It’s Monday, but Sunday’s coming.
I’ve heard that before. In fact, I live it. You just finish an amazing weekend of worship services and, before you know it, you have another one to plan. You can usually handle this for a few months, but after awhile it becomes tiresome. Reading through the post Creative Service Planning Flow Chart by Jeff McIntosh, it became apparent to me that planning creative services can easily become “one more thing” on our to-do lists. Unfortunately, we fall into a creative rut (which we later feel) if we don’t plan to do our absolute best in service planning and design.
The Answer for Creative Fatigue Lies in Advance Planning
It seems counterintuitive to us creatives, but it’s true. Advance planning fuels creativity by creating the lines within which to create. Planning takes the blank page and creates an outline that begins to focus our creative energies. Once you take the blue-skying process off the table, the real creative work can begin: gathering ideas, writing scripts, designing the look and feel, etc. The more creative you want to be in your services, the further ahead you need to plan.
365 Steps Ahead
The easiest way to get ahead is to use a one-year calendar and begin to plan your sermon series by themes or concepts. I usually start with inserting general calendar dates I want to be aware of (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas) and then adding specific church calendar dates to that (Baptisms, Child Dedication).
Once I have that general road map, I work with my Senior Pastor/Teaching Team to plan by concepts. For example, September is Back-to-School month, so we may plan a vision series. May and June have two great family celebrations (Mother’s Day and Father’s Day) so we may do an 8-week series on Relationships. At this stage, we’re not writing titles or scripture verses on yet, simply themes and concepts. However, once these are locked in, you’ll be amazed at how easily you’re able to flesh out the concepts.
Drilling Down at Half a Year
By six months out, you want to begin to have your series title and individual sermon themes and scripture verses worked out (you don’t necessarily need sermon titles yet). Once you have the series title, you can begin to work on graphics, videos, set design, metaphors, and even some big creative moments per sermon (i.e., video testimonies, interactive elements, response moments etc.).
If you want to accompany your series on prayer with a book of prayers or answered prayer from your congregation, you need this much time to gather, edit, layout, and print that book.
Finally, four weeks out is where you want to have your sermon titles and scriptures locked in. This is where you begin to add the song sets, creative readings, skits, videos, and other creative moments into your services. I recognize that sometimes “week of” things happen, but you want to try and limit these as best you can.
Whether you’re a large or small church, if the aim is to have creative elements in your services, this is a schedule that you need to get on. For those of us working with leaders who are 11th-hour planners, it’s important to let them know that advance planning is crucial to pulling creative elements off with excellence. Be patient, be encouraged, and put your efforts into getting ahead rather than catching up.
Jeremiah Raible is a creative service planner who serves at Mill Woods Assembly in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and is the Creative Director of Hands & Voices Productions.