Worship Planning: Balancing All the Elements


Service planning involves achieving a balance of all the elements that make up a given service. I’m currently planning a service with some unusual elements and would like to analyze the process out loud for the benefit of any readers who might be attempting something similar.
This service has at least two, maybe three, unusual elements: it’s what we call a “combined service;” it includes some new musical forces; and it includes communion.

1. Combined service. We normally hold two services in our sanctuary on Sunday mornings at 8:30 and 11:00. From time to time we combine the people in one service in the gymnasium to promote a spirit of unity within the congregation. The people in the early service are used to music that’s a little quieter and not as modern as in the late service.
2. New musical forces. We are currently in the process of adding choir singers and orchestra players to our current bands. Bands require only chord charts and/or lead sheets, while the choir and orchestra require three-four part vocal scores and orchestrations with individual parts for each instrument.
3. Communion. This service includes communion. We are currently experimenting with a form of communion in which the participants come forward to tables holding the communion elements serve one another in turn.
Given these elements, following are some of the choices I made for the service:

1. Song selection. I chose songs that are modern, songs that are well-known and songs that include portions of popular arrangements of traditional hymns for several reasons.

  • Modern songs appeal especially to the late service people
  • Songs that are well-known appeal to the early service people
  • Modern songs appeal especially to the band
  • Songs that are well-known are easier to learn by the choir and orchestra in a relatively short period of time (two rehearsals)
  • Songs with remade versions of traditional hymns connect us to the present by using popular musical styles while connecting us to our past
  • So I chose “Holy is the Lord,” “How Great is Our God,” “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone),”Jesus Messiah” and “Your Grace is Enough” by Chris Tomlin, “Revelation Song” by Jennie Riddle, and “In Christ Alone (with The Solid Rock / Medley)” by Stuart Townend, Keith Getty, William Bradbury and Edward Mote, arr. Travis Cottrell.

2. Song Arrangements.

  • Congregational songs. I chose Praise Charts arrangements from PraiseCharts.com for all the congregational songs. These arrangements are made from popular recordings by the original artists, so they appeal to the band. But they also include three- to four-part vocals for the choir singers and full orchestrations for the orchestra players.
  • Offertory. I chose a pull-out from a musical that we’re preparing for the fall, “Revelation Song” from the Glorious Day musical by Travis Cottrell.
  • Communion. I chose “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) and “In Christ Alone (with The Solid Rock / Medley” because they have elements that are both new and old which people can sing without watching the screen while they are serving one another.

3. Staging.

  • Band. The band is the core of the worship team so they will be more centrally located and more toward the front of the platform.
  • Choir. The choir has historically been located on the side of the chancel (front) in the sanctuary. In that location, their voices sound weak because they are singing toward the other side of the room. For this service, we are placing the choir on risers facing straight forward so that their voices can be more easily heard and their faces more easily seen as they lead worship.
  • Orchestra. The orchestra will be in front of the choir with some standing and some seated. Likely the brass and some woodwinds will stand and the strings will be seated as needed. I want some of them to stand so that their presence is clearly seen and heard since this is their first time to participate along with the band and the choir.

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