Over the past 22 years, I have planned over a thousand worship services at Stevens Creek Church. That is a lot of services! When you are planning services week after week, you can very easily lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish unless you have something to keep you on track. So I wanted to share three questions I use to stay focused on creating incredible worship experiences.
What’s Your Motive?
It’s so important to have the right motive when you’re planning and leading your worship services. Too often we forget about this part. Sometimes our motive is to make ourselves look good. We enjoy the spotlight because we are very literally IN the spotlight. So what can we do to help remind us of the real reason we even do this? Something I started doing a few years ago was to pause right before we would play the first note to take a deep breath and take a step forward. Then I would simply pray, “God, I’m stepping out of myself and stepping into your anointing. Let people see You, not me.” That simple action has changed my whole outlook and effectiveness. Make sure we’re making things about God and not ourselves.
Who Are You Leading?
A huge mistake so many worship leaders make is not knowing who they are leading. You have to know what kind of audience you have and the purpose of the specific event. Some leaders miss this step and expect that all people will follow and respond the same way. That’s pretty arrogant, don’t you think? When I’m preparing for a service, I select songs according to who is going to be in the audience. For example I’m not going to do a bunch of high energy Hillsong Young & Free songs if the audience is older and more conservative. I might do one, but I can’t expect the audience will respond the same way as students at a youth event. If I know there will be a large number of non-believers in the audience I want to make sure I lead in a way that doesn’t exclude them but helps them get a picture of God, the One we are singing about. Know who you are leading.
Where Do You Want To Take Them?
The third essential is knowing where you want to take people as you lead them. When I’m planning a setlist I always start with the end in mind? What do I want them to feel at the end of this? Do I want it to be celebratory? Do I want to drive home a certain point? What’s coming after the worship set? All of these are very important questions to ask as you plan the service. It’s crucial that you feel what the service may be like before you get to the actual service. It’s a lot easier to lead people to a place you’ve already been.
Here’s a question I get a lot: If you plan out such a detailed worship set, where is the room for the Holy Spirit? And it’s a good question. I would say hopefully the Holy Spirit is guiding you all week as you plan and create the service. I also believe that the more prepared and detailed you are in planning, the more flexible you can be in the moments where God wants to go in another direction. Don’t use the Holy Spirit as an excuse for not planning the details of the service. In fact, if you are ending the set with prayer, make sure you have thought out your words. I have my worship leaders script out their prayers because I want it to have purpose, instead of just a bunch of random phrases. If you are responsible for praying at the end of the worship set, here are some thoughts on how to Pray With Purpose.
As you plan your services I encourage you to ask these three questions. I believe it will make a tremendous difference in the experience you create for your church.