Designing Worship: The Service and Bulletin

Composing the Worship Service:

My approach to preparing worship has some of the feel of Liturgy, but actually what I do is highlight the place of the Word of God in our worship. We use it to hear God's voice speaking to us both confronting and assuring. The service is unified around a scriptural theme and composed as a dialog between God and his people. Use of the Scriptures is often a way of expressing our response to Him. The Psalms are an important resource for worship and frequently used.

At the same time, I try to make the service one that engages our hearts, our minds, our feelings and emotions. It should feel natural to worship God. There is a place in worship for our "humaness" and "warm and fuzzy emotions" like joy or tears. The use of contemporary songs as well as the more traditional hymns, times of open prayer, and opportunities for the expression of our thanksgiving or concerns help to encourage this.

There is a undefinable sense of the Spirit's presense in worship that only He can bring. A service needs flexability and responsiveness for His leading to take place. Some may suggest that to order worship inhibits this, but I feel using the "elements" God has given in his word in an "orderly" fashion actually encourages this.

Robert E. Webber suggests in his book, Blended Worship, that worship should have four "acts," in two categories:
The Word - where we: 1. enter into God's presence and 2. hear God speak
The Table - where we 3. respond in thanksgiving and are dismissed to love and serve. His book is recommended reading.

I have several ways to order Sunday morning worship: These are to facilitate worship and while appearing somewhat like "High Church litergy," they are actually creative arrangements of Scripture readings, the elements of worship: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication, and responses in song or prayer. God's word and not the form should take the prominent place. Using a variety of forms keeps them fresh, and the focus on worship rather than form.

Worship Services

There is a definite "style" to the service, that is partly a matter of having a sense of the emotional flow of the service, and partly a matter of God's Spirit leading during worship. Scripture Readings (including the call to worship) are carefully chosen to relate to the theme and Sermon text - either as "point" or "counterpoint;" Music is both contemporary and traditional; and congregational participation is frequent and significant - with people often reading Scriptures, sharing thanksgiving, or leading in prayers.

The Communion Service begins with a Service of the Word with a Hymn of Praise (Te Deum) and Readings from the Old Testament, New Testament and Gospels, and then a Communion. Following meditation on the meaning of the Lord's supper, and often a time of confession, congregation receives communion either seated and served by the elders, standing in a large circle passing the bread, or coming forward to receive the elements. A common loaf is used, and the wine may be served in cups or by dipping the bread in the wine and eating it ("In tincture"). There is much value in cultivating a proper sense of celebration in this portion of worship, as well as careful explanation of its meaning.

Theme Verse:Preparing the service begins with selecting a verse. This Scripture is the theme for the service. It is often a good verse for meditation. It may or may not be derived from the Sermon text or topic.

The Readings: The Service uses a lot of Scripture - perhaps the key element. Leader / Congregation readings are frequently used. These are carefully selected (usually from the Psalms) and often spread through the service, or "echoed". Selection of Psalms and other readings usually follows a study of the message text and development of the theme(s). Sometimes portions of the Psalm or a reading not actually read may actually contain the "hook" that connects it to the text or theme. Sometimes the concordance leads the way to appropriate secondary readings. Readings may be Responsive Readings, or passages read by someone in the congregation, or from the pulpit. Readings should have a purpose and not just be there for dressing. A worshiper ought to be able to go home and review and reflect on the readings and hymns, as well as the sermon and artwork and be further enriched - even though few will actually make the effort.

The message may be given earlier in the service - allowing the correct response of worship to flow from it. My messages often include "storytelling" elements to make the Scripture text come to life.

The Hymns and Spiritual Songs In selecting hymns and songs, pay attention to the words and reflect on how they relate to the service. Be alert for allusions to Scriptures in the Hymns. Our singing is a blend of traditional hymns and contemporary songs and represent our common faith with God's people past and present. Interestingly, I usually select several hymns for each spot and let the pianist chose one. The contemporary songleader also selects his pieces with thematic input, and trys to develop a worshipful flow in arranging their order.

Current trends in churches today emphasize the use of an overhead projector, a group of musicians and singers leading the singing, and contemporary songs and Scripture songs, usually at the beginning of worship, with a prayer time and a sermon. Use of the hymn book has declined significantly. However, A good hymnbook is a Christian's greatest devotional guide. Dr. Robert G. Rayburn points out that it is a "prayer" book containing a depository of devotion from all ages of Christian history, a popular commentary on the creeds of Christendom and probably gives a more balanced view of Christian life and doctrine than do most works of theology. There is real value in pastors and people knowing their hymnbook, and in continuing to regularly use hymns, and not just the few familiar ones that make up the bulk of most churches' worship. I prefer to strive for a balance of contemporary and traditional singing in worship. Prayer is an important part of worship. There are times set aside for individuals to lead the congregation in prayer and times for silent intercession. Seasons of prayer, with people leading as they feel lead are also common. Sometimes we close them with the Lord's prayer. Frequently there is prayer in some form attached to each of the above elements of worship. This is the means by which we speak to God.

Graphic Design Principles

Overall Appearance: The Bulletin is photocopied on both sides of plain white photocopy paper and folded lengthwise to a 4.25 x 11 size. It has a distinctive shape different from most churches.

LOGO: A constant feature - showing unity of Christ and His people through the use of a common "C" and linked "H's". The Church's motto is enclosed by the "C" - the inner Logo uses a script-like "Christ" and a more formal "Church", the latter in slightly smaller point size, linked together to show the unity and personal relationship between the Lord and His people. "Presbyterian Church in America" is placed at the bottom of the cover to show our denominational affiliation.

Cover Design Area: In this area of the bulletin is placed an piece of specially designed clip & typographical artwork in an attempt to visualize either a key verse from the Service/ Sermon, a related passage, or the theme of the service. Cover art is intended not simply to be decorative, but to draw the eye, and then the mind into the service, sometimes in an enigmatic way, and engaging the heart by giving a "emotional" impact to the Scripture text. This artwork has a secondary value at being a "hook" for the memory in regard to the service and sermon. Both contemporary and traditional "symbols" and "icons" are often used. Constrained to "Black and White and greyscale" by the printing method (photocopying) - a variety of graphic styles are used. Elements of the design and usually the fonts used are carried over into the Theme verse, headings and the artwork separating the Service and Announcement sections. Longer passages are often difficult to use on the cover. Sometimes the verse overflows into the theme verse section.

Inner Bulletin: A balanced appearance - keep from being too busy, with clear "separation" between the Worship and Announcement sections using visually different font styles for them (formal vs. casual, etc), boxes, bullets, centering, white space, etc. Generally three fonts are used for the inside: One for Headings (Often used for the Cover and Theme verse unifying the document.) A second for Worship text (Usually Ariel - note the use of different weights and point sizes) kept as large and readable as possible. And a third for the Announcements - though sometimes other fonts are used for specific announcements. Variety of layout is used from week to week.

Theme Verse: Usually it is in the same font used on the cover and in the worship headings. It is generally in a large point size and stands out with white space around it. Graphic elements to make it prominent are often used. Passages are sometimes truncated. It ought to catch the eye first.

Interior Art is often found as a divider between the Worship and Announcements - usually decorative, it frequently may be a scaled down version of the cover, or contain similar elements to reinforce the theme and unify the document. Sometime just decorative "Dingbats" or "Wing DIngs" or other religious "icons" are used. In today's visual/ graphics oriented culture - more work needs to be done by Christians to restore and expand a Christian "Iconography".

I served as Associate Pastor of Christ Church for 16 years, from 1979 through 1995. Christ Church was originally Lake Stevens Presbyterian Church, and is now called Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church. I would like to acknowledge the role Pastor John Pickett has had in the development of worship in this congregation.

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