Find Your Pastor’s Preparation Rhythm
Every pastor develops a unique approach to planning, preparation, and the presentation of their sermons. Identify how your pastor plans his messages. Does he prefer a topical series? Verse by verse through a book of the Bible? With a few questions, you can identify how your pastor approaches sermon preparation. And, once you know that, you can adjust your planning to match how he is preparing each week.
If your pastor is planning to preach through a book of the Bible, consider studying the book yourself as you are planning worship for those services. Find out what other preachers and speakers he likes to listen to and listen to them yourself. Notice his commentaries and his reading choices. Read what he is reading.
As you run across new songs that you feel could become part of your church’s worship expression, give him a gift of those songs on a CD or download link and invite his opinion about which songs resonate with him. Very soon, you’ll be discussing the text and the songs that each other are living with as you both prepare for upcoming services. That synergy will enhance the planning of the services.
Don’t Be Afraid to Augment the Theme
Worship planners don’t have to always use songs that completely align with the subject or text of the pastor’s message. But, if you know where the pastor’s message is going, you can plan a service that leads the congregation to the pastor’s message and from his message.
For example, recently I planned a service in which I knew the pastor was going to be preaching about sharing our faith with non-believers through our testimony using the story of the woman at the well who brought her whole town to Jesus from John 4.
The songs I chose were not about telling the Gospel. They were about finding our hope in Jesus and the faithfulness of God in our lives. If you think about it, when we share the Gospel we are sharing how Jesus has changed our lives. After we sang about the hope Jesus has brought us, our pastor preached about sharing our story with others. The songs led the congregation to the message he was going to preach.
Stay True to Your Context
It is interesting to examine what other churches are doing in worship – the songs they choose, the ways they lead. But, planning worship true to your own context is much more important than reproducing what seems to be working down the street.
Work hard at planning services that will engage your people and offer the best opportunity for them to encounter the truth of God’s word and the power that comes when Jesus is praised by His people.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.