As worship leaders, we often have flow in mind when designing the most biblically relevant and precise worship services possible. What is meant by flow is the progression of events and sacred acts within the context of corporate worship. Flow certainly encompasses music, but it also includes every other aspect of worship, e.g. prayer, the reading of Scripture, and preaching. No matter the style of artistic expression and music, flow then becomes crucial to the corporate worship experience. How do we, as worship leaders, then approach flow without it being the sole focus above the overarching purpose of corporate worship, namely the proclamation of the gospel and the story of God? I would like to suggest a few practical solutions for crafting seamless flow into your worship experiences.
Cater to Your Leadersí Strengths
It is easy for us to exaggerate the strengths of our worship ministry leaders. Often worship pastors are trained and consummately skilled in what they do so the desire for all worship leaders in the congregation to achieve the same level of ability is natural. However, we fail our leaders, ourselves, and our congregation if we constantly strive in pushing our leaders to accomplish tasks that are beyond their current ability. We should certainly stretch our worship leaders, but assigning them tasks that are beyond their ability does not contribute to the worship experience. We must know our leaders and cater to their strengths rather than their weaknesses. If the lead guitarist cannot play a lick exactly as is on the recording, that is okay; determine a better way to stretch him or her, and place it within the context of your church. In other words, donít try to be another church, worship team, or band. God has called you to your church with a specific purpose in mind so use the resources he has given you to reach the people in your context without trying to be someone else. Cater to your leadersí strengths, not their weakness. Doing so will contribute greatly to a seamless flow.
We mistakenly tend to associate the Holy Spirit with mere spontaneity. While the Holy Spirit surely works in spontaneous ways, spontaneity does not have a corner on the market for the Holy Spirit; God the Spirit can equally use planning. Therefore, we must always be open to his guidance and direction.
To craft seamless flow in corporate worship, we must plan. Planning is a crucial process for any worship leader. Even free churches who might claim not to utilize a liturgy (most likely a false claim) are likely to adhere to a certain order, even if it is in the most lose sense. Whatever model we attempt to achieve, we plan within the confides of an order.
When I was younger, I thought that spontaneity was the best approach to the degree of despising any sort of planning. As I matured and grew in the Lord, I began to realize that planning can be very beneficial so I began to plan more. In effect, I noticed the aesthetic quality of my leading increased. I am sure to listen to the Holy Spirit and adapt as he leads me, but, for me, planning has become a medium by which theologically accurate and aesthetically pleasing expressions of worship are achieved among Godís people. Planning will surely aid in seamless flow.
On the heels of planning, worship leaders must realize the importance of rehearsal. This does not only include rehearsing music but anything sacred act that will be employed by Godís people in worship. It is important to rehearse Scripture readings (particularly those with difficult words to pronounce), what you might say in your leading, and even the prayers. We should (again) always be attentive to the Spiritís leadership, but rehearsal prepares us to enact the sacred responsibility of worship leading in a more excellent manner. It can be easy to mistakenly associate rehearsal (particularly of prayers and speaking) with insincerity. This is a false assumption though, considering the fact that sincerity is a matter of the heart behind the act. In that light then, one could be just as sincere in a rehearsed prayer as in an extemporaneous prayer. We must prepare our hearts for worship; rehearsal merely prepares us practically for what we express from our hearts.
Eliminate Gaps of Time
Another solution to achieve seamless flow is to eliminate gaps of time. In a modern context, the use of technology can be a good thing, but it can also get in the way. If you use a click track, you know that sometimes it can take a while before the band begins to play a song. We, as Godís people, need to be alright with silence in worship, but the silence between songs because of a delayed click track is not intended and may be a distraction. I am certainly not against click tracks; they can help a band accomplish premium sound. However, we must be creative in eliminating large gaps of time. If there is going to be a delay between songs, a worship leader might read a scripture, speak a short word of truth regarding the theme of the next or previous song, or even add a keyboard patch sound as part of an introduction. These methods will make the flow of the service seem less strained. Unintended gaps of time are not our friends.
A final practical way to achieve seamless flow in worship is to plan and think thematically. My church utilizes a fourfold order (gathering, word, response, sending), and within those confides I intentionally plan our worship services with a specific theme in mind and one that also proclaims the gospel story. We incorporate scriptures, music, dramatic enactments, etc. to tell Godís story. There are different thematic approaches one might take, e.g. topical themes, scripture themes, liturgical themes (according to the calendar or season), and even musical themes (key signatures, time signatures, etc.). Worship leaders should likely consider all of these elements when planning services. With a theme in mind, the worship service should trace a trajectory throughout all sacred acts. Thematic planning gives the worship leader a set of parameters by which to plan so that worship is as theologically accurate as possible, but it also allows him or her to exercise his or her creative gifts to realize that theme. Thinking thematically will aid in designing seamless worship services.
The Excellence of Seamlessness
Part of our call as worship leaders is excellence, yet we often fail to accomplish it. Because of unrealistic expectations, unachievable goals are set and rather than seamless worship, we get broken and flawed worship expressions. Make no mistake that we donít ever get is perfect while here on earth; nonetheless, that should not negate our responsibility to be as excellent as possible. Why are we okay with seamlessness in other aesthetic expressions, e.g. concerts, movies, recordings, etc. but, at the same time, fine with mediocrity in corporate worship? Flow is not the end goal of worship, but it is a vital aid to the end goal, namely the glory of God through the telling of his story. Let us take our responsibility seriously and strive toward seamless worship services that flow with joy, conviction, and clarity by utilizing these practical solutions.