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Worship by Design

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This article is a condensed chapter from the book Getting a Handle on Worship by Whaid Rose and Israel Steinmetz.

Corporate worship should be dynamic and life changing, not mediocre and boring. Such worship doesn’t just happen but results from deliberate and purposeful planning.

If corporate worship is truly a meeting between God and His people, how the worship service is designed is critical as to whether or not that meeting actually happens. Beneficial as it is, however, deliberate weekly worship planning, let alone regular evaluation of it, does not take place in many congregations.

Is planning and evaluating worship an intimidating thought for you? If so, here are eight keys to get you started.

Dynamic design

View worship planning as the most important activity of the week.

Worship isn’t just another activity on the weekly church calendar; it is the church’s most important activity of the week. Daily ministry and witness should anticipate the climactic celebration of the gathered community at the end of the week. Let this influence the quality of time and attention devoted to worship planning and preparation.

Meet regularly for worship planning and prayer.

Many worship teams get together weekly to go over the music for the upcoming service. However, worship practitioners recommend additional meetings, such as annual retreats, quarterly and monthly meetings, and other impromptu gatherings during which attention can be given to matters not usually focused on during weekly rehearsals. Remember to involve circles of people beyond the worship team: sound and tech crew, pastoral staff, etc.

Aim at offering acceptable worship.

One of the most important questions Christians can ask is, “How shall we worship?” Scripture provides one right answer to this question. Consider Romans 12:1; Hebrews 12:28, 29; and 1 Peter 2:4, 5. The common thread in these verses is the word acceptable, underscoring God’s demand that we worship Him on His terms, not ours. Worship that God accepts is offered humbly in faith, proceeding from a heart and attitude rightly aligned with God.

View all elements of the service as worship.

Worship is greatly enhanced when all elements of the service are viewed as worship. For example, the tendency to think of the offering as something to get out of the way so we can get to the important elements of worship creates dichotomies in people’s minds that are unnecessary and, in some instances, unbiblical. However, the goal of giving is to inspire us to offer up our very lives. Likewise, if worship is conversation between God and His people, then Scripture reading (God’s Word to us) and prayer (our communion with God) are worship.

View worship as enhancing the glory of God.

It’s been said that the goal of worship is to make God beautiful. Since God’s glory speaks of the radiance and splendor that emanate from His very being, the frequent scriptural command to glorify God involves making God’s beauty known. Thus, we make God beautiful by putting His glory on display. We must continually raise the standard and quality of our worship to match the glory of the worship of heaven.

Handle music with care and wisdom.

Music ranks near the top of all elements of corporate worship. To put it succinctly, if the music isn’t done right, the service flops just like a cake that has no flour. Some songs don’t go together; some do not belong at a particular place in the service. Remember that just because someone loves to sing doesn’t qualify them to be a member of the worship team.

Prepare the heart.

This is instructional for the worship team as well as for the congregation. It is possible to miss worship while attempting to lead others in it, and it is also possible for congregants to arrive at church so frazzled that they miss the “God encounter.” That’s why deliberate preparation is tantamount. It will not totally prevent distraction and interruption, but it can help us better handle them.

Regularly evaluate your worship.

It is suggested that worship teams meet for a few minutes immediately following each service while the experience is still fresh on everyone’s mind. A good bit of evaluation takes place spontaneously following the weekly worship service: in the church parking lot, on the drive home, or at the dinner table. Since evaluation happens anyway, let’s influence how it happens. Let’s make it deliberate, constructive, and done in a way that makes the greatest difference and yields the best results.

Making it work

Here are a few suggestions to assist worship teams in applying these principles. For best results, plan a gathering in which you discuss the following as a team:

  • Adjusting your church calendar to prioritize worship planning.
  • Identifying five questions that would be meaningful ongoing evaluation tools for your worship team.
  • Listing every element of your current worship service. How are you currently framing each of these elements as an act of worship? How can these acts of worship be made more intentional?
  • Gathering your song sets from the past four weeks of worship services. Are the opening songs focused on ascribing worth to God? How well are the themes of each song connected to one another?
  • Looking at each of the eight keys of designing dynamic worship services. List five action points to discuss with your worship team.

Important reminder

Like the frame of a house, worship services need walls, windows, doors, and those things that make it livable. You’ve been given a frame on which to build a house of praise and worship. It is now the task of each worship team to complete it, to fill in the details, to plan a dynamic worship service.

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