There are four Biblical principles that cast some light on effective worship planning: God Himself is the One who prepares the body of Christ to worship, God and His Word are central to worship, all Biblical elements in worship are important, and believers should respond to the Triune God with sacrificial devotion in all the Biblical elements.
All Biblical elements in worship are crucial and important. The early church in Acts 2 was devoted to the apostles’ teaching, prayer, fellowship, breaking of bread, and all Biblical ordinances and practices in corporate worship. Believers should respond with sacrificial devotion in all the Biblical elements. Christians are to worship God with passion and zeal through Scripture reading, prayer, giving, communion, baptism, testimony, music, preaching, serving, and all Biblical practices for the aim of the glory of God.
The purposes of church music and preaching are to express worship and mature saints to the glory of God. The reasons the church expresses worship in music and preaching should not be for the chills, not to make a church grow bigger, and not for preparation for another element—but rather love, adoration, obedience, communication of truth, growth, edification, and the pleasure and glory of God. God-honoring worship is an end in itself, and preaching and singing are two of many Biblical ways to express worship to God.
The best way to stay out of a rut? I see worship leading as a pastoral role needing shepherding and oversight. Our church plans worship services 2 months ahead with 2 pastors and a team of 6 leaders. It is best to plan well in advance with a creative team of godly and gifted folks.
When to be spontaneous? As a worship leader, I am occasionally spontaneous in prayer or reading Scripture, but that is rare. Most of what we do is planned well in advance. If we plan well and are maintaining closeness with the Lord, services are usually meaningful and fresh.
Here is our Monthly Strategy: 1) Communicate with my pastor to see where he’s headed in preaching. 2) Meet with a creative team to consider worship, music and art ideas. 3) Plan services with a team around a passage/theme if possible. 4) Meet again with my pastor to approve and edit service drafts. 5) Meet with volunteer team to copy music and orchestrations a month in advance for all musicians. 6) Make service drafts available online for worship ministry. 7) Communicate details with ministry leaders to coordinate schedules with all who are involved. 8 ) Rehearse each Wednesday with the choir, orchestra, band, and praise team vocals. 9) Rehearse again Sunday morning and pray together with all involved.
Paul writes in 1 Cor 14 that “all things [in corporate worship] should be done decently and in order.” One of the best examples of worship planning I’ve heard is from Pastor Mark Dever from Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. On the Sunday following September 11, 2001 he preached on “When Bad Things Happen” from a minor prophet in the Old Testament. He had already planned his preaching passage and theme over a year in advance. The Lord can and will guide us months and years ahead. Just keep your eyes on Jesus and plan biblically and intentionally.