God Can Work In Tightly Scheduled Worship Services Too!

conf2_over.jpgThankfully, I am (finally!) finished with the Program Schedule for this year’s Smoky Mountain Student Bible Conference. And I can say with no hesitation that of the thousands of programs and worship services I have planned over the years, this is by far the most difficult…but also one of the most rewarding!

Scott Dawson and his team lead this amazing student conference that has grown now to close to 7000 youth over the past few years. (I have had the privilege to travel with Scott and lead worship in his crusades and conferences for 16 years now.) My job in this student conference is to design and coordinate the massive program schedule – It is 10 pages long! [If you like, you may click here and download the Composite Tech Schedule (.PDF) and see for yourself the incredible detail that goes into a conference of this magnitude.]

Just imagine 7000 students spread out in 3 different venues (theatres) across Pigeon Forge. Then try to imagine a total of 6 groups of students, 2 at each venue, meeting back to back. One group of 1500 finishes then another group comes in 15 minutes later! On top of that, several of our speakers and all of our concerts (like Skillet and the Afters) must run from one venue to the next and minister to all 6 groups! Talk about a logistical nightmare. Whew. I get dissy headed just thinking about it!jigsaw.jpg

Granted, every attempt to “coordinate” other people’s worship experience (!) should cause us to want to pray and seek God’s help and power. However, perhaps now you see better why planning the schedule for this conference forces me to my knees (which is not a bad thing, BTW…!). You see, everything and everyone has to stay on time. If one thing on that ridiculously tight schedule gets off even a few minutes, it affects everything and everyone else. It’s like one gigantic jigsaw puzzle!

Over time, I have realized something: God knows our unique situation. He knows we can’t just leave a thousand teenagers standing outside in the cold waiting for the doors to open for their particular worship service. He is not threatened by our need to start and stop on time. I admit that sometimes I feel like we’re saying, “Ok, God, we want You to move, but You’ve got to do it in exactly 23 minutes” – or whatever time our almighty schedule dictates! Yet, year after year, God shows up and shows off and (so far anyway) has allowed us to stay on schedule to boot! We’ve seen hundreds of teenagers come to Christ during this conference, and scores of kids write us to tell us how they loved praising their God during those services.

It’s like one of Scott’s senior staff members told me today on the phone, “Dwayne, if God wants to bust out of our schedule and lead us another direction, that’s His call. He’s in charge of it all anyway.” I believe that when we approach our worship planning with that kind of humble and surrendered attitude, our awesome God can trust us and will help us plan worship events in advance in just the way He wants them. He’ll even work in some tight time quarters if need be! Afterall, He’s God, and it only takes Him a minute to radically change a heart…



  • gsstack

    Hey Dwayne,
    This reminds me of my days in Seminary. Our chapel services were designed to fit into the daily class schedule (50 minutes). This included all of the elements of worship except offering. The musical ensemble that provided worship leadership had to time music down to the second. They even had 3 lights on the balcony to let the chapel speaker know how much time was left. When that red light went on the service was supposed to be over. But even in that strict schedule, God moved.

  • Administrator

    Great comment, Sam. It’s easy to be negative about “chapel services” at Christian colleges and universities. But praise is something we each choose to offer God. If we look – as you apparently did – for opportunities to see God move – we will usually find them.

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