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.


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


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