Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Worship Service Flow?

The way I see it, there are three distinctive styles of worship service flow:

1) The Stop & Go - every song is it's own separate piece of the worship gathering. Every song has a distinctive beginning and end, with a pause between each song (either dead time, another element of the gathering or some talking/praying/lead-in for the next song). The emphasis tends to be on making each song unique and memorable. You'll see/hear this style at a Bon Jovi or Casting Crowns concert.

2) The Emotional Flow - every song seams to seamlessly flow into the next using extended musical interludes between songs, as if an entire set were just one long song. It's hard to tell where one song begins and another ends. The emphasis tends to be on using individual songs to create one big emotional experience for every set of songs. You'll see/hear this style at a Coldplay or Hillsong United concert.

3) The Anti-Climax - one song leads right into another, building the energy with every song. It's easy to distinguish the individual songs (with solid beginnings and endings), but there is no musical break between...this tends to be a blend of the first two styles. The emphasis tends to be on building a huge wave of energy and emotion with each song in the set. You'll see/hear this style at a Bruce Springsteen concert or...actually, off the top of my head, I can't think of a Christian artist who really utilizes this style well.

There are positives and negatives with each style, and every band needs to determine what their preferred style is going to be based on their own preferences and their own audiences/congregations.

We've determined that our style bounces between #1 and #3 depending on several factors. #1 is definitely the easiest, #2 probably requires the most amount of talent and awareness, and #3 requires the most amount of energy and charisma.

So, what do you think? Can you identify other distinctive styles? Has your band purposely determined your preferred style, or are you still trying to find your way? Let me know.



MilePost13 said...

PS. We NEVER use just doesn't work for us for several reasons.

rev. aaron said...

we do a mix of 1 & 3 (I've found that some songs don't really need much set up, and can just begin without my meager attempts at preaching. Most of our band is still learning how to "flow" between songs. We probably need to spend more time practicing that sort of stuff.

Jim Puckett said...

We are a combination of 1 & 3. We do have a lot of flow together - but we never use long interludes etc (like #2). If we bridge the songs we do it intentionally - if we place a hard break we do that intentionally. I am not sure that I ever really thought about it - but even with hard breaks - we often are clicking off the next song while people are still clapping (or otherwise reacting) to the song we have just finished. There is a musical break - but the set still feels kind of seamless.

As you have mentioned - sometimes the talent of the players affects your choices in this area - sometimes other issues. But - at the risk of starting another discussion - I find that the worst offenders for breaking the flow of a worship experience are other elements of the service that are "have tos". These may be announcements, baby dedications, special presentations etc. - depending on how its done - even baptisms! (don't shoot me) I work very hard on weeks with these added items because it affects flow AND time. If I don't work hard at smoothing some of these things out - it seems that we "stop worship" to do these other things. I do my best to make them a part of life in the Body.

On the other hand - sometimes people just don't "get it". I used to work with a pastor who killed things consistently at prayer time. The music always gave him a great "on ramp" for an intimate time of prayer. He usually started his up front time with a joke, then did some announcements, listed off all of the prayer requests and then went into prayer - Our people who had been engaged were ice cold before you knew it.

MilePost13 said...

Good stuff raise the point again that we've got to look at everything as the big picture. Every element of a service can be worship if we take the time to think and plan and execute.

And, the other point you raise is being intentional. I've always thought that good planning and confidence can cover a multitude of sins.

Jim Puckett said...

"Every element of a service can be worship if we take the time to think and plan and execute."

And if it doesn't benefit the Body - then why do it in the service? I think there is too much "church debris" in many services. Departmental things should be handled by departments - full congregation things should be handled with everyone. But what about that baby thing? Well - if it is a 15 minute thing with pictures, a special song the grandparents speaking etc - then it is a personal thing and the congregation is along for the ride! HOWEVER - if the parents are charged with their role to raise the child as a Christ follower in front of the congregation - and then the congregation is charged with their role as the Body in helping to raise this child - NOW we have an all church event that is worthy of our time in a service. It still breaks the flow of the service - but you can build around that. That is just one example....

MilePost13 said...

yes...we try not to have any fluff in our gatherings. As you said, if it's not an announcement for the entire church, then we don't do it.

Our baby dedications are only about 5 minutes and they're just as much a charge to the church as a whole as they are to the families.

Hmmm...I'm thinking that I should dedicate an entire post to discussing fluff.

Pat said...

Jim Puckett wrote "And if it doesn't benefit the Body - then why do it in the service?"

I have another question. If it doesn't engage the body, or more importantly, outsiders, then why do it in a service? If I were an outsider and had to sit through songs, announcements, baby dedications, etc., all having nothing to do with me, then I will have no reason to come back.

In a week or so I'm going to be writing a blog entry called "The Case For Fewer Songs" on my blog at


Chris said...

Nathan - good thoughts. I think you're missing a #4 which could be a spontaneous or "we'll see where it goes!" kind of flow. This might look (or sound) like #2 but I've seen it done well and done not well.

We're a mix of all 3, I think. We spend lots of time thinking very clearly about every element of our service and spend more time on transitions than anything else. So when we come to rehearsal I've already got a solid idea of how a set will flow and we play around with some transition ideas. Sometimes we do a full break on purpose, sometimes we flow from one song to the next on purpose, sometimes we'll do a key change or some other musical thing on purpose to build to the next song.

The danger, of course, is turning every Sunday in to a production event and requiring so much time and energy from volunteers before they're ready or before they've bought in to vision. That's where wisdom and communication become so important, I think.

MilePost13 said...

yep...that's probably one of the biggest reasons we don't do #2...unless you've got a full band of pros who can do whatever you want them to on the fly (our band is good, but not like that), it just takes too much time and thinking to try to pull it off well.

I think your #4 is more of a planning mindset that can actually be played out in #1, 2 & 3.

Max Power said...

God's really humbled me in this area and showed me how arrogant I can be as a worship leader when I interrupt the flow of worship.

Here's what often happens:

We sing a worship song and the congregation really begins focusing on God. Then, instead of keeping that focus going, we interrupt by sharing our own little "word of the day".

What we're basically saying is "What I have to say is more important than what God may be doing in your heart right now".

I only share something if I KNOW that God has specifically given it to me. Go visit some other churches and sit in the congregation - you'll be amazed how obvious it is when the worship leader has just pulled something out of his butt to "share"!

I don't even do a greeting most of the time as I simply don't want to break up the flow. Every time we do something between songs we're essentially resetting worship and starting form the beginning again - instead of creating a progressive time of adoration where we free people from distractions and allow them to be completely focused on God.

As worship leaders, I think we often overrate the importance of what we have to say!

The best advice I can give is to attend some services at other churches and take note of what the worship leader does that you dislike - you'll be amazed how many of things you're doing yourself!