My mom has been a baker for as long as I can remember. (She owns the Pat-a-Cake Bakery in Owens Cross Roads, AL. Check out her website! Yum!) Miss Virginia, as she is affectionately known, can bake a mean cake, and thanks to her, I know a little something about baking myself (although mine have never tasted quite as good as hers… ummm…).
Maybe that’s why when I think of worship planning I immediately think of baking a cake. Here are some parallels for us to “chew” on:
1. Choose the right ingredients. The ingredients depend on the kind of cake we plan to bake. For example, if we want to bake a chocolate cake, we will obviously need some cocoa or other chocolate ingredients. And if we want a coconut cake, our recipe probably wouldn’t call for carrots – at least I would hope not! Likewise, as we sit down to plan a worship service, we need to carefully consider what ingredients or elements are actually needed in that service. What is the theme of that particular service? Is there a special emphasis that day? Is the gathering targeted toward lost and unchurched people? Also, what creative elements might we utilize to enhance the service, such as videos, testimonies, prayer stations, or choir “specials”?
2 Sift and whip. The ingredients used for baking often need to be sifted or whipped before they can be added. Our responsibility as worship planners is to “sift out” unnecessary – and potentially distracting – moments within a service. For instance, do we really need to introduce the person or group doing the “special music”? Is it absolutely necessary to explain or “set-up” a particular song before we sing it? (See Freedom NOT to Announce Every Song) Could the praise band exit the stage during a prayer or meditative acapella song (while people’s eyes are closed) to keep down distractions?
Of course, some elements cannot be deleted (like those dredded announcements!). And other service ingredients, while they are very good and helpful, may simply not be ready to utilize yet. Some choir songs could use another week or so of practice, and some soloists need more coaching before they’re ready for the stage! Worship service elements like those need to first be “whipped into shape” before we plug them into the worship order.
3. Mix together. All great bakers – and any of their kids who happen to be nearby! – have one thing in common: They love to taste-test the batter! And how it tastes to them will cause them to think one of two things: “Umm, this cake’s gonna taste good!” or “This batter still needs some help!”
One of the most important steps to planning an effective worship time is thinking through every part of that service in advance. We should take whatever time necessary to “taste-test” the flow of the service in our minds. Do the songs flow together, or do they somehow seem disjunct? Imagine we are someone in the congregation. Would we be encouraged to participate through the order we have planned? Will a particular chorus put us more in a celebrative or a meditative “mood”? Will what we have planned next really fit and captilize on the direction that chorus may take us? Making sure the service ingredients are well-mixed is a huge key to planning powerful and memorable worship experiences.
4. Place batter in cake pan. A pan shows the general shape the cake is to be. Understanding the “shape” a service should take comes through clear communication. A written OOE (Order of Events) for the praise teams, choir, instumentalists, production crew, etc. is a must. Everyone involved should clearly comprehend the direction and purpose of the service and their individual responsibilities. Only then will they be able to work together as a unified team to help move that service in the desired direction. NOTE: We should constantly remind our people – and ourselves – that anytime He wants, God can bend our so-called “pan” of structure and completely change what we and our team think the service should look and be like. (That’s His perogative, you know. Afterall, it’s His service!)
5. Bake in hot oven. Question: Can any of us humanly bake a cake on our own? No, we must have fire to cause that batter to rise and transform. Same with a corporate worship experience. No matter how much planning we do, only God’s fire coming on a worship gathering can “bake” it into the delicious and life-changing experience we desparately need and vaguely envision. Zechariah 4:6 states, “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts.” That’s the key: His Holy Spirit filling us, empowering us and flowing freely among us during corporate times of worship before Him. Only His presense and blessing can produce such a sweet outcome!
There is one more thing we need to do to have the “perfect cake.” We need to make sure it pleases the One we’re making it for. Think about this: Why do we come together to worship? Who is it we are there to praise and honor? It is God our Redeemer, of course. So then, as we plan a worship event, let’s be sure to pray all along the way to get His constant input and direction. That way we can be sure He’ll love the worship gathering we “whip up” for Him!
- Other articles by Dwayne relating to structuring corporate worship include How Structured Should Our Worship Services Be? and God Can Work in Tightly Structured Worship Services Too!
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