Brainstorming 1/4: The % Factor

What percentage of worshipers at your church are “pew sitters?” In other words, what percentage of people choose your worship service””that brief time on Sunday morning, or whenever your worship service is””as their only connection to the life of the church? The answer is consistently over 50% and often in the over 75% range. My next question then, is this: What are the implications of this for the time, energy, and resources that we spend on making worship vital, meaningful, well-done, and disciple-forming? The conversation that follows is usually what I call a “come-to-Jesus-moment” of truth-realization about how we spend our ministry time and effort.

This article is the first in a series of four that I want to share with you about brainstorming. Brainstorming is a vital part of the creative worship process and answers the call to intentional ministry design and outreach. In this article, I’m going to share with you the reasons why spending energy on long-term worship planning reaps great rewards for the people of your church and for your staff and worship leaders.

One of my main messages as a teacher of worship design is moving from “plug-n-play” worship planning (weekly, last-minute, thrown-together, stress-producing) to “intentional design” that makes the effort to offer sensory-rich worship where the message can be seen, heard, touched, and experienced in every part of the worship experience. This kind of intentional design takes a plan-ahead strategy that requires staff and teams to carve out time to devote to a creative and collaborative process. This design means that we might spend more time in study, reflection, resource-gathering, and preparation for our worship leadership. But when you realize that worship has such a high impact in terms of the percentage of people it touches, spending more time and energy not only makes total sense; it is, I believe, a faithful response to the call to ministry.

As we approach the seasons of Lent and Easter, I invite you to revisit your priorities and strategies for ministry. I encourage you to talk with your staff and worship team about “the % factor.” Does worship planning feel rushed? Do you just hope things fall together and run smoothly on Sunday morning? Do you wish you could feel more spiritually grounded as a leader, rather than feeling like you are managing last-minute details before worship begins?

How much time do you spend making “special” services of the liturgical year (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Christmas Eve, etc) creative and meaningful? My guess is that you spend more time on those than on any one weekly worship experience. And yet, every week is when visitors may appear, wondering if they will find meaning and connection at your church. Every week is when people decide whether or not to come back next week or to get more involved in other ministries of the church. Consider the number of opportunities that 52 weeks in the year provides, and again the percentage factor comes into play. Are we making the necessary effort to provide life-changing experiences throughout the year?

No matter if you are a small, medium, or large church with a staff of one or 25, here are a few suggestions to help cultivate a spirit of priority around your worship planning:

1) Explore ways to hold worship planning time as sacred, not to be constantly rescheduled when other things come up.

2) Set regular dates to retreat away from daily duties in order to contemplate the directions for worship ahead of time.

3) Find ways to share ministry tasks with empowered and trained lay persons so that worship and sermon preparation can gain more focus and time.

4) Find ways to get regular support, inspiration, continued education, resources, and ideas. One easy way is to subscribe to the Worship Design Studio online. You CAN have more ease and creativity around worship planning!

If you take “the % factor” seriously, you can change your congregation’s culture of thought about the priority of worship planning on the list of things the staff must care for. You CAN get excited again about your worship tasks and leadership. You CAN actually get to worship when you are leading worship… really. Your church CAN begin to “buzz” about the Spirit that is moving in and through vital worship where you are!

To help get you started with a more intentional worship planning process, my article next week will introduce some tips and guidelines to hold a brainstorming party for your worship team. Stay tuned to find out more about how to kick off a new era of rich and creative long-term planning for your staff and worship leaders!

The Worship Design Studio has lots of resources and worship series templates for every season in the liturgical year. Check out the WDS at