It is a rare breed of person who possesses the creativity, organization, and upfront skills often required in being effective in worship ministry. To find all those traits wrapped up in one individual takes patience and a mountain search party. Worship leaders are either so creative and artistic that the simple task of tying their shoes creates angst (which is why I wear cowboy boots!!!); or the organizational tasks are such a mental drain that it zaps all their creativity and they end up being purely an administrator, not something they envisioned when they took the job.
Planning worship takes time and the right tools. In my twenty years of leading and planning worship services, I think I have tried every tool to help me organize and execute the tasks that go into community worship. That includes three-by-five cards and corkboards to keep track of ideas and sequences, customized databases, various paper organizers and checklists, spreadsheets to sort dates and song titles and figure out worship team rotations. Yet, things still fall through the cracks. Someone or something gets overlooked, lyrics are wrong, charts are not available, a service started late because an order wasn’t passed out to everyone, so-and-so didn’t get the message and therefore the worship leader didn’t make the changes… etc.
The hours, days, and weeks of planning for these services would flow much easier if only there were a user-friendly tool that had the depth to organize small, medium, and large worship events— a tool that would keep a history of everything that’s been done so that you can retrieve it in an instant.
Enter WorshipPlanning.com (WP for short), a web-based collaborative planning tool that acts as the main hub of communication and planning for all of our worship services at the 1500-member NorthPark Community Church of Santa Clarita, California.
Available online at http://www.worshipplanning.com to try for 30 days before paying a subscription fee, this worship planning website has the most complete collection of elements that make up a worship service or an event of any kind for that matter. A service planning page that contains everything that one would need to know in a glance; the ability to create customized order-of-service templates; a powerful library of information on every song; service histories; a message board, contact lists, planning calendars, extensive printout options, online storage for attachments (I use them mainly for .PDF, .ppt, and mp3 files); the often feared “team feedback” page, and more— all available at the click of a button. Now everyone can focus on what is most important, like creating beautiful music in worship and nurturing relationships with team members… NOT spending time constantly sending out emails and calling team contact lists to get things done.
The tools found at WorshipPlanning.com save time. I am the Director of Creative Ministries and NorthPark’s upfront Worship Leader. I also carry a full time job with Walt Disney Imagineering. WorshipPlanning.com’s organizational and communication features can free up even the busiest of individuals.
It is readily available to anyone who has a connection to the Internet. It is not platform specific (Windows, Linux, or Mac) and does not require the steep learning curve that customized database applications might require. There are no thick manuals to read, so even the most cyber-phobic team member can, at the very least, receive the order of service as a forwarded email. Team members can communicate on the team message board where further discourse with other members takes place. Indeed it’s this message board discourse and banter that complements the one-to-one quality time that is not always possible with our busy schedules––just another tool to help build our relationships apart from each other.
Quite simply, this is one of those tools that literally gets easier the more you use it because it’s all based on archiving and creating a history of your choices. The longer you use it, the more choices you have in creating fresh and new worship flows. You can then view that history and make fresh choices during your next service planning time. Over the course of a year I have entered 200-300 songs in the song library representing over two hundred worship events with all their data and history. That number increases every Sunday with the option to “retire” songs before they lose their meaning from overuse. They are always available for later retrieval.
WorshipPlanning.com provides a framework and just enough structure to allow customization for the culture of your specific fellowships needs. I have not used many of its features simply because I’ve been able to engage our program with the components that best serve our church, picking and choosing what I need immediately to get the job done. It’s comforting to know that as the team continues to grow in numbers and quality that the software has the depth for us to start using its other features.
Communicating with a worship team of 65 requires an initial setup of users that would be able to log onto the site. I designated myself as the “administrator” with the authority to add and delete. I then gave my assistants the “rights” to maintain the library of songs.
When I create a worship flow, I access these basic pages 1) the worship service calendar 2) the service planning page 3) contact lists, and 4) the message board. Menus and empty fields prompt me through the process so that I don’t forget a detail. I can either choose to fill in the blanks right then and there; follow-up at a later time; or have an assistant follow-up up with complete information. Each of these areas has sub-menus that offer you a wealth of data and options that can further stimulate creativity in the flow of worship.
A key to focusing in on the creative process is service template creation. Ninety-nine per cent of what I do is a revision of something that’s already been done so these templates are a real time-saver. When you start with service templates like that, half of your decisions are already made and then it’s just a matter of filling in the blanks with elements from your libraries, or revising the template to accommodate special services like communion, Easter, or a wedding.
The cumulative time total on the service page is the most useful tool in my planning for NorthPark’s four Sunday services. The time dynamically changes as I add, delete, and modify activity times. If the pastor tells me that he needs ten more minutes for his message, I can change the arrangement of a hymn by doing two verses instead of three and decrease the minute total to three minutes instead of four. The resulting sum total of all elements is immediate and I am on track to a better flow. The key is to allow time for those moments and changes.
Creating a service order on–the-fly without a template is easily done by clicking on “add activity here” or modifying a previous service order. If a song hasn’t been added to your song library, you can do thematic song searches outside of your own song library to see what other churches are using. The printouts give you several options from basic to detailed information.
The developer of the website, Tom Metz, has listened to users from several different church denominations and has culled the diversity of their worship needs under one roof so it isn’t a surprise that WP contains enough options to cover for any contingency. WP will meet the needs of fellowships large and small and is a work in progress. As of this printing there was a major update that added even more features to an already robust toolset.
My wish list for a future revision would be a way to closely track an individual’s involvement in past and future services, possibly by clicking on their name in the contact list. This request stems from volunteers asking me for their dates of commitment. It would be nice if I could see their history of involvement then I can encourage them where they can grow in commitment.
The biggest issue I’ve had was getting people in the habit of checking the website. There is a technology hump that needs to be overcome. But, they quickly leap that hurdle when they start communicating on the message board. It is my favorite feature because it will instill a sense of community. To be effective, WP puts the onus on team members to check the site, download resources, the option to printout orders of worship and music sheets, it gives them more responsibility.
Because of the depth of the program and the uniqueness of every church in how it will use the website, I would encourage our readers to view the great wealth of information at the site and decide for yourself. I have been using it for over a year now and it has enabled me to do what a small staff could do. It keeps me accountable to others in the planning process— a true collaborative planning tool. On a Saturday night I can sleep much better knowing that all the details were covered.
More than all the above, I was able to tend to a request on the message board one evening. The team member was asking for prayers and those prayers were communicated back immediately on the message board. That in itself is planning for worship.