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Church Explores Worship Planning

February 8, 2023
Volunteer worship leaders gathered at Clinton (Ont.) CRC to discuss how they plan worship.
Volunteer worship leaders gathered at Clinton (Ont.) CRC to discuss how they plan worship.

“Can’t we JUST do this?”
“Let’s JUST add a verse.”
“Let’s JUST unplug that mic and move it over here.”

To some observers, requests like these may seem simple and inconsequential. They don’t appear to require much time or effort to make things happen. But for worship leaders such suggestions can potentially upset a carefully planned and balanced worship service.

Angela Kaptein chairs the worship team at Clinton (Ont.) CRC, and she recently hosted an evening of learning and growing for the congregation’s worship volunteers. Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the congregation found they needed to restructure their worship teams to account for members who no longer wished to participate and to include those who had newly agreed to help. Everyone at the gathering was eager, but after years of pandemic ministry not everyone was on the same page.

Twenty people gathered for the event. As part of the regrouping process, sheets of paper were hung around the room, and everyone was invited to share. As each person spoke, notes were taken for all to view.

Kaptein used a rubric of “rose, bud, and thorn” to help people reflect on three important questions: What is going well, and what are you excited about? (rose); What is not happening yet, but could be a possibility for the future? (bud); and What challenges are we facing right now? (thorns).

Clinton CRC is what Kaptein describes as a “generational” church, with many generations in a family worshiping together. She prepared some stats ahead of time so that she could remind everyone what ages were represented at their Sunday services, and why it was important to remember all ages in their time of discernment.

Their team came to some realizations. First, they recognized that their congregation has a lot of children – 75, in fact, from infancy to 16 years of age. They also have a lot of participation in worship. These are “rose” elements that the church can celebrate.

Second, worship leaders often feel as though they don’t have enough time to prepare and lead as well as they would like. This is a “thorn” that needs to be addressed. A “bud” that the team discovered, however, was that it might be possible to have rehearsals at a time other than Sunday morning.

As a result of this conversation, the group decided that they could institute a few changes. Starting on Jan. 29, for example, the worship leaders could begin holding Tuesday-evening rehearsals. Half of this time could be spent rehearsing for the upcoming Sunday service, while the other half could be used to learn new music or to practice items for the future.

During the meeting the group also had the opportunity to learn more about worship planning and to grow in understanding the many details involved in putting together a worship service. In small groups, participants practiced planning an upcoming service and were asked to take into account all of the details needed to ensure that everyone would be able to lead well.

After the exercise, the teams commented that it was “eye-opening” to see the entire process from start to finish. They learned that a “let’s just do this” kind of idea is not only stress-inducing for those who have planned worship and may now need to adjust, but also disrespectful of the process that involved many people’s hearts and time.

“It was great to have such a good turnout with some valuable times of learning and dreaming together as a team,” said Kaptein. “It helped us really come together as a team, and I am looking forward to seeing how it will bless our worship times in the future.”