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How many people should be a part of worship of worship planning?  This is  question we started asking ourselves a little over a year ago.  We are a diverse staff:

Pastor – grew up Independent Baptist in New Jersey
Music Minister – grew up United Methodist in Memphis/Dallas
Youth Minister – grew up Non-Denominational in Puerto Rico
Now, us city boys are serving a relatively rural church in NC.  It would come as no surprise to learn that our illustrations didn’t always “work,” shall we say.  After attending a worship conference a couple of years ago, I suggested that we start a “creative arts team” to help us plan in worship.  The idea had been birthed after reading a book by Bob Rognlien entitled Experiential Worship (you can read a couple of articles of Bob’s summarizing the book by clicking here).
We decided to get more people involved with our worship planning, calling this group “The Incubator.”

in·cu·ba·tor (ĭn’kyə-bā’tər) n. A place or situation that permits or encourages the formation and development, as of new ideas.

We invited about 15 people in our congregation that we felt had creative talents and abilities of all types (musicians, painters, interior decorators, florists, writers, poets, technology people, children’s ministry representatives, youth ministry reps., etc.) and brought them together with this assignment:

“We want to invite you to be a part of a team of people whose primary responsibility would be to dream (and dream big).  About 6 weeks before the start of a sermon series, this team would come together to brainstorm ideas about how we could enhance our worship (song selections, sanctuary decoration, use of drama or video, ways to engage the congregation in response, how to engage our children, etc.).  The sky would be the limit, as this team would not be responsible for implementing the ideas, just dreaming big.”

About 4-6 weeks prior to the start of a series, the pastor will send out a list of his titles, scriptures, and main themes for all the sermons in the series (yes, this takes more work on the part of the staff to think ahead).  Then, we give the group a week or so to brainstorm on their own before coming together for a corporate brainstorming session.

We really try to create an environment where creativity can flourish – we don’t judge ideas or throw them out because they are too crazy during these meetings – we just let imaginations run wild (if the best way to illustrate a sermon is to have a helicopter land in the parking lot during the service, we put that idea down).  Now later, as the staff reviews the suggestions, we obviously have to narrow down possibilities to the resources we have available.  By allowing people to think WAY outside the box, though, it gives birth to other ideas that may be more doable.

After a year of trying this, we have seen some really good results and have had some really meaningful times of worship. If you are more interested in the specifics of how we do it (the forms we send out and things like that), let me know and I would be happy to get more information to those who might find it useful.  We have found that the more people involved in this process, the better.