On an email list I participate in for DCEs, someone recently sent an email looking for ideas on themes to use in Worship for Lent. I thought it might be helpful to document our worship planning process as a resource for others working in this area. Here are some of the things we do as part of creating a meaningful worship experience each weekend at First Trinity:
We’re much smarter and creative together. Myself, Pastor Chuck (Senior Pastor), Sue Brese (Traditional Worship Director) and Jubal Myer (Contemporary Worship Director) meet twice a month usually to brainstorm ideas. I lead the meeting and we spend time:
- Picking Series Themes: We look at what other churches are doing online. Life Church and David Choate at Table Rock Fellowship have been big inspirations for us in particular. We brainstorm ideas as we browse through what they’ve done. Sometimes we use their concepts and create our own sermon titles/artwork, other times we use most of their concepts/titles. Life Church grants the rights to their artwork, so we end up using a lot of it. David’s material is more brainstorm fodder for us. We try to pay attention to the rhythm of the year and pick topics that apply. For example, our current series for the start of the new year is titled MOVE and focuses on becoming more spiritually fit at a time when people are making New Year’s resolutions.
- Refining Sermon Titles/Themes: Pastor usually has in his mind what he wants to talk about, but we refine it with him and settle on three readings for the service/sermon to be based around. We also come up with some main ideas to help plan the worship service without having a complete sermon outline to work from.
- Refine Artwork Concepts: I usually pitch multiple concepts to the group and we talk about them. Later I develop samples using images from iStockPhoto.com or other “Open Source” sources that we’re legally allowed to use. These are circulated among staff in the building and further refined before settling on a final graphic for the series. This gets used as a title slide, the background for the Bible verses in worship, on our sermon outlines if possible and on the website as a promotion on the front page and a banner on the series page, linked from our “Listen” section.
In addition to this group, we also bring together a larger group of staff before and after the Christmas and Lent/Easter seasons to talk about the theme and get all our ducks in a row. This process includes:
- Brainstorming: We review notes from the previous year and decide what elements we want to keep and what new things we want to try this year. This might include new altar decoration ideas, new traffic flow patterns (like adding a Communion station to the loft for Easter Sunday) and the scheduling/training of volunteers.
- Deadlines: During the busy seasons, we have a lot more going on and need to allow more time for bulletin production and distribution of music/scripts/etc. This means more deadlines to ensure everything gets done. We set deadlines for finding and training volunteers. Deadlines for getting content to Dona for print layout. Deadlines for sermon outlines. If it needs to get done, it gets a deadline date.
- Review: Afterwards, we meet to review the season that was. We debrief what went right and what could be improved next year. Our awesome office manager Kathy Figini records all this and starts the process again the following year. If we had any new ideas to try for the following year, or things we should do away with, we record them so we’ll remember later.
I was talking this week with Bekah and Kathy about how the sermon series and even individual titles stand out to me more now than they used to. I never could have told you what topics we covered a year ago in worship, but now I can probably rattle off at least half of the themes, if not 70 or 80%. I think the more cohesive theme packages we’ve been developing have helped with retention. Or maybe it’s just because I work so much more with these areas now. Or maybe it’s both.
To First Trinity readers: What would help you connect more with God in worship? What kinds of series would you like to see in the future?
For everyone: What worship planning processes have you used in your church? Or what topics have you seen that really struck you and meaningful? If you have a link to your church’s sermon archive, let me have it.
Share your thoughts in the comments.