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a guide to planning great worship
Have you seen a good movie lately? Have you ever thought about what goes into making a quality movie script? The movie industry is really good at pulling our heart strings as we watch films. A good film makes us cry, laugh or even mourn. But what is it about a movie that draws us in? First, there needs to be a believable theme and plot. Next, in storyboarding, all the details of the script need to be planned out meticulously for maximum effect. And finally, the editing needs to cut out the excess and integrate the scenes to help the audience understand and feel the purpose behind the movie.
Planning good worship is a lot like scripting a good movie. You want to captivate the audience. You want to keep their attention on the worship and not wandering off to homework, whatís happening this weekend or what they had for dinner. You want them to focus entirely on our Creator. You want to draw them in.
Even the most spontaneous-seeming movies are carefully planned to achieve that freedom. Likewise, rather than throwing worship together at the last minute before your large-group meetings, give a boost to your planning that will result in deeper and more meaningful worship by using some of the same techniques that good movie scriptwriters use. Letís take a look at several of these key ingredients to help us on our way:
Choose a Theme:
This is the basic idea for your time of worship. There are always a wide variety of options to choose from. The most common are topical (such as ďGodís LoveĒ or ďPrayerĒ), chronological (for example, following Jesus from death to resurrection), scriptural (built around a passage such as Psalm 121) or a combination of all three. Assess your chapterís needs and areas of growth, then spend some time in prayer asking God to help you choose a theme. As you brainstorm ideas, be sure to write them down. They may come in useful later when you donít have as much time or ideas are slow in coming.
Build the Plot:
This is where you turn your theme into a coherent story with a beginning, middle and end. Look for the natural emotional progression behind your theme. For example, if your worship session is centered around Jesus on the cross, you might first focus on our sin that put Jesus there, then the love that Jesus showed us by being willing to die, then the immense joy we feel at his conquering death, and finally our rejoicing that comes from that. Sometimes it helps me to think of what comes before and after my theme to round out the plot. This is the hardest part of worship planning, so spend some quality time here, listening to one another and to God. Itís not busy work, but rather will save time and effort in the long run if you work at building up the plot.
Create the Storyboard:
This is the part where you come up with all the specific elements: Scripture, songs, readings, skits, prayer times and everything else you are going to use to round out the worship time. Plan meticulously. Itís not good practice to throw in a song just because it has a good tune, or merely because people like it. Look at your elements and ask if they help point people toward your theme. If they donít, donít be afraid of editing them out or finding a replacement.
Edit and Rearrange:
Now itís time to put it all together! You have a theme, a plot, and a storyboard. Evaluate all the details and see if they fit into your overall goal for the worship time. Donít hesitate to mix and match, or rearrange your worship plot and storyboard. You will also need to plan where and how the worship leader or team will transition to the next element to provide coherent connections for the worshipers. It takes practice to get the flow just right, so keep at it!
Good movies are more than just special effects and a couple of good one-liners. They take time and effort to be effective and memorable. The time and effort you spend in planning worship will pay off when you see your chapter members spending time with God and understanding him in a way they never have before. Above all, be open to the Holy Spirit and where he is directing you to go with your worship times. And you will have a chapter as excited to go to worship God as they are to go to the latest movie!
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óHans Schenk serves as InterVarsity staff at the University of Arizona in Tucson. His wife Jill is also on staff and theyíre expecting their first child in October. Hans has a deep love for Africa and has been to Kenya three times with InterVarsityís Global Projects.
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