Service Planning: Calm Excellence is Achievable

Service Planning: Calm Excellence is Achievable

There is no doubt that many elements of service planning need to be thought through and planned weeks in advance, for them to be given time to grow and develop.

Know your why!

Know your how!

Reducing each item to a Planning Center timeline that fits on a neat printout can have its own set of negative consequences.

Before I worked for the church, I worked as a tour manager for a rock band. Every day, I walked into a new environment, a club, an arena, a stadium, a festival, indoors, outdoors, headlining, opening up, for one song or a full show.

Every day we adapted. Every day we knew why we were doing what we were doing, and every day we knew how to do it.

When you know where you are going, it isn't hard to get there.

When I started working for the church, planning became central to my job.

These days, I spend more time on any given week planning for those services, than bringing that planning to life. A church service is certainly more complex than a rock concert, and requires more planning, but I've also seen the life programmed out of services.

Reducing each item to a Planning Center timeline that fits on a neat printout can have its own set of negative consequences.

I have been told that if we are not planning more than four weeks ahead, we might as well give it all up.

There is no doubt that many elements of service planning need to be thought through and planned weeks in advance, for them to be given time to grow and develop. We also need to know how we do our jobs so well, so that when a last-minute change arrives, it doesn't ruin our week.

Why we make a service happen is important, and you should be able to talk about why you are having a service many weeks before that service. The why should inform all decisions made about that service.

There are many good whys to have a service, and I won't give you any here (I'm betting you have lots of people who will tell you why you should do a service).

I do hope that you know what your why is.

The how is about executing each stage of service planning with calm excellence.

"The Series"

Everything Sunday falls into a series. These are usually four weeks, but it could be eight, and it could be 12. Our pastoral team looks at scripture and plans a series around the Christian calendar, the life of our church and what they feel inspired to share with the congregation. They then work to shape a sermon journal that will lead our church through scripture, built around that theme. This can be downloaded from our website or purchased as a booklet. It has a daily scripture reading connected to the series, and some brief thoughts to stir your thinking.

The series shapes song selection, artwork, lighting and stage design. It's a guide that keeps us connected to the why, in a more focused way. Currently we are working through the book of Ruth, looking at the challenges life brings us and how to face hard times. During this series, we have ministries who help people (Widows support, Health Crisis ministries, Celebrate Recovery) in special focus. This is a big why in doing this series to help people. It also informs the preaching, the song choice, and the way we have the building set up. 

"The Planning"

Once we have a series decided on and the sermon journal is written, we use that to start our planning. We create templates in Planning Center Online and start to discuss the look and feel of the series, which would include artwork and stage design, etc. We will have a meeting and discuss the series approaching, and why we are doing it. Then each week, we have a meeting to review last week and to look ahead. Our primary focus is on the next Sunday, but we will also look into future weeks, if they need special attention or focus.

There are lots of questions, arguments, disagreements and every now and again, some laughs. Now we are starting to dig into the details of a service we are focused on the how.

The details of how we make each element work then becomes the focus. Audio input lists are then created. Lyrics are selected and prepared for screens. Lights are programmed. Volunteers selected.

Each part of the service has practical needs and we now prepare each of those. This preparation is the core of the how and when you can do it, understanding why it allows you to know that if there are changes or last-minute additions, you can execute them with simple ease.

Last Sunday, we had a last-minute change in our traditional service. The score called for additional parts, and we had to flip the position of two small pianos. Easy, right? Because we knew why we were doing it, though, and how we could do it, all we needed was time.

It took about 10 minutes. No one lost a limb. Or their mind.

As I look back across this piece it reads a little simple, but it also reads true.

This is how we plan and execute our services at Asbury.

We decide why we want to do a service. We decide how we are going to do a service. Then we proceed to do those things.

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