Health and Growth

The Perfect Church Service Plan: How to Make Your Worship Service Smooth and Professional

The "perfect church service plan" isn't a myth. It's a reality that can help your members' worship experience be smoother and more professional. And it's easy to implement with these 11 steps.

The Perfect Church Service Plan: How to Make Your Worship Service Smooth and Professional
by

Paul Maxwell

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.

If you go through the eleven steps listed below, you will be able to begin automating things in your service that ought to be automated to more fully become a 21st century church professional.

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:

Greeters:

  • Tom is the most likable greeter
  • Most other greeters are fairly awkward

Music:

  • 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

Offering:

  • Deacons dress professionally, but need to make their demeanor more pleasant and expressively welcoming.

Coffee Hour:

  • Gretta makes great coffee, but 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.

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.

Sound and Production:

  • Andy is good with sound, bad with streaming
  • George knows how to stream the video feed to YouTube and Facebook, but needs a few hours of professional training

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

On very important tool that you need to consider for planning your church service is a church management software.

There are many versions of church management software out there that do a great job.

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 a training session where they can become administrators on the platform and schedule team meetings, update events, and send updates to involved parties.

By training your essential competent team members on this software, you give your team the gift of agility.

If things go wrong last minute, 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, 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?”

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.

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 knows how to transition to acoustic mid-song seamlessly.

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 with their teams.

If teams aren’t well-practiced, it’s not the leader’s fault.

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.

This means that you create “roles” that volunteers and staff can step into to execute these 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.

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 the rehearsal in the world, there is no substitute for the real thing.

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 at a certain level, you can’t have perfect omniscience about what could happen.

You can simply plan the best you can by looking back and do 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 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—”The Perfect Church Service” isn’t about being a perfectionist.

It’s about pursuing an ideal and inclining your church service teams toward excellence.

The more you do this, the smoother your operations will go, and the more seamless worship experience your church members will have.

To streamline this process, go through this simple 11-step process:

  1. Identify common problems
  2. Rank your team by their competency
  3. List hardware and software that could solve your problems
  4. Implement tools to centralize programming (Tithe.ly ChMS)
  5. Train competent team members on the planning tools
  6. Write the perfect service
  7. Strategize soft solutions to common problems
  8. Task appropriate team members to execute those soft solutions
  9. Have a “lessons learned” mindset for future planning errors
  10. Keep adapting your planning protocol to make your plan smoother
  11. 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.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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The Perfect Church Service Plan: How to Make Your Worship Service Smooth and Professional