Every week, I look forward to leading our church in worship. I get to serve alongside some of the most godly and talented folks that I have ever encountered. Each week, I love to hear God’s people singing out God’s truths.
Even more importantly, I love watching God’s people live out God’s truths.
For that goal is how we direct the worship plans here at North Side. Practically, what does that look like? Let me give you a glimpse into the work that goes into what you experience on Sunday.
We start with the Word. Honestly, the Bible is the beginning, middle, and end of how we plan worship. The plans begin around what text of Scripture will be preached that particular Sunday. As we have been preaching through books in recent years, we will oftentimes plan a month or two at a time.
When I first started in this position, I used to plan week-to-week. Work on the coming Sunday and then look at the following week Monday morning. I soon realized with the unique way God had put together our group of worship leaders that the more time they had to prepare, the better. Many of our men and women who help lead like to work diligently and work in advance to be prepared to the utmost.
It was then that I began to try to plan for weeks at a time. What has been amazing to see over the years is how God would direct us to plan something a month away unaware of the events that would transpire leading up to that day. Sometimes a plan that didn’t make much sense 6 weeks out made complete sense when that week came.
Planning weeks or months at a time can get confusing. In the case of the current series, Jeff had spent many weeks praying and studying concerning what direction we would go after John (and 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John). He deemed it a good time to teach the truths of 1 Peter. We picked out a starting date, and then we drew up how many sermons we anticipated coming out of 1 Peter.
Jeff and I spent some time studying through 1 Peter together and discussing what section would call for a complete message or if there were sections that needed to have 2 weeks to cover. With flexible room to shift if we need it, we planned that 1 Peter would take 24 Sundays to cover.
We use an online program called Planning Center to plan services and to schedule all volunteers. In this program, we then put in the sermon texts for the weeks to begin the service planning part. In the case of 1 Peter, we began the “Stand Firm” series on August 18th and would plan to conclude on January 26th.
God Has a Plan
We usually take a look at where the text falls on Christmas or other events, and what we have discovered is oftentimes it is divinely purposed. The Sunday before Christmas, the layout of 1 Peter had us landing on 1 Peter 4:1-6 which talks about how Jesus came down as one of us to suffer so that we could stop our struggling with sin. Only God could have planned that perfect message for Christmas!
Another time where I saw this power was the week we were planning for the Lethco 15 Year Anniversary surprise party. We had already determined that we wanted to focus on 3 John 4 during that time and talk about how the Lethcos had spent 15 years pointing us to the truths of the Bible. The problem was how to surprise Jeff at the end of the 11:00 service.
We need not worry, God had a plan. The Sunday closest to the anniversary was September 29th. Do you know what the message was on that day? The focus was on the enduring Word of God from 1 Peter 1:22-25. So to sing “Thy Word” at the end of the service went perfectly into our celebration. Once again, it shows the power of God’s Word versus our ideas!
Oftentimes, we will use a giant whiteboard to fill up some ideas with what elements can go into a service. Looking at the passage for the day, we only allow things in the service that support that biblical idea. Hopefully you have realized that the words we sing in songs in a given week setup or support the passage from which the sermon comes.
The reasoning is simple: the Bible tells us to do that. In Col. 3:16, Paul writes “Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.” Paul teaches that a worship ministry is also supposed to be a discipleship ministry. The songs should help us learn and retain the truths of God’s Word.
Sometimes someone will ask me, “Have you ever considered doing this particular song on a Sunday morning?” Even if I love that song, if the message doesn’t fit the passage for the day, I will pass on it for a later date.
Let me give you a case study into how this fleshes out. On October 6, 2013, the passage was 1 Peter 2:1-3. You can see the picture of my study Bible as I prepared for the message. A few things I noted: 1) Peter wants us to put away sin through the power that God provides, 2) we need a desire to grow up into salvation, and 3) this should be a normal byproduct for those who know that the Lord is good.
As we prepared for the services, we took into account these truths. The order of the service that day became:
- Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 2:1-3
- “Enter His Gates” (“for the LORD is good, the LORD is good…”
- “You are Good” (“LORD, you are good and your mercy endureth forever…”
- Offertory Prayer (focusing upon how good God had been to us and how we can give back)
- Video “Identity” (it focuses on the change that Jesus does in us)
- “Have Thine Own Way” (“You are the Potter, I am the clay” as someone molded a piece of clay on stage while we sang)
- “When I Think About the Lord” (“how He picked me up and turned me around…” focused on the growing up into salvation part)
- Message – 1 Peter 2:1-3
- “Holy” (song composed by North Side Worship team for this passage)
This is just one example of how we try really hard to take the passage into every possible consideration for the service. This process has caused our team to write many songs over the last years to help cement these truths in our ears and prayerfully moving transforming our hearts.
Preparing the Team
Once the plans have been made either weeks or months ahead of time, we schedule musicians and all other volunteers to serve on specific Sundays. At the bare minimum, our team receives an invitation in their email 10 days out (the Thursday of the week before). Oftentimes, they receive invitations further in advance so they have adequate time to prepare. On the page in Planning Center, they can see the entire service plan, view chord charts or lyric sheets, listen to the audio files or view videos as they prepare.
We then practice as a team on Wednesday evening from 6-7:30. At this point, each individual is supposed to have worked on his or her specific part so that when we come together, we work on how the whole sounds versus the individual parts. We gather for 15 minutes of Bible study and prayer, then go through the entire service. Honestly, many of those practices feel more like a worship service than a practice.
On Sunday mornings, the team gathers again at 8:30 for a final run-through with all of our tech team. We then gather for prayer at 9:15, and then we get the privilege of leading our family in worship at 9:30 and 11.
After certain services, I have received such encouraging comments concerning how things flow together. Many times people will comment concerning how close Jeff’s message was to a concluding song or particular element. In all honesty, that’s the Spirit of God and the Word of God doing that. In many cases, Jeff is not aware of all that will transpire within a service, and I am not all aware of what he will be saying. We just both approach the service with the text as central, and God does the rest.
Thank you for allowing me and this wonderful team to be a part in leading you in worship and discipling you through the Word!