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Plan transitions: Create a worship service flowchart

Smoothly flowing worship is crucial to your church service. Water image by PublicCo, Pixabay.
Smoothly flowing worship is crucial to your church service. Water image by PublicCo, Pixabay.

Smoothly flowing worship is crucial to your church service. Learn how to coordinate pastors, liturgists, worship and multi-media teams to avoid awkward or distracting moments. The tips below can prevent you from playing the role of anyone in the embarrassing story below.

A prayer answered!

Sally, a young mother in her late 20s, had been attending a nearby United Methodist church for several months. While her joy increased, so did her prayers that her husband, Tom, would join her at church. One Sunday, Tom agreed to give it a try.

God begins to move!!

Sally was thrilled as Tom sat next to her in the pew. As the service started, the organist started softly playing, "Spirit of the Living God." She sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit and gave thanks as Tom took her hand in his. God was moving!

Worship, interrupted!!

The congregation seemed ready for worship as the prelude came to an end. The pastor came to the pulpit and started to speak, but no one could hear her. Suddenly, a jarring, high-pitched noise came from the speakers as the microphone was turned on by a person in the sound booth. Later, after a hymn was sung, everyone was seated and an awkward silence emerged. Finally, a man jumped up and ran to the front to read a Scripture passage.

The interruptions continued from there. During the choir anthem, the PowerPoint operator mistakenly left an animated pancake breakfast announcement slide above the choir. As the pastor got up to preach, she introduced a video clip from a movie to illustrate her first point. The video played, but had no sound! The pastor struggled to recover her focus on the day's message. As the service ended, Sally felt far away from the "Spirit of the Living God" that had greeted her at the start.

The lesson for leaders!

In a worship service, transitions matter! While worship is not about flawless performance, it does deserve our best efforts so people can engage and be engaged by God's presence. A "dead spot" created by an off microphone, a misplaced or mistimed PowerPoint slide or even a pastor or worship leader not ready for the next movement of worship can interrupt the attention people are giving to God. To prevent these awkward moments, worship leaders, pastors, computer operators and sound technicians all must be on the same page. Transitions must be discussed ahead of time and leaders must be ready.

The Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards, director of worship resources at the General Board of Discipleship, writes about "Attentional Worship," in a blog post that discusses issues of flow and how it affects worshippers' attention. Learn from three different examples of worship teams that really understand flow. The "Bearings in Worship" series also provides great direction on how to plan for fluid motion between the major movements of Christian worship.

The gift of a flowchart!!

One of the simplest ways to avoid the pitfalls of including multiple elements in worship is to create a flowchart. Many online services can assist any worship leader. An example is free worship-planning software called ServiceBuilder. However, you can plan a well-coordinated service by creating a simple three-column document on your computer.

Begin by heading each of the three columns like this:

Event               Leader             Tech Notes

Under "Event," list each element involved in the service, such as music, responsive reading, congregational prayer, sermon and others. Under "Leader," list the person or people involved in facilitating this portion of the service. This will help them be ready. For example, they will know when to move near the lectern microphone during the last verse of a hymn so they can read the Scripture for the day as the hymn ends. This readiness prevents the unintended silence that cause worshippers' attention to wander as they wait for a person to walk to a microphone.

Last, under "Tech Notes," clearly list the tech needs and cues for those running sound systems, lights and projection systems. A few things to consider are:

  • Microphone locations and volume levels needed
  • PowerPoint slide numbers for each event
  • Video cues
  • Lighting cues

Cue-to-cue rehearsals!

It's not enough to have a flowchart. You must rehearse the transitions beforehand. You may need to make changes if things don't go as you originally envisioned. In theater, this is known as a cue-to-cue rehearsal. The more "produced" a service becomes or the more "moving parts," the more essential the cue-to-cue rehearsal becomes.

A sample flowchart is below. Print a copy for everyone involved in the service and run through each transition before the service starts. This will reduce confusion and the resulting anxiety. You might take the opportunity to pray together that God would be glorified through your efforts to reach people like Sally and Tom!

Traditional Worship




Prelude- organ


Screen blank

Welcome, announcements


Slide #4
Handheld mic 1

Stand and greet


Slide #5
Handheld mic 1

Responsive reading


Handheld mic 1

"Christ the Lord Is Risen" (4 vss)


With choral tag



Slide #7
Handheld mic 2
Choir mics on

Choir anthem:

"The Day of Resurrection"



CD track 1
Slides #7-10
Choir mics on

Offertory Prayer


Screen blank

Offering, solo: "Come Before Him"


Screen blank
Lectern mic on

Message: Pardon!          


Slides #10-14
Video cue: Second Scripture reading
Lights out
Pulpit mic on

"Nothing but the Blood" (4vss)



Piano & Organ
Handheld mic 2



Screen blank
Handheld mic 3



Screen blank
Lights on full

— Wes Olds is an ordained elder in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Article originally published May 2014.