I really think planning is an essential part of preparing for a worship service. How else will the musicians be prepared for Sunday morning if they can't practice ahead of time. Most musicians and especially those leading worship want to bring their best. They can't do that if they can't practice.
Now, God doesn't require our worship to be perfect, but He does require excellence. If we are not bringing the best we have to offer then our worship is not acceptable to the Lord (remember Cain and Abel?) So what are some reasons we don't plan ahead?
- We don't have time to practice. Really? I mean even if you can't get together each week you should be practicing as individuals. How else are you going to learn new songs or become better musicians?
- I don't have time to plan. If you don't have the time to commit yourself to what a ministry needs in terms of time, then maybe you need to step down.
- We don't want to miss the Spirit moving. However you want to put this, it is a valid point but it doesn't negate the need for planning and practice. When we approach our worship services, we need to remember the idea of balance.
- My Pastor doesn't tell me the theme or Sermon topic until the last minute. This is a though one. In my case my Pastor hardly ever tells me the theme or topic of his sermons. After all if we are both going to the same well then we should be on the same page. There are a few things you can do in this case: Ask you Pastor to give you the theme or topic sooner, or ask your Pastor if you can select the songs ahead of time. His answer in both cases may surprise you. You could also limit your song selections to a small list of songs that your worship team knows really well. They should also be practicing those songs during the week.
So how do I plan? I send out the song list for Sunday a week in advance and try to have at least a months worth of set list planned out. I also try to remain flexible as God may put a specific song on my heart at the last minute. We also have practices every Thursday night where we go over the songs for Sunday as well as any new songs we will be introducing in the next few weeks. This year I will also be challenging myself as well as our worship team to learn ten songs by heart that we can play in case the spirit begins to move or if we are called to play at the end of the service. When planning a month out I try to remember any special holidays or service and incorporate songs that fit those themes (i.e. Communion or Missions Sunday.)
In the end, if we are serious about our worship we need to plan. If we don't plan ahead we can't prepare. If we don't prepare we can't bring our best.