Planning a Church Service
Don’t let the cynics deceive you—there is such a thing as the “perfect church service.”
And no, it’s not like pitching a “perfect game”—which happens once in a lifetime.
It’s a real, repeatable thing that your church can aim toward (and achieve) every single Sunday.
Excellence in your church service rests on well-formed routines.
Think about it.
If you don’t have a routine for something you do regularly, that means you’re putting extra energy into accomplishing that thing every time you do it.
The more you are able to ritualize it by doing it the same way every time, the more you make it instinctive, expected, and automated.
This makes it possible to channel your energies on making that thing better in uncommon and exceptional ways.
Your church service is no different.
In fact, your church service is a perfect example.
Church is a routine of assembling among believers that the body of Christ has practiced for 2,000 years.
Routine is important to God, and consistency is a positive trait than enables the further cultivation of other positive traits and virtues.
If you take seriously the automation of key elements of your weekly church service by streamlining their ritualization through routine, you will be able to more excellently participate in the sacred practice of the weekly assembly of believers, which the Bible sets as a basic precedent for Christian worship (Heb. 10:25).
However, building consistency is no small feat.
In fact, it can be extremely difficult.
In this article, we will walk through 11 critical steps that make the routinization of key elements of your church service as easy as possible so that your church service team has the time, energy, and resources to focus on improving and optimizing other aspects of the service.
How Do You Plan a Church Service?
Service planning requires forethought, strategy, and intentionality from your entire team–pastors, your church service team, worship leaders, your church security team, and all other members of your church staff.
Planning a church service should be a repeatable process that follows a strict planning protocol, utilizes planning tools, and provides a seamless worship experience for your congregation every time. An effective planning process starts with a structured plan that applies to your entire service–from opening your doors before the service begins, to worship, to tithes collection, to the message and response time, to a time of silence, to prayer and wrap-up.
Coordinated services planning will also include detailed plans for every type of volunteer and staff member–including your worship service team, your team of pastors, your church security team, and of course, your coffee hour team.
How Do I Create a Church Service Plan?
To create a seamless worship experience, you need planning tools that can help you communicate and coordinate with your staff and volunteers.
Tithe.ly is a church management tool that can help you develop a system for organizing, managing, and communicating with your team for the best possible service. Tithe.ly's suite of tools even includes Tithe.ly Worship, a special tool for helping your worship team manage every element of worship. Tithe.ly Worship allows worship leaders to upload a song library so that it's accessible to the whole team, delegate tasks, and create an effective plan for pre-setup.
What Should Be Included in a Church Service?
Here are 11 steps that will help you become a 21st century church professional–in other words, a team leader that executes a service with minimal church service hiccups and most importantly, helps create a space for helping your congregants draw close to God.
1. Identify common problems
Every improvement begins by taking an honest look in the mirror.
Where are your weak spots?
What are the common complaints?
What are regular “cringe moments” in your church service?
What do you secretly wish you could improve, remove, or smooth out, but feel like you can’t express due to a tight budget or overworked volunteers?
Don’t worry about those constraints now.
Just take the time to list out what are the the blunders, errors, trips, glitches, and miscommunications in your system.
Take a single Sunday to list every single one for your personal plan of streamlining your worship service.
2. Rank your team by their competency
Once you have a list of your liabilities, it’s time to make a list of your assets.
What tools do you have in the too belt of your worship service team?
Make a list of every team and every strength in members on those teams:
- Tom is the most likable greeter
- Most other greeters are fairly awkward
- Jerry is the most gifted musician when there is clear leadership
- Lisa is the best music leader in her personality, organization, and stage presence, but is only available once per month
- Deacons dress professionally, but need to make their demeanor more pleasant and expressively welcoming
- Gretta is great with the coffee machine, but makes terrible coffee cake
- Liz owns a bakery, but can only supply pastries once per month
- Bob is happy to give money to buy fresh donuts bi-weekly for church members and the coffee hour team
Small Group Leadership:
- Sarah is excellent administratively and interpersonally, but doesn’t have the man hours
- Leah needs some administrative training and is an eager volunteer, but she does have the time to give and is great at handling resource issues
Sound and Production:
- Andy is good with sound and audio files, bad with streaming on the video feed
- George knows how to stream the video feed to YouTube and Facebook, but needs a few hours of professional training on audio files and dynamic content editing
Once you have made your list of common errors and team member strengths, you have the initial ingredients to begin strategizing how to put solutions in place to streamline the perfect church service.
3. List hardware and software that could solve your problems
It will be tempting to immediately resolve your “common errors” list with your “team member strengths” list.
But before you do that, there is a more basic, infrastructural solution that you need to take into account: software and hardware.
Look at your weaknesses list. What major problems first require a software or hardware solution that could potentially optimize your team members’ solving the problem?
If a weakness is poor audio and video quality, do you need to invest in a wireless lapel, multi-cam setup, and a high quality live-streaming software to get your most tech-talented team members trained on?
If a weakness is coffee hour, do you need to get a new coffee machine, bring in a barista for two hours, and get your coffee hour team trained on how not to burn coffee?
The point here is extremely simple:
List ideal software and hardware solutions before you play matchmaker with your problems and your team member strengths.
If you just try to solve problems with raw talent from your team, people will feel that you are trying to achieve unattainable perfection through sheer force of will and over-expectation, rather than investing in the bigger project of achieving the highest quality of church service excellence possible.
4. Implement tools to centralize programming
One very important tool that you need to consider for planning your church service is a church management software.
Church management software can help reduce church service hiccups for a range of churches–from 50-person congregations to stadium-style megachurches. It's an essential part of implementing an effective planning process for your weekly church service.
There are many different versions of church management. Initially, more important than which software you have is that you have a church management software.
This tool will allow you to manage team members, delegate tasks, segment your church, plan events, and coordinate everything from small groups to worship practice to set-up/tear-down personnel to donations.
If you’re not using a church management software, you’re living in the stone age.
Using a church management software for pulling off an excellent church service in the 21st century is like getting a computer before you go to college—it’s just common sense.
We personally recommend Tithe.ly Church Management Software, since it is now the industry standard for church professionals—it offers the most features for the best price point. You get an extremely high quality tool.
And, while it is more important to make sure that you have a church management software than which you have, it is very important which one you choose for one primary reason:
Church management software can be very hard to transition.
Once you start training your team and storing all your data in a single software, changing software can be an enormous hassle.
Therefore, I recommend you just get Tithe.ly up front and save yourself the time and energy cost of tinkering with other options that will fall apart or limit your capabilities if your church grows.
5. Train competent team members on the planning tools
Once you have chosen your church management software, it’s important to train your most competent team members on this software.
Take those on your team who are the most administratively gifted, and hold an administrative training session where they can become administrators on the platform and schedule team meetings, update events, and send updates to involved parties. An effective training session will help your team master both hardware solutions and soft solutions that can help them to execute an excellent service.
Professional training on different tools will give your team the gift of agility. If a training issue arises, then pivot and be flexible as needed. Remember that a training session can be held virtually and in-person.
Training on seamless solutions will help your team plan events with confidence, master coordinated services planning, plan each element of worship with ease, and mitigate future planning errors. Most importantly, it will help you develop a planning process for executing a perfect church service week after week.
If things do go wrong last minute during your otherwise excellent church service, your team has the ability to communicate this and adapt in order to compensate.
This will allow your team to avert 50% of church service hiccups which can be reduced to communication errors.
6. Write the perfect service
Once you have the tools and personnel in place to execute a church service and evade common “hard” problems (logistical, communication, and resource issues), you should allow yourself to indulge in the writing of a perfect church service.
If nothing went wrong, what would happen?
If everything went right, what would happen?
If you weren’t hamstrung by recurring errors, what do you dream of accomplishing?
Write out exactly how the service would go team by team—how would each team function from the Saturday night before to the Sunday afternoon after the service?
How would your greeters, children, security, facilities, educational, music, production, and volunteer team function during the pre-setup, setup, preparation, initiation, time of silence, service, post-service, tear-down, and clean-up phases?
At what time does each phase occur?
How does each team transition from each phase to the next?
What responsibilities does the team leader bear that the team members don’t?
How are these responsibilities delegated and communicated?
How does each team use the church management software to streamline the answers to these questions?
By answering these questions, you answer the fundamental question: “What does the perfect church service look like in my church?” This can help you increase the quality of church service that's ideal for your particular needs and congregation.
7. Strategize soft solutions to common problems
The biggest reason that people believe a “perfect church service” is impossible is because they think that a perfect service means there are no problems in the service.
Here’s the thing:
It’s not a problem to have problems.
There will always be problems.
The real problem is not having soft solutions to common problems.
Soft solutions are a combination of administrative training and commitment to a high quality of church service. The 21st century church professional will know a range of soft solutions that can help them execute an excellent church service, no matter what goes wrong.
These soft solutions exist in the form of rehearsed alternatives that your team knows how to improvise when things go haywire during the live event.
Are the drum microphones not working mid - song? Everyone should know how to transition to acoustic mid - song seamlessly.
Are the lyrics for song D instead of song C being displayed? The audio-visual team should know how to quickly flip to song C without scrolling through additional slides.
Did the left-side projector stop working mid - service? We know how to transition to a no-projector alternative by directing congregants to the sermon page on the church website seamlessly.
Did the preacher’s lapel mic stop working halfway through the sermon? That’s ok—the backup lapel can be transitioned remotely by the A/V team without anyone knowing.
The key is creating seamless solutions to common problems, not eradicating the possibility of problems altogether.
You want to create solutions so clean—and train your team member on executing these solutions so well—that onlookers would never have guessed there was even a problem.
This really comes down to a training issue.
Like all perfect performances, they are made by practice.
And practice happens in church when team leaders make the time to practice soft solutions with their church staff.
And practice is at the foundation of consistency—which will enable you to pull off a seemingly perfect church service week after week.
8. Task appropriate team members to execute those soft solutions
Make sure it is very clear among your teams who is responsible for executing the soft solutions to common problems in your weekly church service.
This means that you create “roles” that volunteers and staff can step into to execute these soft solutions.
For example, instead of tasking “Rob” with doing a certain job for the church security team, create a position called “Security #1” that is responsible for handling problematic visitors in the lobby.
Then, on the 1st and 2nd Sundays of the month, Robert M. can be tasked with filling the “Security #1” position and implementing the soft solutions to that hypothetical in real-time. Robert M. should only be tasked with filling this role if he has the specific competencies relevant to executing this job well.
Make sure that no position is person-dependent, but can be filled by someone else who is trained to step into the leadership position if a leader cannot be found or is pulled away. This practice of executing soft solutions should be standard for church professionals in the 21st century.
9. Have a “lessons learned” mindset for future planning errors
Implementing a church service plan that tilts your church toward excellence won’t happen in a single Sunday.
It will take many months of trying and failing over and over again, getting better week after week. After all, Christian churches are ever-evolving organizations with diverse needs. They need soft solutions for different challenges, as well as a bigger-picture infrastructural solution for ensuring administrative success. They also demand that every person has a personal plan for contributing to success and that everyone is training soft solutions that can help you pivot and adjust when coordinated services planning are affected by unforeseen circumstances.
You need to have a “lessons learned” mindset when things go wrong.
If an error occurs that gets through all your planning, rehearsal, and “soft” solutions, all you can do is be as specific as possible about next Sunday—”Here’s what we’ll do next time to prevent something like that from happening.”
Ideally, you don’t want your protocol to be incident-driven. But you're not omniscient; you can only anticipate so much. A planning process maximizes the possibility for success, but it doesn't erase the possibility of failure.
You can simply plan the best you can by using planning protocol and planning tools, and doing your best to prevent unforeseen incidents from happening again through further strategizing and rehearsal.
10. Keep adapting your planning protocol to make your plan smoother
Having a “lessons learned” mindset means that you have to hold your planning protocol in an open hand.
Don’t stay married to your plan so much that it can’t adapt to the real needs of your church as they arise.
Don’t let your idea of the perfect church service become a tyrant to your church service volunteer and staff team so that they aren’t able to fix the real problems on the ground because they’re too busy fixing the problems that you think are important.
Remain receptive to input.
Remain open to feedback.
Change the plan if your team tells you there really needs to be an addition or alteration.
11. Run through the service plan once per month with your church staff
This frequency may seem gratuitous, and in the long term it may be gratuitous, but in the short term, it is essential:
Hold monthly dry run-throughs with your church staff.
You can hold these dry runs after the service while everyone is present.
There are several reasons to hold these monthly dry runs.
First, team leads and members are still practicing communication and problem solving in real time, so these dry runs help people practice communication.
Second, dry runs helps teams get comfortable with performing a certain task in a certain space. It is as simple as muscle memory and visual cues. People operate better when they can carve out a behavioral groove in a certain space through repetition. Performing a dry run in the real space teams function gives the teams an opportunity to practice their real jobs in the real space.
Third, every team member won’t attend every dry run, which means that holding dry runs monthly (at least initially) gives everyone a chance to practice their team task, even if they can’t make one or two dry runs.
Over to you
Remember that”The Perfect Church Service” isn’t about being a perfectionist. Christian Churches aren't about achieving perfection; they're about creating a space to glorify God, experience His presence, and learn from His Word.
Instead of aiming for perfection, incline your church service teams toward excellence with the right planning protocol and planning tools. In the 21st century, there are more seamless solutions than ever to help you achieve church service excellence. There are tools to help your entire church staff succeed–not to mention every church service volunteer, from the teenager serving in kids ministry to the security guard at the front door to the mom singing on the worship service team.
The more intentionality you put towards soft solutions and service planning, the smoother your operations will go, and the more seamless worship experience your church members will have. Not only that, but every church staff member should have a personal plan for helping to contribute to success.
To streamline this planning process, go through this simple 11-step planning process:
- Identify common problems
- Rank your team by their competency
- List hardware and software that could solve your problems
- Implement tools to centralize programming (Tithe.ly ChMS)
- Train competent team members on the planning tools
- Write the perfect service
- Strategize soft solutions to common problems
- Task appropriate team members to execute those soft solutions
- Have a “lessons learned” mindset for future planning errors
- Keep adapting your planning protocol to make your plan smoother
- Run through the service plan once per month with your church staff
Implement this process, and you’ll have a streamlined strategy and process to optimize your church service plan as quickly and excellently as possible.
Church Service Plan FAQs
There's a wide range of churches that need soft solutions, hardware solutions, and church planning to help them plan the perfect church service week after week. Using an infrastructural solution like Tithe.ly Church Management Software can help you to mitigate future planning errors and hiccups (like that terrible coffee cake or switching from song C to song D mid - song). When your entire church staff is trained, even better. You're ready for church service excellence.
How Do You Start a Worship Service?
An awesome worship service begins with an equipped church staff, a team leader for every category of volunteers, the right tools, and a commitment to genuine Christian worship. Tithe.ly Church Management Software can help you attain the standard for church professionals and most importantly, plan events with ease, efficiency, and convenience.
How Do You Organize Worship??
To organize a top-quality time of worship, you'll need tools for every stage of worship, from rehearsal to pre-setup to execution. The right audio files, a video feed, a multi-cam setup, and a library of resources are all of course essential. But you'll also need a way to easily access your song library (i.e. song B, song C, song D), and a way to handle resource issues and to delegate tasks to your different volunteers.