This series is for you, the musician at the parish who is just starting out. Perhaps you were just asked by your pastor, or music director to take on leading a weekend or weekday liturgy. This is the first in a series of posts to get you prepared and running down the path of leading worship (music at liturgy).
Let’s get really tactical here to get you started quickly. Right out of the gate, you need a plan, resources, and execution. This post is going to focus solely on the plan itself.
We aren’t talking about a 5 year plan here, or an elaborate and detailed vision statement. I am talking about putting together a liturgy plan for the next month. I highly encourage you to plan a month at a time, and to be consistent about releasing it by a set date on the month previous. My liturgy plans are ordinarily set by the 15th of the month for the following month. For clarity, that means that my teams have the October plan by September 15th. Why is planning the entire month in a single sitting important?
- You will have a month long view of what is happening scripturally and seasonally
- It is much easier to stay in the same headspace and focus on one subject than breaking throughout the month and returning to it (much more time efficient)
- You will be able to identify patterns in song selections, and plan them according to your needs
- Your team will appreciate the time to start learning new music, and reviewing older music
- Planning a month in advance will free your mind from the worry and anxiety of getting a plan developed each week
What is happening Scripturally and Seasonally?
Let’s look at Fall as an example. Everyone loves Fall for football, cooler weather, and the anticipation of the holidays. As a worship leader, you have a great opportunity in planning because the readings at mass are focused thematically on the Lord calling us back to Himself and being prepared. Advent follows right after and is a great season of preparing our hearts for the coming of the Lord, and is a concise month to plan. You will see patterns in the balance of the year, but these patterns can be difficult to see if you are only planning a week or two at a time.
Stay in the planning headspace!
Breaking a task up into numerous sessions costs you time. Researches estimate that stopping and returning to a task can double or triple the amount of time it takes to complete a task. This time could be better spent with your family, working, or serving the Lord!
You can identify patterns in song selections!
When you have a month view, you can see that somehow, you planned your favorite communion hymn 3 times. That may not be a bad thing, but it might be an accidental overload to your congregation. On the other side of that equation, you may find that you want to teach a new song on week 2 of the month. If it is a new song, I’d encourage you to return to it somewhat quickly. Introducing a new song, and then not revisiting it for a few weeks makes it a new song all over again! When you plan a month at a time, these patterns are easy to see and adjust to best serve your congregation.
Your team will appreciate the time to learn new material!
Do you love sight reading material in front of other people (probably not), right? Guess what? Neither do the people you are leading. Give them a few weeks to learn the material at home!
Planning week by week will weigh you down!
Do any of us really need one more thing to obsess about every week? Don’t let liturgy planning become a weekly burden or task. I think it is okay to review the plan every week, and I’d actually encourage you to do so as things change throughout a month or season, but free yourself from the anxiety of hitting a plan deadline each week.
Get the plan down, and then distribute it to your team, and then practice the plan. In the next post, we will start looking at resources that will help you in the planning and distribution!