One of the never ending searches that I am engaged in is the search for a comprehensive worship planning tool, ultimately something online that is accessible by a variety of people. I have wandered through the web again and again, trying out option after option, only to discover that none of them quite meets my needs. There are some good tools available, but none really offer a space for creatively creating worship experiences in a variety of traditions.
At the most basic level, the tools for planning a worship service are simple. One needs a database which contains a calendar of service dates and times, a place to name an overall theme for the service, the scripture that the service will focus, and storage for the other liturgical elements — songs, hymns, prayers, etc. Ideally, it should allow for a display of this information in some sort of visual matrix so that one can get a sense of what is happening over time.
The problem with most online services is that they tend to focus solely on contemporary worship, and are as much scheduling tools and resources to assist in creating unique experiences. So, what I find most often is that I go back to the same basic tool — a simple spreadsheet created in Google Docs which is then shared with our planning team.
This spreadsheet is very simple, and includes the date, a listing of special evens in the service, the scripture fucsion, the sermon title or theme, who the lay readers are, notes on special things in the service, and given our context, a listing of the Titan’s home games, which affect our worship attendance. It’s very simple but very functional, and I use the color coding to identify past weeks, sermon series, and special seasons.
The online services that are designed to assist with worship planning have one drawback for my church — there is a cost involved that we can’t afford to pay — so we generally use the basic “free” versions of these services. These services allow one to create a template of the typical worship service, to insert hymns or songs in the service from their database of collected songs, and to manage the worship team schedule more efficiently. However, in the end most of them are simply focused on filling the slots of a template with elements, and none of these services is particularly creative or collaborative in helping folks to share worship ideas.
So, what tools do you use in planning and organizing your worship services? Are their specific web sites that you think are helpful, or are you floundering as I am? What would the ideal worship planning site look like in your opinion?