Sunday Morning Checklist

Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on October 1, 2011

I recently missed three Sundays in a row at my local church because of back-to-back conferences and a ten-day tour through Canada. This is pretty rare but since we were going to have three different people leading worship over that time period, I wrote out some reminders to try and keep things consistent while I was gone. Maybe you have wondered how other leaders think about conducting their services. Obviously there is no formula when it comes to leading worship, but feel free to look over my shoulder and see the guidelines that I asked my substitutes to keep in mind.


  • Prayerfully plan your set list, considering the spiritual and musical flow.
  • Try to do mostly familiar songs with a maximum of one new song.
  • Email set list and lyrics to any new songs ahead of time to Roland, the Tech Guy.


  • Begin with a greeting of some kind. Think “conversational”.
  • “Good morning. I’m………..” (Let them know who you are)
  • Maybe read a scripture or have the band begin the intro of the first song as you say something like, “Let’s all stand together and turn our hearts to the Lord….”
  • Go through the set, being led by the Spirit. Keep talking in between songs to a minimum. Talk as much as you need to in order to keep things flowing but not so much that it distracts or hinders momentum.
  • Let people know if you’re going to teach a new song. “I’d like to teach a new song this morning.” (Maybe give a brief “context”, ie.) “This is a song that focuses on the mercy of God” or “This is a song inspired by Psalm 96….”. “Let me sing/teach you the chorus.” Go through the chorus once or twice, and then start the song from the top.
  • As you are winding down your last song, be sensitive to what the Spirit is saying or doing. Try to discern the mood or atmosphere and allow the music to support that.
  • When it seems appropriate, and while the music is playing lightly, say something like “as a part of our worship this morning lets prepare our tithes and offerings”. At that point, continue the song that you just sang, repeating the chorus a little more softly or instrumentally. Or sing a familiar chorus that is in the same key to keep things flowing.
  • When they are finished praying over the offering, cue the band to end on the final chord.
  • Please don’t walk immediately into the back room, which is visible to the congregation. That always feels a little “elite” somehow. I would prefer that you sit down in the congregation or walk along the edge of the sanctuary towards the back. Feel free to use the restroom or get a drink of water or whatever.
  • Please be alert and prepared to come up at the end of the message. Remember that the pastor teaches maybe 25-30 minutes maximum. Try to be discreet and sensitive to “the moment” as you pick up your guitar, tune, etc. (TIP: I usually re-tune real quick at the end of the offering or at the beginning of the announcements when it’s less distracting. I typically duck down to one knee to take the focus off of me as I tune.) As people are being prayed for, be careful that the dynamics and volume of the back do not get too loud in order to allow for prayers and conversation to happen without distraction. We are there to support the moment, NOT to get people focused on us.
  • Thank you for serving the Lord by loving His people and helping them to worship Him.

Well there you have it. My list of essentials may be longer or shorter then yours but it’s important for us to define what kind of experience we hope will occur on any given Sunday. My goal is always to try and eliminate as many distractions as possible, and through the vehicle of music, create an environment that makes it easy for the congregation to connect with God.

Two roles are at play here. One is our priestly role, where we are simply lifting our own hearts to God in worship. The other is our pastoral role, where we invite others to join us in this experience by expressing our praise and thanks to the Lord. We lead primarily by example. To borrow the familiar phrase, “Lead worship at all times and if necessary, use words.”

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