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14 Ingredients for Starting a Worship Ministry From Scratch

“Original article appeared here.”

Years ago, I developed the following basic ideas on building a worship ministry for church planting pastors and worship leaders. Since then, many experienced friends (some are noted below, though more could be) have seasoned my thinking about how we can establish a worship life in a community that lasts for the long haul. I hope these 14 ideas encourage you if you are in this stage of church life.

The Metaphor of Baking Bread

Building a worship ministry in your church is more like baking a loaf of bread than a building a building. Ingredients shape the whole, and when the right ones are there, a particular fragrance and taste fills the church and a community. People are looking for bread. Jesus is the Bread. Worship can create a place of access to him.

In a worship ministry, the flour makes up the bulk of the bread. It’s the substance that people are eating. The yeast makes it rise, makes it chewy, makes it melt in your mouth. The flour is not the yeast. In worship, the flour is the “why” of worship. It is the reason we worship. It is the collective values and meaning of worship. The music (and other languages of worship) are the yeast. They help it all rise, be tasty, draw us back. They become part of the substance when they are doing their job.

These 14 ingredients are both flour and yeast, both what will make the bread substantial and the bread rise.

14 Ingredients for Developing Worship in a Church Plant

Where do we start? At the very foundation of the dough. What is worship? Then, we move to the yeast—the how-to ideas—of building a worship ministry.

1. Determine Your Definition of Worship + Create Your Worship Philosophy

This a big one, so a little time is worth it here. This is where it all starts. If this definition is off (even by just a few degrees) from a sound biblical vision of worship, we will have worship bread that is heavy on yeast (light and fluffy) and low on substance. Or vice-versa (heavy on substance and low on texture). I start at Rom. 12:1-2 and reach back into the Old Testament and forward toward Revelation (the New Creation) for this definition I came up with.

You can find my definition of worship here. (Note: I explore all of this here and address the problems in the worship industry, radio industry and more because of our limited definitions.)

From this can emerge your “Worship Philosophy.” This is an important iteration of your vision of what worship is all about, to which you can call people (in the church and in the worship team). This should be revisited each year and edited as appropriate.

2. Spread Your Worship Philosophy Through Every Aspect of Church Life

Having created a worship philosophy, built on a solid definition of worship, now you have something to speak from, teach from and lead from. In every aspect of your church’s worship life, from how you set up the stage, to how you handle your musician rotation, to how worship is led in small groups, to what you purchase for visual and sound gear, you are seeking to spread that philosophy through everything you do.

3. Build Worship on a Holistic Value Set

Here is where values come in. They spring from your worship philosophy. When we in the Vineyard family (my church movement) talk about worship, words like “intimacy with God,” “accessibility,” “integrity,” “cultural connection” and “kingdom expectation” come to the fore. Not all worship movements approach worship with all of these same values before them.

What are your church’s values? Phrases like “equipping the saints” and words like “simplicity,” “healing” and “mission” are used when we in the Vineyard family talk about worship. “God is the subject of the worship sentence” is one of our mantras. We are the objects of his love (Jn. 4:19). Songs are a place we go to meet with God. But life is a place we go to partner with God. Think holistically and make a big deal out of your values; it changes the music.

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Dan Wilt, M.Min. is an artist, author, musician, educator, songwriter, communicator, and spiritual life writer. With 20+ years in the Vineyard family of churches, he serves in various ways to further a “New Creation” centered vision of the Christian life through media.