The thing is, continuity of strategic direction and continuous improvement in how you do things are absolutely consistent with each other. In fact, they’re mutually reinforcing. -Michael Porter
One of the most empowering elements of a worship service is the way it “flows.” I use the word “flow” loosely because many worship services vary from church to church and even from week to week within the same church. However, it is recognized by all congregants when something goes wrong (i.e. lighting cue, mics feeding back, lyrics not displayed properly, or even an instrument that is out of tune–although my mother may disagree with me on that last one…more on her later); and it should be the goal of all involved to make sure the services “flow.”
You see, we have all been in a service where we are waiting for a speaker to come to the platform, or in a service where there is 30 seconds of what I call “dead time” as we wait for a video to begin, or wait for musicians to with to the next song. As Reggie Joiner so brilliantly states, “We have 52 weeks [1-1.5 hours/week] a year to make a maximum in the lives of children [might I add, an entire congregation].” When we view it in these terms, we can see the great magnitude of what we do each week as worship leaders, or worship designers. The songs we sing (teach our doctrine and theology), the videos we show (point people in the way we know God is leading a service), the prayers that are prayed (can not just be for service transitions), and the messages that are preached (must have ample time in a service to develop and impact lives in real and meaningful ways).
So I’d like to give just 3 BIG TIPS on how to make your services “flow” better.
- TIME EVERYTHING FOR A MONTH: When I mean everything, I literally mean everything. Each song, each transition, every video, the intro/meat/conclusion of the sermon, offering, announcements, et cetera (you get the idea). After you have the data, analyze it and ask the tough questions: What is taking too much time; Where can we cut time; Is there an element we can add in that would have more impact than what we are doing; Are the song sets seamlessly transitioning between songs?
- MAKE THE TOUGH DECISION: After asking these questions, make the tough choice of which items need to be cut, reordered, reworked so that the maximum impact of weekend experience is effective for all congregants (churched, unchurched, guests, new believers, seasoned saints). Then, prayerfully, make the cuts! Too many times thoughts like this sit on a piece of paper (or in the “notes” on your iPhone) and nothing is done. GO FOR IT and make the changes you know God is leading you to make.
- GRAB A VENTI CARAMEL MACCHIATO (or coffee or tea or your go to beverage of choice: While sipping your drink re-analyze how everything is going; realize it takes time like enjoying a nice macchiato. Also, be willing to admit when things are not going to go well, and there will have to be further adjustments. At my current position, we try to do the whole timing thing once a year and see if there are elements in the worship service we can improve to maximize the weekend experience for everyone in attendance–so they can clearly hear the Gospel each and every week.
So now you may be asking, WHY? Here is the clearest run down I can think of: Imagine being in a service where there is also a 5 second transition between the four songs in the set (totals 15 seconds-not too bad), the transition from musicians to pastor takes 30 seconds (doesn’t seem too long), there is 30 second delay between invitation and announcements at the end of a service (again, not too much), and finally there are two other 15 second transitional places in the service (could be a prayer time/welcome time/baptism/etc). All of these are not bad in and of themselves, however they total to 2 minutes of lost time for communicating the Gospel each week.
So now you’re thinking, “Come on, 2 minutes that’s not bad for a whole service!” To which I reply, “2 minutes per week times 52 weeks per year totals 1.75 hours in a year!” That is nearly two entire worship services that are lost each year, all because there is no “flow” to what we are planning for our local congregations each weekend (and I think I may be a little conservative on the numbers-there have been many service I have attended where 2 minutes is the norm, and the actual numbers can run as high as 5-6 minutes). WE NEED TO DO BETTER.
So in the words of that great philosopher, Tina Fey: You can’t be that kid at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.
Go ahead and get the “flow” going. There is no better day to start than right now.