Discussion Topic

“...the use of themes and sermon series is the new wave in 21st century congregational worship." But then I wondered. Are all series or themes equal? What makes for a good series?

March 18, 2015 1 0 comments
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One of my favourite interview questions was: What is your philosophy of worship? It's a huge question but can also give huge insight into what will drive a person in their ministry and the choices they make for your church. 

Another one that stood out was "describe a 'mountaintop' experience you have had in leading worship?" (referring to Moses meeting God on the mountain). 

I'm thinking above and beyond the standard - "how do you deal with conflict?" types of questions. 

 

For what not to ask - avoid making someone worship plan on the spot. I've had someone ask before, "what song would you choose for a sermon about holiness?" All you're going to get is the low-hanging fruit because you have a person in a stressful situation and feeling a time crunch of not wanting to make the interviewers wait, plus I think it discounts the creative process and assumes that solid worship planning can happen on the spot. Now, a way to phrase that question that could get a more thoughtful response would be, "what is a song you love that talks about the holiness of God, and what about it speaks to you?"

This is a great question.  Check out the free (for CRCs) digital library here, The Church Staff handbook has great content.  See page 97 for some sample questions and ideas on how to get to know the candidates.  

Beautiful prayer. Thanks for sharing. 

Here is a prayer I will use this week for our Friendship Sunday

Thank you so much for sharing, John. The book sounds interesting and insightful. 

Each year during Holy Week - usually on Good Friday - I read through the book "We Call This Friday Good" - by the late Dr. Howard Hageman.  Hageman, who served as a pastor in the Reformed Church of America and served as president of New Brunswick seminary - writes about each of the 7 words Jesus speaks from the cross.  His writing helps connect me anew with the humanity of Jesus.  Each year, as Holy Week draws near, I find myself eager to again listen and experience anew the deep love of Jesus.

 

Powerful. Thank you for sharing Patiliai. 

Love this! "While Easter is deeply personal, it is also universal" is a statement that really resonates with me. Thanks for sharing. 

Everyone enjoy their "Feast of First Fruits"  (Some call Easter) Service!

Feast of First Fruits = Third Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread = 16th of Nisan, 5777 
This day ends at sunset on 13Apr 2017 (sunset = 7:32 PM ET)

Why is that important?

Jn 19:31

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.

The day before the Sabbath was commonly called the "preparation day" because chores were done on that day to avoid working on God' day of rest. Clearly, we see from Jn 19:31 that Christ was crucified and His body placed in the tomb immediately preceding the Sabbath.

The question to consider is "which Sabbath"?

Most people assume John was speaking of the regular weekly Sabbath day observed from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. From John' clear statement here, most people assume Jesus died and was buried on Friday-- thus the traditional belief that Jesus was crucified and died on "Good Friday."

But is that true?

Most people have no idea that the Bible speaks of TWO KINDS of Sabbath days-- the normal weekly Sabbath on the seventh day of the week. (Friday Sunset to Saturday Sunset. Not Sunday. Sunday is the first day of the week), and seven ANNUAL Sabbath days, listed in Lev 23 and mentioned in various other passages. These annual Sabbath days could fall on ANY day of the week. Once we understand this we see that "Good Friday -- Easter Sunday" never happened that way!

Notice again in Jn 19:31 that the Sabbath Day is referred to as a "high day". That term was used to differentiate a weekly Sabbath from an annual Sabbath.

So what was this "high day" that immediately followed Jesus' hurried entombment?

Mt 26:19 - 20, Mk 14:16 - 17, Lk 22:13 - 15 tells us the evening before Jesus was condemned and crucified, He kept the Passover. This means that He was crucified on the Passover day. Lev 23, which lists God' festivals, tells us that on the day after the Passover, another festival, known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins. ( Lev 23:5 - 6). This day is the first of God' annual Sabbaths. 

This is the "high day" of which John wrote on Jn 19:31.

Passover began at sundown and ended the following day at sundown when this annual Sabbath began. 

So this is the correct order of events:

Nisan 13 (Tuesday ends at 6 pm sunset. Nisan 14, Wednesday begins at 6 pm sunset and ends just before sunset the next day.)

1. Jesus kept the Passover with His disciples and then arrested later that night.

2. After daybreak, the next day, He was questioned before Pontius Pilate, crucified, then hurriedly entombed just before the next sunset when the "high day", the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread began.

Jesus gives up His spirit approximately the 9th hour which is 3 pm. So Nisan 14 begins at sunset right after Jesus is placed in the sepulcher. 

Computer programs have demonstrated that Nisan 14, 31 A.D. was a Wednesday, not a Friday.

Nisan 14 ends at 6 pm sunset on Thursday. Nisan 15, the "high day", of the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins at 6 pm sunset on Thursday and ends just before sunset on the next day.)

Jesus has now been "in the Earth" for 24 hours. (One day and one night.)

Nisan 15, the "high day" ends at sunset and the weekly Sabbath, Nisan 16 begin at 6 pm Friday and ends just before sunset the next day.

Jesus has now been "in the Earth" for 48 hours. (Two days and Two nights).

Nisan 16 ends at 6 pm Saturday and Nisan 17, "First Fruits", which is the third day of the 7-day feast of Unleavened Bread that begins at 6 pm Sat and ends at sunset the next day.

At sunset, in the last few minutes of Nisan 16, God, the Father resurrects God, the Son from death! Because it was not possible that death could hold him. He has been "in the Earth" for three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17, Acts 2:24) 

1 Wed evening - Thu evening (24 hours)
2 Thu evening - Fri evening (24 hours)
3. Fri evening - Sat evening (24 hours)

So, in conclusion when we understand the difference between God' weekly Sabbaths and His annual Sabbaths any confusion about the days of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection go away.

1 Cor 15:20 -23 

20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam, all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

So our Lord and Saviour is alive! Risen from the dead and given all honor and all power that can be given. Literally on the day that celebrates the reality that Jesus is the firstfruits of God' Elect!

We crowned him King but the crown was of thorns, he mounted a throne, but it was an unadorned cross, yes it was for my sins that he endured all...

Thanks for sharing.  Growing up my parents were big Johnny Cash fans.  I think I'll use this as our devotional at Easter this year.  

I love the historic hymns that we sing during Holy Week.  One of my favourites is, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" written in 1707. That means that Christians have been singing it at Easter for 310 years!  While Easter is deeply personal (Christ died for me) it is also universal.  I love feeling connected to the church of all times and places during this week.

One of my favorite songs is How Deep the Father's Love for Us by Stuart Townsend. Every time I listen to this song (and especially during Holy Week) I am struck by the line "It was my sin that held Him there..."

During Holy Week I take some time to reflect on the weight of my sin. Looking at my sin really brings me face to face with the magnitude of Jesus' sacrifice. A grace I could never earn. Following this I am filled with a deep gratitude and hope. Praise God for making ALL things new! 

This is a very balanced approach. Our church heritage is also God-led, and ought to be acknowledged.

My only concern would be the lengthy explanations and intros. I worry that churches are so wordy that we crowd out the Spirit. But perhaps you addressed that with your 'slowness' comments. Faith grows in silences too.

This is a great resource - a couple bugs, but overall - thanks to everyone that is working on this. I look forward to using it. 

I am curious how this works itself out in the sacraments and especially regarding children? Are children baptized as infants? What about those who have different beliefs in adult baptism? And are children allowed to take communion? Do they need to be baptized? etc. Thanks!

And therein we have the crux of the problem... is it the preacher or the sermon that receives the critique?   What about the poor preacher who delivers a good sermon?  The unbelieving preacher who is still true to the text?  The drunkard who preaches true?   Or, the loving pastor who can barely put two words together coherently?   The juxtapositions and contradictions of life.   "He who is not against us is for us."  To give God the glory, rather than the preacher.....

Here's the Worship Team mandate from Trinity CRC in Rock Valley IA.

 

Objectives

 

      To achieve the stated purpose, the following objectives have been adopted:

  1. The Team will administer the worship at Trinity.
  2. The Team will promote the use of relevant worship at Trinity.
  3. The Team will provide opportunities for members of Trinity to learn more about worship.

 

Membership

 

      The membership of the Team will consist of seven (7) members of Trinity. A Church Council member will also be appointed to serve as a member of the team and as a liaison with the Council. The Pastor(s) will serve in an advisory role on the Team.
      Gifts that will be valuable for this team are creative communication, administration, leadership, helps, and discernment.

 

Terms of Service

 

      The terms of service will initially be for three (3) years and will be staggered. The Council may ask a team member to serve for more than one (1) term.

 

Areas of Responsibility

 

      The areas of responsibility include:

  1. Maximizing meaningful participation and use of member’s gifts in worship.
  2. Develop leadership in worship.
  3. Supervise and coordinate the worship planning team.
  4. Receive yearly report from a Children in Worship representative which includes a synopsis of the past year, positive, negatives and requests for assistance.

This service gives you the ability to practice the song with your instrument either higher or lower in the mix. Doesn't give instruction as to how to actually play the song. So more effective from a rehearsal perspective, not as much from a learning perspective. Definitely has a place though.

I just had our worship coordinator point us in the direction of this service instead http://www.multitracks.com/products/rehearsalmix/.

I think it's a bit more mature - has the ability to practice in multiple keys, links with PCO, etc.

We'd love to hear what you think - pros and cons.

This is an interesting website! Have not used online training before as I always go with the play by ear option, but I think I will have to give their free account a try to see what they have to offer.

  Paul sees things differently. "I urge, then first of all , that requests, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (Tim 2:1-2). 

Thank you, Mel. 

 this is our job description for the worship committee: 

Worship Committee

a. Mandate

The mandate of the Worship Committee is to enable the congregation to join together in celebrative worship that reflects the church’s vision, mission, and core values. The committee works under the supervision of Council, reports to the Administrative Committee, and is advised by the Elders.

b. Members

The Worship Committee shall consist of a minimum of three persons

recruited by the Administrative Committee and approved by the Council. One Elder shall serve as liaison to and member of the committee. One of the members shall be designated as Chair and one as Secretary. The term of service shall be three years; normally, members will not serve more than two terms. A simple majority of members shall be considered a quorum.

c. Responsibilities

Planning, carrying out, and reflecting on the worship needs of the church

Planning the annual calendar of services.

Arranging for the staffing and scheduling of the services.

Providing for sanctuary décor.

Providing resources to enhance worship services.

Preparing for administration of the sacraments.

Reporting to the Administrative Committee and presenting it with a brief, annual outline of priorities that includes its budget needs.

Great idea to post about PCO, Adom!  We started using Planning Centre Online at Faith Church in Burlington about 4 years ago. Here are some notes based on our experience.

I highly recommend PCO for any church team, especially where you have one or two technology champions who can assist others with the rollout. There is a huge range of options -- many of which we don't use -- and for those comfortable with using software, it is very intuitive.PCO is an amazing worship planning tool (and more), especially used in conjunction with CCLI. I use a lot of SAAS (Software as a Service) tools in my line of work and PCO is better than most from a user design perspective (not to say there weren't some growing pains from less tech savvy users). They continue to make improvements over time.

Planning Centre Online has been branching into other areas such as volunteer management and online giving. Based on my experience with PCO to date, I suspect those tools would also be great.

Here are some highlights of the features we use most:

- Scheduling - team members (including pastors and AV volunteers) can block out their dates in advance so that our scheduler knows who is available when.

- Email Notifications - A reminder is automatically sent a week in advance to anyone who is scheduled for the next Sunday.

- Planning - we have a general service template so that all of the regular pieces of the order of worship are there. Then you simply drag and drop your songs into the template. The planning matrix view allows you to see past Sunday plans alongside your current plan so that you can avoid repeating songs too often. Our pastor has started to pre-populate the plans in advance with his sermon themes and Bible passages, so that worship leaders can get started planning their services as early as possible.

- Worship Plans/Cue Sheets - Once a service is planned, a one-page PDF of the plan can be sent to all of the team members who are scheduled, along with a note where you can provide special instructions or additional information about the service.

- Reporting - PCO keeps track of when and how often you use songs and allows you to generate reports.

- Music Stand App - I am the only team member who has taken advantage of the Music Stand app but for me it has been a huge game changer. I use my iPad to lead worship. I see the chord sheet in the key of my choice and I advance the page or backtrack using a bluetooth foot pedal. - I am also able to attach prepared notes such as introductory words and prayers and include that on my screen. There are some cool built-in features, including a metronome, and notation and highlighting tools. While the rest of the team sorts through paper file folders to gather their music, I just put my iPad in it's holder and open the app.

 

 

 

 

I've used PCO also as a volunteer at my church.  I really enjoyed having the option to review the sheet music or listen to the music at home.

Thanks for posting this, Adom. Looks like a pretty great tool (and built with a very modern interface). I'd be curious to hear how other churches are using it as well. 

I thought it would be helpful to add a link to their website: planning.center

Sorry this article is 4 years old. They have changed their info since it was written. It is worth the money for us

You are mistaken. Nothing about it is free. We're small and looking but your advertisment was misleading

Wow, this is great, Diane!  Please let us know how the course goes!!  This could be so helpful to lay worship leaders in the CRC!

I was going to recommend this workshop with Greg Scheer also. I attended it several years ago when it was offered at the Trinity College location. The book is also an excellent resource.

I am doing the exact same thing on March 25.  Greg Scheer is leading the workshop and I'm leaving it in his hands.  But the day is shaping in this manner:

9:00 am - Opening.

"the Art of Worship"

Going through each instrument and explain the who/what/when/where/why part of their role in the group.

using occasional instrumentation (brass, woodwinds, etc)

Working with various abilities/skills (we have a wide range so explaining how to include beginners and not dumb down more experienced musicians, and also those who are self-taught and formally taught.

- Working out a lunch in there somewhere.

Also, the idea that we will be using the music from the workshop into an actual worship service is also important to me - so the repertoire we are using on Saturday will be the repertoire for the service on Sunday.

We are also extending an invitation to other worship & band leaders, musicians, etc. from other churches.

Just a little correction!  Pentecost does not last 50 days... it is one day (the third great feast - along with Christmas and Easter) that kicks off the season called "Ordinary Time"  - Sam Gutierrez.   Sorry about that.  :)

Diane,

thanks for the creative example!  I love it!  

Liturgical season "theme" song!  - Smart!

Along with some of the things you've described, we also had a theme song for Advent that was sung each week during Advent in different places in the worship service. The church could choose a theme song for each season - perhaps that goes with the scripture passage that is memorized, or a theme for the season. As we participated in the season of waiting (advent), we used the refrain, "Take O Take Me As I Am" (#741 in Lift Up Your Hearts), and also did motions. The children enjoyed learning the motions with the adults in worship.  Since the church was also going through a renewal process, we also added a 2nd 'verse' and sang, "Take O take us as we are..." 

Simple and succinct! A good way to live into a rhythm of formation.  And, I think it's a positive when we connect what we do as a local congregation with the global church in observing and practicing the liturgical church year.  

Thanks everyone,

   This is very helpful.  I'm looking into the books you mentioned.  I think delving into the resources of the Calvin Institute of Worship is a great reminder as well.  

   Feel free to keep adding to the discussion as I'm sure others will be interested in such a topic.

Thanks much, Katie. Adoption is a blessed thing and God's Providence is a puzzling, yet wondrous thing. You have capture a Light-filled bit of the Wonder allowing the mysterious puzzlement to continue. That is necessary and good, I think, because if we think we can "get" God, well, that's blasphemy. But if we can thank God without trying to get God, we have the best of both worlds and God is Lord of all worlds.

As I began research on a book on preaching Christ from Psalms, my proofreaders suggested I follow the Psalms selected for the Christian Year by the Common Lectionary, Year A.  Although the Lectionary selected these Psalms in response to the Old Testament lessons, the selected Psalms themselves make for wonderful, enlightening series of sermons for Advent, Lent, and the whole Christian year.  I learned a lot from the research and writing.  If you wish to do something different from other years, I suggest you consider a series on Psalms.

This year I am going through the "I am" statements in John.

https://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/february-2008/the-i-ams-of-jesus/

I have read and recommend "True Worshipers: Seeking What Matters to God" by Bob Kauflin. You can also buy a study guide to go with the book.  We haven't used this with our Worship Committee, but it is on my radar to study it together in the future. 

Thank you for this wonderful gift, Jeff! I've done a series before on the words from the cross. I really like the Jericho road idea!

I think my favorite Lent-Easter series I've preached was when I connected the life of Joseph in Genesis with Jesus' passion, death, and resurrection. I was surprised at the parallels and echoes between the two stories. You're welcome to see what I did on my blog: 4thpoint.wordpress.com/messages.

Gratefully,
Stanley

Our Worship Planning Team worked through Nancy Beach's book An Hour on Sunday. We discussed one chapter per month and even brought ideas to our devotional/discussion time at worship team rehearsals. http://www.nancylbeach.com/books/ 

Have you tried the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship online resources?  This isn't a book, but if you would like to study a particular topic that your worship committee would like to explore further, they may have some articles, etc.

Also, Greg Scheer has some books on worship "how-to" etc.  

Wilma, 

Have you taken a look at Reformed Worship's website? (www.ReformedWorship.org)  There are about 30 years of worship resources available for free! If you put "Christmas" in the search box you will come up with quite the list. 

If you are looking for something particular email worship@crcna.org and we will see what we can do to help. 

I would recommend Marlea Gilbert "The Work of The People: What We Do in Worship and Why".  It explains the structure of worship in a clear way. I found it really broadened my understanding of the components of a worship service and renewed my vision for worship. It is easy to read with discussion questions at the end of each chapter as well as ideas for use by a worship committee or team.

Andrew, 

I haven't read "For the Beauty"  have heard good things. I think it would be a great choice especially if you want to focus on the role of the arts in worship. 

Is there a particular theme/topic you are hoping to cover? 

Some other possibilities to consider (a beginning list):  

Diversity/Multiethnic worship: The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World, Sandra Maria Van Opstal

Pastoral Role of Worship Leaders: The Worship Pastor: A Call to Ministry for Worship Leaders and Teams, Zac M. Hicks 

Basics on Worship Theology and Practice: Essential Worship: A Handbook for Leaders, Greg Scheer

Worship that is inclusive of all abilities: Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship, Betty Grit and Barb Newman

Worship as Formation/Transformative: You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit  or Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation both by James Smith and What's Love Got to Do With It?: How the Heart of God Shapes Worship, Sam Hamstra

General worship theology and practice (includes study questions): Wise Church: Exploring Faith and Worship with Christians Around the World, Emily Brink and Paul Detterman

Worship and Difficult Times: Stilling the Storm: Worship and Congregational Leadership During Difficult Times, Kathleen Smith

I commend your worship committee for taking time to deepen their understanding and practice through a book study.  There are so many great books on worship that have been written in the last decade that there is something out there for any context.  I am sure others can add to this beginning list. 

Hi Andrew,

Kudos for wanting to learn more about worship with your team. I'm not familiar with that book, but a few I can think of are: The Worship Architect, by Constance Cherry - I've just studied this book recently for a class and found it very helpful in thinking about planning worship. We've (Worship Ministries) been hosting Peer Learning Groups for worship leaders (planners, worship committees, etc.) the last few years. The books that groups are currently using are: The Next Worship, by Sandra Van Opstal - a great book to help you think about multicultural worship in your context. Also, The Accessible Gospel - a book that looks at making the worship accessible to all people, including those with abilities and disabilities. Last year worship groups studied the book, Stilling the Storm, by Kathy Smith - this book is great for a church that is going through transition and/or difficult times. 

If you'd like more information on the peer learning groups that we are supporting, email me at worship@crcna.org.

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