pastors to move the "coming events you should sign up for" announcements to the END of the service, so people would be thinking about them as they were leaving church.  Every now and then, he'll email me and say "I want to use the longer, formal communion liturgy this week" or "I want to move the 'greeting each other' part earlier in the service."  There are a couple changes I would make if it was up to me, but I've asked and he says no, he wants it the way it is...

Every now and then he'll let me know that we're having some special event in the service (like, today it was recognizing all the graduates) and if it seems like it's going to take a lot of time, I'll cut one song for the opening set or intentionally choose shorter songs or something.

For the traditional service, the pastor makes just about all the choices - the hymns, scriptures, unison prayers and readings, all that stuff.  I think the only thing the choir director chooses is the offertory special, though in the past we've had choir directors who chose a lot of the service elements.  Like our service, it's still just managed as "here's what each person is responsible for, have the information in to the office by Wednesday."  I've tried to convince the choir director a couple times that she ought to pick the hymns (like a lot of pastors, he's capable of picking a hymn that has relevant words, but one that nobody has ever sung before).  But right now, she has some things going on and doesn't want that responsibility (and she's a volunteer, which gives her the ability to turn down a lot of that sort of things :-) ).

So, if it wasn't that I always write blog-length posts in the forums, the short answer would be that we have a set service structure, the WL and pastor each have parts they're responsible for and we don't really aim to coordinate.  Occasionally, there will be some special focus in a service and he'll ask/tell me what he wants; now and then I'll want to do something weird and I'll surprise him on Sunday morning.  Works for us...

We will, occasionally, have a 'planned' meeting, but as far as possible, other than having a schedule for who is preaching, leading the meeting, leading worship, we do not co-ordinate the various parts of the meeting. While some might struggle with this, it allows the meeting to run 'live', and also encourages the people with their various responsibilities to spend knee-time instead of detailing stuff themselves. The lack of planning is intentional, and allows spontaneity and the congregation to be involved in the meeting, rather than passively following a program.

Curiously, this does not result in chaos, nor a free-for-all, but instead things run in good order with God often getting involved and giving the meeting a sense of direction that it would not have had if it had been left up to us.

You may write blog-length posts Charles, but they are not half good : )

Charles Wolff said:

Since we've been bumping a few old threads, this is one that didn't get much traction first time around...

We have a contemporary service and a traditional service, and each one has a pretty set structure - for the contemporary service it's a 3-song opening set, greeting each other, children's time, one song, scripture and sermon, one song, prayer requests & related, offering (special music, non-group-singing), communion (band does a song during serving), announcements (particularly, announcements of things we hope people will sign up for as they're leaving church), benediction and an outro song.  We aim for one hour and usually come pretty close.

Our planning process is that I'm responsible for picking the songs, the pastor is responsible for the rest of it.  He does the same sermon both services.  I generally don't know the scriptures and sermon until about mid-week, so we don't even try to find songs that tie into the sermon, we just try to find a balance between too much repetition and too much unfamiliarity in the congregational parts.  Actually, even when I know what the scripture / sermon title are, I find that I usually can't predict what he's really going to say.  If I know there's a special event on a particular Sunday, I may try to find a song that fits for the offering special (like May 10th was Mother's Day, and we have kind of a tradition to trot out Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" for that every year; we have another song that we do when someone in the church has passed away, we get a little slide show and the band sings this song instead of our usual "outro" song one week).

So, for us, service planning is not a question of meeting agendas or frequency - each week, I just know that the office needs a song list by about Wednesday.  And the pastor knows that he needs to get the scripture & sermon title in by about the same time, and the real person in charge is the secretary in the office :-)  Over the longer term, we "negotiate" things, as in it took me about 20 years & four pastors to move the "coming events you should sign up for" announcements to the END of the service, so people would be thinking about them as they were leaving church.  Every now and then, he'll email me and say "I want to use the longer, formal communion liturgy this week" or "I want to move the 'greeting each other' part earlier in the service."  There are a couple changes I would make if it was up to me, but I've asked and he says no, he wants it the way it is...

Every now and then he'll let me know that we're having some special event in the service (like, today it was recognizing all the graduates) and if it seems like it's going to take a lot of time, I'll cut one song for the opening set or intentionally choose shorter songs or something.

For the traditional service, the pastor makes just about all the choices - the hymns, scriptures, unison prayers and readings, all that stuff.  I think the only thing the choir director chooses is the offertory special, though in the past we've had choir directors who chose a lot of the service elements.  Like our service, it's still just managed as "here's what each person is responsible for, have the information in to the office by Wednesday."  I've tried to convince the choir director a couple times that she ought to pick the hymns (like a lot of pastors, he's capable of picking a hymn that has relevant words, but one that nobody has ever sung before).  But right now, she has some things going on and doesn't want that responsibility (and she's a volunteer, which gives her the ability to turn down a lot of that sort of things :-) ).

So, if it wasn't that I always write blog-length posts in the forums, the short answer would be that we have a set service structure, the WL and pastor each have parts they're responsible for and we don't really aim to coordinate.  Occasionally, there will be some special focus in a service and he'll ask/tell me what he wants; now and then I'll want to do something weird and I'll surprise him on Sunday morning.  Works for us...

Bit different for me, as belonging to the catholic church I either do a mass or praise and worship, but not a service as such.  On Pentecost Sunday I am leading the mass in my home parish, the priest has given me a free hand and will not interfere with the music I have chosen.  A few of us got together last week for a practice and we will have one more run through this week and that will be it.  The hardest part is not the songs but the 'mass parts' and remembering when they come in. 

However, when I do music elsewhere with Michael (who is a member of WTR), then the majority of time it will be spontaneous.  Toni I agree, it does not turn into chaos - it works.  ps. working with a musician/s that you can fully trust goes a long way too :)


Toni said:

We will, occasionally, have a 'planned' meeting, but as far as possible, other than having a schedule for who is preaching, leading the meeting, leading worship, we do not co-ordinate the various parts of the meeting. While some might struggle with this, it allows the meeting to run 'live', and also encourages the people with their various responsibilities to spend knee-time instead of detailing stuff themselves. The lack of planning is intentional, and allows spontaneity and the congregation to be involved in the meeting, rather than passively following a program.

Curiously, this does not result in chaos, nor a free-for-all, but instead things run in good order with God often getting involved and giving the meeting a sense of direction that it would not have had if it had been left up to us.

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