The following entries discuss different aspects of planning worship, which includes involving lay people, choosing songs, observing the church year, and enriching the flow of worship.
Long-range and short-range planning are essential to worship services characterized by strength, order, and beauty. Pastors and church musicians are responsible for planning, but participation in music during worship should include adult and children's choirs and the congregation singing hymns, psalms, and anthems together.
The communal nature of public worship is shaped and affirmed by liturgy, which is a script of a congregation's unfolding thought processes, social interaction, and psychological movement. Liturgy proceeds in stages of collective activities that can be both physical (outward) and psychological (inward); it helps a worshiping community gradually move into the presence of God.
Planning worship is sometimes problematic for leaders. Prayer is always the prelude to good planning; but the selection and ordering of songs for worship is also a spiritual activity. An effective leader compiles a master song list, allows a theme to influence his or her selections, anticipates the mood of the congregation, and takes into account the musical and lyrical content of each piece.
Because worship is a drama involving all the people, planning should involve not only the ministers, but also (and perhaps especially) the laity.
Modern options for worship range from fixed liturgical practice at one end to "free church" liberty at the other. The directory approach, common among Presbyterians, falls in the middle. Modern directories are adaptations of the original directory of the church of Scotland (first published in 1645). In recent years many Presbyterian denominations have adopted new directories with the intent of using them to reform and renew worship.
The church year provides a ready-made pattern for worship. The key seasons are Advent and Easter, which not only mark important events in the life of our Lord, but also inform the church's responses to these events in outward and inward worship. In addition, the church year puts the congregation in tune with a great body of Christian tradition that stretches across the world and back through the centuries.
To enhance the flow of worship, a leader should working on acquiring necessary skills. Of particular importance is learning how to master the timing of worship. Well-planned transitions help the congregation to sense the intended purpose of each act of worship. Included here is a detailed outline of worship designed to go with Isaiah 6:18-Isaiah's encounter with God and the prophet's subsequent call to ministry.
As an introduction to the planning and evaluation chart that follows, this entry gives guidelines for developing a team of worship ministers, each charged with a specific duty in bringing about worship renewal.