The 3 “P’s” of Worship Leading
Worship leading is an essential part of our weekend worship services. As worship leaders we are responsible for ushering people into a place of reverence and devotion to God. We are striving to lead and encourage people to live daily lives of worship that go beyond just Sunday morning. This can be a daunting task but there are three essential actions that will make or break your worship services: planning, preparing, and performing.
The first “P” of worship leading is planning. Planning is the first essential action for any successful worship service, and for us as worship leaders. The planning process will look different for each local church depending on your culture, style of worship service, how far in advance you plan, the goals for your worship service, whether you are staff or volunteer led and so on. Planning includes each element of your worship service such as: overall theme, music, key scriptures, creative elements, prayer, offering, communion, baptisms, etc.
What we have to realize as worship leaders is that the Holy Spirit can be as much a part of our planning as He is a part of our actual worship service. We can cover our planning with prayer and ask God to lead us in planning a service that best communicates the theme and heart of the specific service and where we want to lead people.
Psalm 127:1 says,
“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
Applying that to worship planning, if we’re not including God in our planning and asking the Holy Spirit to guide us, we are laboring in vain. Or in other words, we’re doing a lot of busy work but not being as effective as we could be if we planned well by allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us and not leaving things to chance. Proper planning gets us off to a good start and gives us a strong foundation for our upcoming worship service.
The second “P” of worship leading is preparing. This will look different for each worship leader depending on your responsibilities. Typically preparing for a worship service will include preparing and distributing chord charts and music for the band, scheduling volunteers, creating lyric slides, importing message slides, preparing any video content, communicating the service plan to various teams, leading a band rehearsal and other tasks depending on your church context. This is also where your teams need to be preparing to carry out their role. For example: your band practicing and learning their parts is an element of being prepared.
Hebrews 11:7 says,
“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
You may be asking, what does the story of Noah have to do with preparing for a worship service? I’m glad you asked. This is a perfect example of what it looks like to be prepared. When God told Noah that he was going to flood the earth, Noah didn’t freak out and just leave things to chance, he prepared according to the plan that God had laid out for him. And because he successfully prepared he and his family were safe when the flood came.
In the same way, as worship leaders we can prepare according to the plan that is laid out for our worship services. When we do, we will be much more successful in our efforts to lead impactful worship services.
The third “P” of worship leading is performing. Before anyone overreacts to my use of the word perform, let me clarify. We know that worship is not a performance. The word “perform” in this case refers to the execution of everything we have planned and prepared up to this point. It’s the third essential action of worship leading. Performing is the act of carrying out the worship service itself. Are we able to take everything that we planned and prepared and deliver it with excellence?
Psalm 33:3 says,
“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.”
God deserves our best. He deserves our excellence. Everything He does is excellent. His creation. His love. His faithfulness. His plans. Everything He does is excellent and we were made in His image so we should strive to offer our best in return. This doesn’t mean we should strive for perfection. Perfection is not the same as excellence. Excellence is giving our best effort and stewarding our responsibilities to the best of our ability.
Performing well in a worship service isn’t just about the songs we sing. It includes every element of our worship service. Did the video play when it was supposed to and was it effective? Were all of our transitions smooth? Were there any typos on lyric or message slides? Did that new song seem to connect with the congregation? Did that sermon illustration come across the way we thought it would?
Another benefit of the 3 “P’s” is that it gives you a framework for evaluating your worship services. If an element of your worship service doesn’t go as planned you can ask yourself: Did we plan it well? Did we prepare it well? And, did we perform it well? More often than not, the breakdown of a service element will be the result of missing the mark on one of the 3 “P’s”. Maybe the cause of a song not going well isn’t that it was performed poorly but maybe it wasn’t rehearsed well so it was a preparation issue. Or, maybe the band didn’t have the music in time so it was a planning and preparing issue.
Consistency in the areas of planning, preparing and performing will create a strong foundation for leading worship services well. Being intentional with the 3 “P’s” of worship leading will allow you to lead excellent worship services on a weekly basis.
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Josh Brainard is a veteran worship pastor of 20 years and during that time has served at several churches in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. He is the founder of simple-tracks.com and is currently the worship pastor at Grumlaw Church in Hartland, MI. Josh has been married to his amazing and supportive wife for 20 years and has two beautiful daughters.