Let’s take some immediate pressure off of you. Your worship ministry is not the reason why any first-time guest will or will not come back to your church. But your worship ministry may influence whether or not someone stays at your church long-term. Even then, people care less about style and more about excellence. Even younger generations are flexible on what worship looks like, provided that it is thoughtful, genuine, and well-executed.

If you’re looking at those three adjectives and shaking your head, then read on, friend. There is hope.

To revolutionize your worship ministry and turn it into something that is truly thoughtful, genuine, and well-executed, it comes down to one word: plan.

Here are the 5 ways you need to plan to jumpstart your worship ministry:

  1. Plan Ahead.

Have set planning chunks, with increasing amount of detail.

Plan a year’s worth of series and messages. If your church preaches through books, determine the weekly text a year out. If your church teaches topically, determine each week’s big point.

Then identify key weekends within each quarter. Are there major initiatives that will require additional promotion? Is there a special weekend like Easter or Mother’s Day that should have special programming? Bold these critical weekends months in advance so that they can receive the attention they deserve.

Each month, look ahead to the specifics of each weekend service. Be sure to give the people in your creative department—staff or volunteers—at least a couple of weeks to produce or plan any special elements that would be hard to implement last minute. Your worship leader can also begin to select music and work with the team to arrange and rehearse.

Each week focus on the executables. Try to already know what’s happening next Sunday before the week of. Sometimes things will shift as sermons begin to materialize, but know the major creative elements and any major promotion that needs to occur. When you walk into Monday, no one on the planning team should be asking, “What’s happening this weekend?”

  1. Plan Together.

Planning ahead is worth it, but planning alone is hard. So make sure you don’t have to.

Have a creative planning team that meets every single week. Create an agenda that keeps the planning cycle in motion, primarily answering these four questions:

  1. What’s happening over the next 4 weeks that requires lead-time?
  2. What songs connect best with the text/topic for the next 4 weekends?
  3. Where are we with major promotions or major creative initiatives this quarter?
  4. What are the nitty, gritty details for this week?

The creative planning team should include whoever is teaching, whoever is leading worship, and whoever is responsible for non-musical creative elements—at minimum. Restrict the group to people who actually are executing tasks, but make it big enough to keep fresh ideas flowing.

  1. Plan Digitally.

There’s just no excuse not to take advantage of cloud-based tools for worship planning. Even if your church can’t afford the amazing tools like Planning Center Online (worth every penny, by the way), you can still take advantage of services like Dropbox or Google Docs.

Use the cloud to help you keep your plans in sync. Everyone on the creative team can have instant access to the same information, and it reduces the likelihood of miscommunication. Your team needs to stay on the same page. Using online tools helps this happen.

  1. Plan for Change.

Almost nothing ever goes according to plan the way it was envisioned in a meeting. Right? Strings break, people get sick, projector bulbs burn out. Plan to be flexible.

Have a huddle before each service to pray and also to evaluate. Leave room for the Holy Spirit to prompt you to move a song or creative element, to shift the teaching, to add something unexpected. The point of planning is to create the space for excellence, not to stifle the Spirit. Be willing to make changes on the fly.

  1. Plan to Plan.

Make the space in your workflow to plan. Certainly the meeting times are productive and meaningful. Your planning meetings are the place where decisions are made and accountability happens.

But if you’re in a position to be on a planning team, create the space within your own schedule to plan. Look ahead on your own. Pray about the text or topic. Brainstorm ideas. This way, when you come to the meeting you bring your best.

Every church can have thoughtful, genuine, and well-executed worship services. Style is irrelevant. Quality is a universal virtue. Implement these planning structures, and I promise you’ll begin to see your worship ministry change for the better.

Scott Ball is a full-time writer, communicator, and consultant. Scott has served as a pastor over Creative Arts for five years. He resides in Tennessee with his wife and two kids. Get the latest from Scott at ScottBall.net, on Twitter @scottrball, or Facebook (facebook.com/scottball.net).