The Six P's of Planning a Worship Set

Posted by Greg Sykes on 26 August 2015

When I was a little boy, and on into my teen years I really struggled in school. I found it hard to keep my attention locked on my teachers, and it was the same out of school, whether I was listening to my parents or pastors teaching. Some days I STILL struggle with keeping my attention fixed for long periods of time! 

When I discovered Proverbs it instantly became one of my favorite books in the Bible. I loved how it offered clear, concise and powerful teachings in each chapter. I began to discipline myself to read just one chapter each morning as a time of devotion & realized I could cover the whole book each month.

Twelve years ago, when I first began leading worship at my church in our youth ministry, I came across an article called 'The 5 P's Of Worship Planning' & found it to be really helpful as a guideline to preparing for Sunday mornings. It was short, easy to remember and packed with practical help. 

I’ve modified it a bit over the years, adding an extra P somewhere along the way and 12 years later at the very same church, I still turn to it weekly as a guideline when I’m choosing songs and preparing my heart to lead worship. 

Here they are, the now "Six P's Of Worship Planning":

1. Pastoral Direction

How can I best serve my lead Pastor? Are there any songs & themes may be stirring in him that week that may help in planning the songs? 

2. Prayer

Lord, how can I best serve the families in my church this weekend? Is there a 'theme' or prayer or emphasis that I can prepare this week to build up and encourage those in my congregation as we sing to you?

3. Pliability

Let's remain flexible to make changes to our set as needed, even if it means dropping our 'favorite' song or adding a song last minute should our pastor or ministry leader require. We can plan far out but I think we can view our sets more as a road map on a journey, leaving room to deviate for pit stops & rests occasionally if needed.

4. Planned Spontaneity 

Carve out moments were you are prepared to improvise. I don't think this is an oxymoron but rather a place somewhere in the set where you can perhaps prepare a chord progression to loop or repeat and leave some space to wait, pray, sing a new chorus, repeat an emphasized lyric or share a scripture. Whether or not you decide to use that time in the actual service when folks are in the room is for you to determine in that moment. The great thing about 'planned spontaneity' is that your band will be ready if you decide to be 'spontaneous' in that moment and they can follow along and help you lead it well.

5. Prepare (Heart & Skill) 

Proverbs 4:23 reminds us to 'guard our hearts for everything we do flows from it. Then, in Psalm 33:3 we're encouraged to 'play skillfully & shout for Joy to the Lord!". With high value placed on 'heart' and 'skill' in helping others worship, I think it is so important that we 'practice' in each of these areas well. For our hearts, let's practice forgiveness, patience, gentleness, prayer etc & for our skill lets practice the fundamentals of chords, singing, speaking in transitions etc so we can lead with confidence and humility.

6. Power of The Holy Spirt

I believe we must rely on the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and minds and in the hearts of those we're leading. He is our helper!

I have this list scribbled down on a small piece of paper on my tack board in the worship office at my church next to a picture of my family. Whenever it catches my eye I am reminded of weight of responsibility we have as worship leaders/pastors/musicians in preparing the music ministry element of our weekly worship gatherings.

Sometimes I wonder whether it’s a bit basic and whether by now I ought to have moved on from these fundamentals, but not long ago one of my mentors told me that keeping it simple and working on the basics is key to any discipline. Pro-ball players do spring training every year, golfers hit balls and practice their swing with fervency and I believe as worship leaders we need to do everything we can to prepare our hearts and skills to serve our church families & our Heavenly Father, the very best we can. 

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