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Q How can my church approach worship planning in a way that includes the pastor, worship director, and the input of the worship committee and congregation?

A Begin worship planning with a blueprint. Some churches will call this blueprint a liturgy, others a template. It keeps you from having to create an entire service from scratch. Each person who helps plan worship should know which sections of the service repeat throughout the month or season and which songs and service elements need to be planned for that particular week. Creative people thrive when they know their constraints.

Who is responsible for planning which parts of the service? This is more than task assignment; it’s an opportunity for everyone to fully use their talents. It can be frustrating for a musician to be handed a service that was planned by another person, for example, or inefficient for a group to try to write a prayer of illumination. Of course, each planner is responsible to the others; a spirit of trust is important.

Worship planning often includes one person (perhaps the music director) submitting his or her work to another (often a pastor). Avoid unintentional rejection. “Haven’t we sung that one a lot lately?” may seem like an innocent remark, but it might sting the person who chose it. Consider presenting options—three songs with different strengths—instead of yes/no decisions.

Finally, find ways of including the whole congregation in the process. Solicit song ideas from the youth group. Ask the retiree Bible study to write prayers. Try out new songs at evening hymn sings. This creates a flow between pastors, planners, and people in the pews. We should aim to use all the gifts God has given our congregations, from planning to leading to participating.

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