The hallmark of any successful sports franchise is its meticulous preparation. Winning coaches and players speak of the relentless drive to prepare for every game, regardless of the opponent or setting. How often have you heard of a team losing to an inferior opponent because they were looking past them to next week’s game? Success means there is no such thing as an “off” day. For worship leaders that means good worship team meetings.
Many pastors, musicians and media staff also live for the big event. These leaders desire to be successful in the collective goal of connecting people to God, recognize the value of meticulous preparation and see the potential of designing worship in teams. Yet, these same groups often fail to create worship experiences that transform lives because they forget the details of preparation.
Success comes in the details. In worship, as in sports, the first step is to evaluate the process. A weekly worship team meeting should be more than a calendar-sharing session. Ideally, the team is designing a worship event where lives are transformed through the creative presentation of the Gospel. Each worship element is not pre-determined but developed together as a group.
Every church, regardless of congregational size and worship team experience, can learn something from a self-evaluation process.
There are a number of details to cover in a worship team meeting.
Frequency: How Often to Have Worship Team Meetings
The first detail is how often the team meets. While worship styles vary wildly across regions, denominations and congregational sizes, there seem to be only a few basic models for planning. We’ve outlined three popular methods below with some notes. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list but a starting point for figuring out your church’s own unique solution.
1. Single worship team meeting weekly
This is perhaps the most common model for designing worship in a team. A weekly worship team can be staff, volunteer or a mix of the two. There is a set weekly time, either during the workday or in the evening. It is recommended that this design team time and day remain generally the same each week. For example, Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. might work well with an all-staff team. Evenings will probably be better if volunteers are involved.
In some ways, the weekly meeting is an easier model, particularly in terms of facilitating the logistics of planning. Small church planning structures, which are often highly relationship-driven, rely on ongoing communication between the preacher, music leader, and other staff or volunteer team members. This communication happens face to face during the meeting, but also, and sometimes to a greater degree, takes place outside the team meeting via e-mail and telephone.
Weekly worship team meetings are also arguably easier in terms of managing interpersonal dynamics, because the team has more interaction with each other. This presumably leads to stronger relationships. (Of course, a high level of team interaction can have the opposite effect, but in our experience, the more often a team meets the better its member relationships form and maintain.) If team members have sufficiently flexible schedules to do weekly worship team meetings, the overall nearness of the team will likely be much stronger just because of the frequency of the gatherings.
More likely than not, teams that meet weekly are going to be staff. Understand that for many staff members, the idea of another meeting isn’t something that will be relished at first. Be proactive about making the worship team meetings uplifting, casual, creative and fun. If done right, design team day will become the highlight of the week.
2. Multiple worship team meetings weekly or on rotation
Although weekly worship planning has its pros, one of its cons is that it can become exhausting, especially for volunteers who have busy lives outside of the team. Burnout can happen pretty fast. Having multiple teams sharing the worship design burden can be a great solution to this problem.
In this model, several different teams design worship. For example, there may be four teams, each meeting once a month with the paid staff (usually a pastor, a music person and/or a media specialist). The paid staff come to every meeting and help to carry out the individual services. Planning could be for the upcoming week, or it may be for several weeks ahead.
Usually this method of planning includes a mix of preacher, music leader, and key technical and creative volunteers. It might also be made up of an all-staff team. The worship producer is the link and becomes highly important to keeping continuity between teams. Teams that don’t have a producer in place should add one before moving forward on this method.
The length of these worship team meetings can vary, but ideally, they are around two to three hours. It is not necessary to determine every single song, prayer and creative element within the group meeting time, but deciding the overall creative (theme/metaphor) direction for the service and an order of worship should be the goal. Individuals outside the meeting can then carry out specific tasks.
Churches who preach in series, use the Revised Common Lectionary or follow standard liturgy may find this method particularly useful, since the structure of the church calendar can facilitate planning ahead. However, such a structure is dependent on a preacher who plans ahead.