Preparing for and Evaluating the Worship Service

I received this question a while back:

Do you happen to have anything that you have given out to worship leaders as far as a check-list of items to review as they are preparing for a Sunday morning?

The simple answer to this would be “no.” However, a few years ago C.J. Mahaney and I put together ten questions for evaluating corporate worship, which might serve as a memory jogger.

1. Is our Savior’s substitutionary sacrifice on the Cross clearly and repeatedly presented through song lyrics and exhortations as central to our worship and the means by which we approach God?

2. Is it evident to the church and guests that all we do is rooted in Scripture and in response to Scripture?

3. Do we devote sufficient time to preparation and practice prior to Sunday, and encouragement and evaluation after Sunday?

4. Is there a recognizable theme for our corporate worship which is clearly communicated and grounded in objective truth about God?

5. Are we listening for and responsive to the spontaneous direction of the Holy Spirit during corporate worship?

6. Do our spoken and musical transitions serve to connect different elements of corporate worship in a natural and meaningful way?

7. Has our song selection and presentation become predictable? Does our song repertoire reflect songs of different styles, emphases, and lengths?

8. Are the pastors and worship team an example to the church of passionate, expressive, and responsive worship?

9. Are we aware of and appropriately sensitive to guests who may not be familiar with our terminology, style and practice?

10. Does our description and expression of corporate worship reinforce the understanding that it complements, rather than replaces, a lifestyle of worship?

I could comment on any one of these, but that would be unwise…Let me just suggest that if you’re a leader, I’d suggest you apply #3 immediately if you’re not doing it already. Here’s how it’s worked for us.

We now have two meetings on Sunday mornings, at 9 and 11:30 AM. They each last about 90 minutes. Rehearsal typically takes place on Saturday night from 6:30-8:00. That way we can come in Sunday mornings at 8 for 30 minutes of tweaking. Practicing the night before has enabled us to keep things fresh in our minds for Sunday morning.

Our musicians meet on stage after our first meeting each Sunday to talk about what went well and what didn’t. We’ve tried to cultivate a culture of humility and encouragement that enables people to point out where others did something right and eagerly receive input when they didn’t do something well. I might comment on the drummer’s tempo, a bad transition, or commend the group for following a change in the plan. No one is looking to “pin the blame” on anyone. We frequently laugh at how things didn’t working out quite like we practiced, knowing that God is gracious to use idiots like us! We try to learn from our mistakes and repeat what we do right. There are times we’re not quite sure what went wrong. But the cumulative effect of those evaluation times have been invaluable.

In addition our pastoral team reviews each Sunday on Wednesday mornings. We don’t take a lot of time to nit-pick, but we do talk about what was effective and what wasn’t. It’s helped us be more aware of our responsibility to direct people’s hearts and minds each Sunday to our glorious Savior. If you have other questions that you or others have asked, feel free to leave a comment.

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7 Responses to Preparing for and Evaluating the Worship Service

  1. Christy Tennant December 15, 2006 at 1:52 PM #

    This is excellent. I could not agree more with this list – would that all worship teams operated with such commitment and intention! One thing I would add, and its actually just supplementary to #3, is this: personal reflection, confession, and prayer before going in. I try to come in to Sunday morning with clean hands and pure heart, prayed up and full of faith. I have made it a practice (and I encourage all of the musicians on worship teams I lead) to try not to plan any late-night activities on Saturday if I am “on” for worship the next day, but rather to commit Saturday night to spending at least 30 minutes or so alone with the Lord and the songs for Sunday in front of me. I go through the lyrics and do some self-examination, asking myself, “Can I sing these lyrics with integrity?” I pray for the other members of the team, and I write down any scriptures or prophetic pictures that might come. Sometimes I share them with the pastor before the service if I feel like its appropriate. Sometimes there will be a clear time for me to share it corporately in service, sometimes not.

    I also try to get a good night’s sleep, because I am someone who can get a bit cranky when I’m tired. Knowing this weakness in myself, I don’t want to give the enemy any cheap shots on Sunday morning by being tired. Of course, its not always possible to do this – there are often good reasons for being out or up late on a Saturday night. But, as an ideal way to prepare, I find this very helpful.

  2. Ched December 18, 2006 at 8:26 PM #

    These are very helpful.

  3. Steve December 19, 2006 at 12:48 AM #

    This is EXCELLENT, thanks!

  4. Patrick Donohue December 19, 2006 at 10:29 AM #

    Bob,

    Thanks for this list. It’s helpful, but is it possible to have you take a service that you’ve done and see you evaluate it, especially one that has some really good elements and some that could be improved? I suspect that you could hand this list to two different pastors and they could answer answer questions “yes” and mean totally different things. To see your thought process as you evaluate would be very helpful in establishing my own rubric.

    Thankfully,

    Patrick

  5. Aaron Campbell December 19, 2006 at 5:05 PM #

    Bob,

    I’ve found it difficult at times to be in a mindset that is ready to accept encouragement and critique after a “big event.” I realize that a large part of this is my own pride and desire for everyone to like what happened and move on. However, I am often so drained and spent after an endeavor like a conference or a Christmas musical that I don’t even want to think about it anymore. Is this a symptom of focusing on the event more than Christ? Is there a way to get through the “big events” in church life without losing your focus on Christ and still be excited about your job after the event is over? Did you have a hard time recovering from Worship God this year? I appreciate any input you can give.

    Blessings,

    Aaron

  6. Marvin December 30, 2006 at 3:57 PM #

    I was reading the comments and the one about getting through big events brought to mind Super Bowl Sunday. Any thoughts on worship on that day? I know some churches go all out and make it a “special” Sunday service. Or should we just ignore it? Does it have anything at all to do with worship? Does your church do anything differently?

  7. Bob Kauflin December 30, 2006 at 10:08 PM #

    Marvin,

    Are you saying that some churches do something different in their worship service because it’s Super Bowl Sunday? I can only guess that you’re talking about an evangelistic meeting.

    No, we don’t do anything different on Super Bowl Sunday. I wouldn’t recommend tailoring a meeting around a football game or any sports event. We have had Super Bowl parties at the church some years, and projected the game on a screen as an pre-evangelistic event. But the only relationship between worship and the Super Bowl is that a lot of people see football as their religion.

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