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A typical service order at my church

In this video I break down what our service order typically is like at Newhope Church where I lead worship. It’s not always like this (often we will move things like the welcome/announcements, offering, etc around), but this is an order that we will use quite often. I used an actual service where I led worship (from May 22, 2016) as the template for this video.

The video is a bit long (20 mins), but I go into a bit of detail explaining the reasoning behind the choices we make, but here are a few tips when planning a service:

First, every church is different

I’ve been involved in many churches over the years, and every church does things a bit differently, and that’s a good thing. The order of service plays a huge roll in the culture of a church. This is not my opinion on how all churches should go about an order of service, but just what it’s like at my own church.

Peaks and valleys

Our pastor (Pastor Benji Kelley) often says that great worship experience is full of highs and lows. Plan high energy elements. Plan serious elements. Plan humorous elements. Plan deep/slow/worshipful elements. Another thing Pastor Benji says (and I 100% agree with) is that it is basically a sin to make church boring. And how many worship services have you attended that were boring? (Most of them is probably the right answer).

Be extremely intentional

Nothing (and I will say again – nothing) (one more time – NOTHING) should be left up to chance in your worship service. Plan it all out with as much detail as you possibly can.

Who is leading which songs? What keys are they in? Exactly how are you getting from the first song to the second song? Exactly how are you getting from the second song to the welcome/announcement time? Who is speaking during that time? How much time do they have? Exactly what are they going to say? What audio/video/lighting elements are happening at any given point of the service? How are you getting from the message to the song right after?

If you do not spell these things out exactly as they should go, things will absolutely go wrong, and if they don’t you just got lucky. You won’t get lucky every time :).

Everything you do should point toward vision

Don’t know what the vision of your church is? Then work on that. But once you have a clear vision, literally everything your church does should fulfill that vision. If you’re doing something that doesn’t directly tie into vision, then stop doing it.

Transitions

Transitions are probably one of the biggest make-or-break elements of a service. Plan them out, practice them, and then execute.

Final thoughts

I’ve heard people talk about approaching a service with this level of planning and execution before, and inevitably I’ve heard the response…

You are manipulating people… You are not allowing the Holy Spirit to move…, etc.

I’m sure you’ve heard it too. You may be thinking it right now. I would respectfully disagree.

In the Bible we see a God who is full of order. Over and over again He brings order to chaos. He specifically spells out things for His people (check out how specific His plans for the Ark or the Temple were). I believe we should approach a worship service with the same level of order, planning, excellence, and execution. I believe it honors God, because it reflects Him. When we enter into a service with this level of planning and thought, I believe it encourages the movement of the Holy Spirit rather than stifles it.

One of the reasons I believe this is because of the illustration of the God of order, but maybe the biggest reason I believe this is because of personal experience. I’ve been in countless services where we just ‘winged it’ for a lot of service elements. When I compare and contrast those services with the services where we have been extremely planned out and detailed, the latter have almost always been far more powerful.

Download my typical order of service

Typical order of service at my church (PDF)

Share your experiences

How are your services different? How are they similar? Disagree with me? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

9 Responses to A typical service order at my church

  1. Gabe Griggs May 30, 2016 at 9:43 am #

    I totally agree plan it out as much as possible. If you don’t follow the plan exactly then it just means that the Holy Spirit wanted something different to happen. No big deal.

    • Brian Jun 1, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

      Thanks Gabe! Yeah if the Spirit is really moving and we feel like God is directing us to make a change, we’ll do that as well.

  2. mshaw1 May 30, 2016 at 4:22 pm #

    How much lead time do you like to get from your pastor on his weekly message so you may plan your message sensitive songs?

    • Brian Jun 1, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

      We are extremely fortunate, and we usually have the message topics planned out for about a year. It really helps us with long-term planning. Our Pastor is awesome.

  3. Robert Wood Nov 30, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

    Thanks for this, very helpful! A question for you- do you have people stand up and sit down during different segments of the service? Are people standing or sitting during worship or a combination. What about during announcements? Thanks!

    • Brian Jan 11, 2017 at 2:35 pm #

      Hi Robert – typically people are standing for the corporate worship elements and sitting for most everything else. Often we will stand when we read scripture as well.

  4. Shawne Nov 5, 2017 at 2:53 pm #

    I left a highly liturgical church background years ago, and have been ministering with my husband in what I would call blended-worship churches, where we have worked to take a traditional order of worship/protestant liturgy and streamline it, while keeping the elementals of adoration/praise, confession, thanksgiving for pardon and supplication/prayer because it mirrors approaching God in prayer, but expands it corporately. I love much modern praise music and it is part of our services while still keeping some hymns (the church is fast becoming hymn-illiterate, which is tragic). However, when attending modern churches like this on a Sunday off, I consistently encounter this, almost universally: a curious experience of coming away disappointed and empty. So while I love the modern music, it’s not enough to sustain a worship experience. The typical modern service feels disjointed and flat. There is an offering, but I don’t know why it is when it is. There is prayer time (maybe, not always) but I don’t understand why it comes after the sermon or before the cool groovy video clip. There is no flow that makes any real sense. The prayer time isn’t responding to the sermon as an act of worship, it’s just been retro-fitted in somewhere, because, well, we have to pray, right? The offering isn’t responding to the assurance of pardon for our sins. It’s just… stuck in there… somewhere. There’s no sense of place or timeline. It’s just a list of things that don’t hang together in any meaningful awareness of the action of, and response to, God. Worship is being done for me by others in these settings by professionals in sound booths, playing tracks, setting mood music, lights, videos, and I just show up to watch, given welcome bag #173, and file out like impersonal cattle in time for the next service. I’m not expected to be a participant. I’ve come to a concert/show/production. There’s no authenticity, no meditative realness, no response expected, because I’m not a congregant, I’m an audience member. I’m sorry, but this is my consistent experience with the way so many modern churches I’ve visited are conducting their worship services, and I’m not speaking as an old person. There is no theology of worship, no meaningful order, no opportunity for participation at all; it’s all a long infomercial, full of light and sound and perfect professionalism, but I haven’t really worshiped, only watched. I might as well have been at a concert. God was obscured from my view. I don’t mean to offend, but I think modern churches really need to perhaps consider that they have lost something that deliberately was structured to magnify God and bring people into a participatory experience of Him when they jettisoned all the elements of traditional structure. Those elements might have served a purpose. I hope this is helpful to some.

    • Brian Nov 5, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

      Hi Shawne – I’m not offended by what you have written, but it does sadden me. You’ve made some pretty dangerous assumptions about the spiritual intentions of my church and others like it based on what you did or did not feel while attending ‘modern’ worship services.

      While you felt they were like a concert, others may have experienced a deep connection with the Holy Spirit. I’m not trying to discount what your experience was while visiting these churches, just making a point that not every church should worship in the same style, and not every person engages the same way in a worship service.

      • Jen Jul 9, 2018 at 10:37 pm #

        Brian, Thank you for sharing about your church service and for your kind responses.
        I’d like to respond to the comment by Shawne.
        I believe the points you’ve made come from a very personal perspective. I’ve heard the same comments from friends and family about a church I attended for several years. There can certainly be a disconnect from those in leadership who are not seeking the Holy Spirit for guidance. I believe God deserves our absolute best when it comes to spiritual leadership and I have my standards!

        In my 40 years I’ve attended more than 10 churches from Church of Christ to Pentecostal to Bible churches of 100 people to 3000. They all do it differently. My current church annoys me with their order of service attitude- we’ve always done it this way – the old people don’t like change, etc.

        I did some research after complaining about it and was quickly corrected upon finding a particular article. My worship experience greatly depends on ME! Yes, all the leaders and speakers have influence. But, I decide if I’m there to be pleased or if I’m there to give my worship to the Lord!
        Sure, there are better ways to arrange the order of service. And I can approach my pastor about shaking things up or being more intentional or reverent. But we’ll never be able to suit everyone.
        There are definitely times to call attention to things that are missing or not appropriate. But mostly, our worship experience comes down to our efforts and intentions.

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