Preparation is Key

The Bible is full of stories about what happens when people are unprepared, and worship is no different. By the way, this is true not only for those who minister in worship, but those who worship as well. A prepared heart is essential for entering into worship. The Word says in Psalm 100, verse 4:

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise; be thankful to Him and bless His name.

The psalmist gives us a clear indication of how to enter into God's presence in worship; with thanksgiving, praise and blessings. Not harried, not worried, not distracted, angry or halfhearted. This is especially true for those of us who minister in worship. For years, I've liked to take time to prepare throughout the week for worship. Here's a couple of things that I do:

  • My worship week starts on Tuesday, which is generally when we get the setlist for the following Sunday. At GLCC, we rotate the responsibility of picking the songs among the members of the worship team, so that each member can get an opportunity to express themselves and allow the Spirit to flow. I will usually look over the list as the email comes and run through it in my head, but I leave it at that.

  • If it's my week to pick songs (we do two at a time) then I usually start thinking and praying about it as soon as service is over on Sunday. I try to find one song that really speaks to me, and build everything off of that.

  • On Wednesday or Thursday, I generally we look at the list again. At this point I will fire up OpenSong and build the setlist and look over the charts. By this point I will generally be listening to recordings of the songs on my mp3, either ones we have done, or the original artists. This is especially true for songs that are new to us. I will usually pick up my acoustic and run through some of the passages quickly, to get the sound of the tune in my head. I might spend a couple of minutes on the piano as well, playing through the songs.

  • Friday nights are cell for our GLCCKidz groups. We do worship at these times, and often I will choose one of the songs that we will be doing that week. I might especially teach the kids a new song we're doing, so that 1) they are familiar with it on Sunday, and 2) it gives me the opportunity to play it in front of people other than the worship team.

  • Saturday is Major Practice Day. I will generally spend quite a bit of time on Saturdays, first doing scales and excersises, and running through the songs completely. Sometimes, I will plug the electric into my laptop and run some lines there. (I keep my amp at the church. I have a couple of different programs that do different things, mostly in Linux.) I will generally have a good feel for everything at this point. I also work on new music, random songs, solos - all that good stuff.

  • Sunday's the Big Day! Rehearsal starts at 7AM. (we used to do two rehearsals, but have found one longer one far more productive.) We spend twenty minutes where the musicians warm up and tune, and jam, and the vocalists warm up and do some excersises. By 7:20 we pray and then dive into the set. We usually have that done by 8 or 8:15, and then will work until 9 on new music, team building, instruction, team business. After service, I go home and write my setlist blog, and read some others. I've found it helpful to write when I'm fresh, because it helps identify ideas for the future.

  • Mondays - DAYS OFF! I try to use Mondays to clear my head, get back into the weekday grind. Sometimes I will do guitar maintenance - change strings, polish, whatever.

It's important to have a routine, and a plan when it comes to worship. I try to find something to do every day that contributes to the ministry, to keep it fresh and relevant.

What's your routine?


  1. Interesting. We all need to do whatever we are in faith for.

    I'd be quite happy to turn up at the meeting 40 min before the start and be handed a list of songs to work through. Sure I wouldn't play what was on the CDs (even if I knew what it was - and then I probably wouldn't play that anyway out of choice) but I'd work with the song and the people. A few years back with a keyboard player who would also play without dots it was standard practice for several of our worship leaders to get up around 6.30am on Sunday to prepare the list for the 10.30 meeting. That way it was always fresh.

    Great worship only requires the Holy Spirit, hearts that want to worship and modest technical ability. IMO.

    However if I'm leading worship then I will try to get the song list out to the guys mid week, Saturday morning at latest so they can have the music together and ask questions. There's a couple of younger guitar players I'm trying to encourage to play more, and for one of them I'll try to spend an hour or so, going through the songs after lunch before the meeting so they know what to expect.

    The 'other' church have a weekly music practice where they work through the set list for the subsequent meeting, but their worship team hasn't learned to flow yet. It's rather like working through CDs but with the naff breaks and silly stuff left out. I'm really looking forward to being able to play with them in the meetings, but afraid I'll dominate yet at the same time want to help them be released in worship. Weekly practice and a fixed setlist is making life easier for them as musicians but has put them in a box regarding freedom. I'm hoping I can help ease them into freedom without them realising it's happened.

  2. Oh, FWIW on the odd occasion when I've played for the (1000+ sized) celebrations then we have worked through all the songs a few days before. But there, because of the size and formality things are more structured and produced. Even so, there's often a last minute swapping of songs and some jamming in the middle. And it's great when someone starts a song and you just go with it.

  3. @Toni, I get ya, and I don't minimize that kind of thing at all. For some, that impromptuness *is* their routine. This is just what I do.

    Check out my Setlist post from yesterday to see what happens when the Spirit has other plans than those that are well laid out! Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. My pattern is a little different... perhaps because of a different mix of responsibilities.

    I also do the preaching so I plan the entire service to emphasize a single theme. Songs, scripture readings (we have two each Sunday), prayers, children's time, video clips, graphics - everything comes together to underscore a single theme.

    I choose the scriptures and sermon themes in 2 month blocks, usually based on the lectionary. Early in the week, I choose 5 songs - three for at the beginning of the service and 1 before and 1 after the sermon. Usually the pattern is consistent with the first 3 being worship songs - usually up tempo, the 4th being aimed at preparation for listening for the Word - often a bit more contemplative or a historic hymn rearranged, and the last as a song of commitment.

    I send the tunes out to the band usually on Weds. We rehearse Sunday mornings and occasionally on Thursday evening.

    We never change the songs on Sunday morning


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