Three Essential Perspectives for Thematic Worship Planning

Featuring Daniel Collison Posted on July 4, 2008

We live in an age of vast information. We have more worship topics for discussion and development than can possibly be addressed—even with fifty-two weekends of worship experiences to plan. Liturgical churches use the Christian Calendar to guide their thematic planning. Churches in the Free Church tradition; however, have the challenge of discerning and creating thematic concepts in more independently designed systems. It makes sense to assemble critical information from three gathering points: the culture around us, our congregational life, and the leadership of the church.

Gathering point #1: The culture around us
Culture is the sociological realization of the patterned ways that people live their lives. Therefore, paying keen attention to how our culture is developing, we can create accessible modes and means of delivery for worship (i.e. learning styles, visual connections, artistic meanings, and communication media). Asking questions can aid the process:

• What in our culture is viewing God in a positive way?
• What is acting against God that may need a response?
• What events are on the minds of people coming to worship?
• What overarching thoughts and emotions are being experienced in our times?

Gathering point #2: Congregational life
This gathering point centers on issues and questions that are raised from within our congregation. Frequently, the Worship Arts Team should collect information from the congregation through formal and informal surveys in the worship services, conversations in the hallways, feedback that is given to pastors and staff, and general assessments of the congregational life.

Gathering point #3: Church leadership
One of the primary roles of the church leadership is to insure that the congregation is being taught the entire counsel of God’s Word. Attention is given to prioritizing specific topics and issues so as to provide a balanced approach to attaining discipleship in the Christian life.

Leadership training for pastors could include quarterly retreat days where there are intentional experiences with some aspect of the regional culture. These retreat days could be spent visiting educational institutions, cultural attractions, area churches and denominations, religious centers, and other points of interest. It would also be beneficial to have an annual planning day in which the pastoral and lay leadership decide upon the overall church objectives and strategies for the following year including the worship themes for the following year.

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