How To Prepare For Sunday Worship Monday Through Saturday

Monday through Saturday: How To Get Ready To Lead Worship On Sunday

Sunday’s Coming. How Do You Prepare?

90%. That’s how much of your time goes into preparing to lead worship compared to your on-stage time. If you’re just getting into worship leading, that may come as a surprise.

In another post, I talk about how worship leading is servanthood because most of it is behind the scenes.

That got me thinking, what is my daily schedule the week leading up to a Sunday when I’m leading worship?

I thought that might be valuable to both experienced and new worship leaders, so here it is.

Keep in mind I’m a volunteer worship leader so full-time worship pastors may work differently. But this may be helpful both full-timers and those who lead worship on the side.

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Monday: Create Worship List, Send To Team

You want to give your team plenty of time to prepare for Sunday.

That’s why I create and send out the worship set list as early in the week as possible.

This gives the team time before mid-week rehearsal to listen to the songs and learn their parts. A prepared team leads to an efficient rehearsal time.

For those of you who prepare worship services weeks in advance, the set list might be done. Still, it’s a good idea to communicate expectations for the coming Sunday and give some general encouragement.

For those who plan the set about a week before, your Monday prep might look like this:

  • Look at sermon topic or outline
  • Create worship set list with appropriate songs
  • Print song sheets
  • Run through songs quickly to make sure keys are appropriate for my voice and for the congregation
  • Update Planning Center (our online service scheduling software) with the songs, song sheets, song order, keys, and BPM.
  • Send an email to the team with the song titles and YouTube links, requesting to see Planning Center for song sheets and service details

I’ve found that Monday is a great time to send this communiqué. We have our mid-week rehearsal on Thursdays. If yours is earlier, say, Tuesday, you might even push this communication to the Friday or Saturday before.

If you don’t have a mid-week rehearsal, you might be able to get away with sending the communication on Tuesday.

In short, give your team enough time to prepare for rehearsal.

Time Allotment: 1-2 hours

Tuesday: At-Home Practice

Typically I don’t practice the songs on the same night that I send the worship list to the team. It gets way too late.

So I reserve Tuesday to practice the songs on my own, refine arrangements, learn lyrics (although I admit I don’t memorize lyrics to most songs).

I need to know the songs inside and out so I can lead them at our mid-week practice. Tuesday night is when that happens.

Time Allotment: 1 hour

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Wednesday: Backup Day

Remember that I mostly prep for worship after 9 pm. If something happens in my schedule Tuesday night, I reserve Wednesday to practice at home and get prepared for rehearsal.

Many worship ministries, I presume, hold rehearsal on Wednesday nights. If this is you, your evening will look a lot like my Thursday evening.

Thursday: Rehearsal

A friend of mine said something to me years ago and it stuck with me:

There’s a difference between rehearsal and practice. You practice at home. When you’re with the group, that’s rehearsal.

The point is, no one should use rehearsal time to practice the songs (or even to practice their instrument — because that happens, too!)

Rehearsal is a time to put all the parts together. Each individual part, well, those should be nailed down before rehearsal.

Of course, rehearsal is a great time to come up with new ideas as a team and be creative.

Rehearsal is also an excellent time to practice transitions. It’s easy to just practice the songs, talk in between each one, and move on. But what happens between songs is often more important than the songs themselves.

There’s a high risk for distraction between songs, especially if you, the leader, are looking around wondering who is going to start the next song. Don’t save that decision for Sunday.

If possible, have the sound team rehearse along with you — that is, mix the set as if it were Sunday.

Whatever you need to get ready for Sunday, this is the time.

Time Allotment: 2 hours

Friday/Saturday: Night Off/Practice The Set As Rehearsed

Choose either Friday or Saturday to take completely off worship stuff. By this point, you’ve probably worked on worship the last five or six days straight. What you don’t want is to be either prepping or leading worship seven days a week for eternity.

Choose one day to take off, and the other day, you should do an at-home practice session of the set as rehearsed. There’s nothing worse than getting to church Sunday morning and forgetting the arrangements.

Time Allotment: Shouldn’t take you more than an hour to review the set list.

Sunday: Sound Check, Then You Go On

Some churches don’t have a mid-week practice, and for them, this is when they will do their formal rehearsal.

Hopefully, everyone knows their parts!

For the mid-week rehearsal-ers Sunday is a time to come together, check sound, and run through the set quickly if needed.

At my church, we also have a pre-service meeting with the pastor in which we discuss service order and any last minute changes.

Time Allotment: Including the sound check and two services, Sundays run about five hours, about 50 minutes of that time being onstage.

Total for the week: 11 hours of prep, less than one hour onstage.

All this might seem like quite a production each week, especially for a bunch of volunteers. Honestly, it is. But there’s no excuse for throwing a Sunday worship set together last minute. I’m one of the busiest people I know, so if I can do it, you can, too.

What do you think? If you have different ways to prepare, I’d love to hear about them in the comment section below.

Featured Image: Glenn Carstens-Peters/Unsplash

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5 comments on “Monday through Saturday: How To Get Ready To Lead Worship On SundayAdd yours →

  1. I like these kinds of posts… thanks for sharing. As a lead pastor who leads volunteers for our worship ministry (I’m also filling the worship leader category at the moment too), it’s helpful to remember what their weeks look like.

    Just a suggestion for you… I find it helpful and more efficient to plan a month or so of song sets at a time. This helps me see variety and certain things I might not always see. Plus, if I have certain ideas that don’t all fit in one Sunday, I can easily put them on another Sunday. Because it is a concentrated time, it typically doesn’t take me that much longer than doing one at a time. Then the week of, I go back in and “tweak” and add other guiding elements (readings, prayers, etc.). Just a tip in the “for what it’s worth” category.

  2. I like the suggestion by Ben Miller on preparing a month in advance. At my church, I am a volunteer musician (acoustic or electric as needed), playing about once a month. We have the midweek rehearsal, and I can’t always make it on those nights. In those situations I miss out on the exact arrangements of the songs, but I can usually pick that up in Sunday morning sound check. I do practice the songs at home for hours though. I make sure I have the songs memorized so I don’t have to look down at chord charts while I’m on stage Sunday morning.

    Greatcle! Thanks for sharing this info with us all.

  3. Great word Brad! Yes, there are serious advantages to prepping a month in advance. Something I’ll be considering.

  4. Thank Ben … I really liked how you said you preplan prayer and readings… I enjoy getting the music early in the week as possible, knowing the songs by heart is such an asset, I am just a background singer, inhopes to lead one day! I Love Jesus and worshiping him, It is my passion!
    Lots of good stuff here! Thank You for giving your time to worshiping in spirit and in truth!!!!
    Lovingly Dev Allen

  5. Great article. I follow a very similar set of helps as I prepare for leading worship each week. The only thing I would add that I don’t see in your advice is prayer. I find it so critical to seek God’s input during the whole process, from song selection through actual worship service. Asking God to show me what songs He wants us to sing to Him for each service is very critical. And I also find it important to pray for each team member throughout the week. Also to come together as a team and pray for each other and for God to have His way and be glorified during the worship time is vital. Bathe it all in prayer and ask God for His anointing to do it right each time.

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