Some Principles of Planning

Worship services come in all shapes and sizes, and rightly so. I don’t want to tell you the magic formula to putting together the definitive worship service because there isn’t one! But these principles, which are totally adaptable to any setting, might help develop the services you are preparing.


It’s often helpful to have a theme for the service and 9/10 it’s determined by the sermon series and title. The theme underpins all the segments of the service and forms a connection between each item. It also helps narrow the focus. For example singing songs about God is a good thing, but God is massively complex, but focusing on God’s faithfulness or his father-like character can sometimes be more helpful.

It is better and more helpful to try to concentrate one thing than many things.

Some themes are easier to work with than others. A service based around the theme of compassion is perhaps easier to plan than one around sexuality.

Once the theme is established, the next question is “how can we creatively use different segments to express this one theme?”

This varies from church to church, meeting to meeting, group to group. Can you use Prayers, Scripture passages, Songs, the Sermon(s), Games, Interviews, Announcements, Liturgy, Video clips, Powerpoint, Sound effects, Twitter/Facebook/Texts…

If the themes are set well ahead of time it allows for creative ideas to brew and take shape.


The theme unites all the parts. It’s easier to unite everything under one theme if we see the service as a whole. We can all too easily break it down into The Songs, The Sermon, The Notices. This is especially easy with more than one person involved in delivering the service, for example we use a service leader AND a worship leader AND a speaker AND people giving notices…

It shouldn’t matter how many people are involved as long as we remember that all of the parts should relate to one another

  • The songs should relate to the sermon
  • The prayers should relate to the songs
  • The notices should relate to the prayers
  • The sermon should relate to the notices

The service is a whole, with the theme threaded through each item on the order. See everything as an act of worship; gathering together, offering our time, our money, our selves, our songs, our sermons, our notices as worship.


The service should take people on a journey. This is not a new concept, and a quick google search will bring forth diagrams and graphs depicting the journey or flow the service could have. However you choose to deliver the service is up to you, but remember some key skills.

Pick people up when they arrive (even if they arrive late. Access points can be helpful.) and lead them to a place where they can engage with God and their fellow worshippers, then lead them to a place where they feel ready and encouraged and equipped to face the week ahead.

Use the clutch.

Think about how to get people’s attention at the beginning. How can you shift their attention onto focusing on God? How are you going to move from the introduction to the first song or prayer? Why kind of song do you start with? How will you move from segment to segment skilfully and sensitively?

It’s like using the clutch (This analogy requires the vehicle to have a manual rather than automatic gearbox). Whilst driving a manual car it becomes necessary to change from one gear to the next. You can do this in one of two ways: with the clutch, or without the clutch. Both ways get the job done – you move from one gear to another – however, one method is significantly smoother than the other.

When you lead the service using the clutch, each segment being linked to the theme and thought given to the transition to the next item, the effect is a smooth flow from item to item. When segments are thrown together with minimal consideration of theme or flow or even seeing them related in any way as one service, the transitions are harsh and jolt the congregation.

What is the theme?

How does the service hold together?

How will I transition from one item to the next?

Use the clutch.


2 thoughts on “Some Principles of Planning

  1. I’ve come to find that thinking about this too strictly can be quite stifling. Thinking of a bunch of songs about compassion or whatever can get a little contrived..

    1. I agree, and I think the key point in your comment is ‘thinking about this too strictly’. It’s often helpful to think thematically, but if it’s unhelpful then don’t. These are principles to help freshen ideas and practices etc.

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