Building a Worship Service

clockHow much time does it take to build a worship service? The answer depends on location, style, and setting. However, the number of hours might surprise you. Consider a typical 11:00 worship service at First United Methodist of Lawrenceville.

The worship team plans months in advance. For example, we have already planned each Sunday through the end of the year and have begun discussing 2017. It’s a very soft number, but put down 10 hours for conceiving a worship series along with its component sermons.

The Worship Team meets on a weekly basis for at least an hour. We spend time prayerfully reviewing the past week’s service, asking one another about “God moments” and lessons learned. Then we consider in detail the upcoming services for the next three weeks. So figure 3 hours per service in the planning meetings.

The Sanctuary Choir sings at our 11:00 worship services. The members spend about 2 hours over a 4 week period rehearsing an anthem. 50 members typically sing on any given Sunday morning. So 50 people x 2 hours = 100 hours per anthem.

Smaller groups and ensembles often perform at the services—men’s or women’s choirs, the children’s chorus, the hand bell choir, and others. One could easily add another 25-50 hours for these pieces of special music.

It’s difficult to guesstimate a time value for trained musicians. A lifetime of education, practice, and experience is represented in every worship service.  Each musical piece distills countless hours. For the sake of this blog, say 20 hours per week.

I’ve never clocked how much time it takes to prepare a “normal” sermon because no sermon is normal! Sometimes the sentences flow like the Holy Spirit’s hands are on the keyboard. Other times the words sluggishly pour out like molasses in January. Also, I tend to do research and writing over a period of weeks. For the sake of this conversation, say 6-8 hours of composition.

Then there’s sermon practice. I read over the manuscript repeatedly before rehearsing in the sanctuary. If you’re ever bored, drop in some Wednesday or Thursday morning for a preview of Sunday’s homily. Then I preach it for our Yorkshire Terrier, Sam, several times at home on Saturday. I recite the words while falling asleep Saturday night and go over it again on the way to church Sunday morning. Maybe a total of 3-4 hours.

So many others also invest time in the worship service. Liturgists prepare prayers, creeds, responsive readings, and more. Audio/visual technicians and volunteers operate lights, PowerPoint, and video. Custodial personnel open the building, turn on lights, and check thermostats. Volunteers serve as greeters, ushers, acolytes, altar guild, etc.

I’ve described a typical 11:00 Sunday morning worship service at our congregation; and we have five worship services weekly. What’s the final total? God only knows. Each hour in a worship service represents literally hundreds of hours in preparation.

Cost for a Sunday worship service: countless hours.

Worshiping the living Lord: PRICELESS.

2 thoughts on “Building a Worship Service

  1. We are truly grateful for all of our staff and volunteers. God’s children working together…what a beautiful picture and feeling!!!


  2. Until you are prayfully involved you will never know how much goes into what the Church offers. I pray for unity and involvement. Thanks for all you do. A slight correction the Sanctuary Choir sings at 8:00 and the Chancel Choir at 11:00.


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