Planning a service can take a lot of hard work and organization, from writing the sermon to picking the right music to coordinating all the volunteers needed to make it possible. While you don’t need to be planning out every tiny detail, you also shouldn’t be winging every aspect of your service the day-of either.

(We consistently see churches swing a little too far in one or the other direction!)

To give you a hand at finding that happy middle ground, here’s a list of some best practices for planning your service:

1) Make a plan in advance; make adjustments in the moment.

Planning is one of the most spiritual things a leader can do. Have you ever thought about that? Developing a plan is one of the core ways that we, as leaders, shepherd our flock carefully.

Now it’s still wise to allow for necessary, Spirit-led adjustments in the moment, and to remain flexible. But developing a plan helps your team prepare effectively, keeps your team organized, allows you to lead from intentionality rather than urgency, and keeps your overall pace at a manageable level.

2) Prioritizing excellence requires you to give your team time to prepare.

Rarely can a team produce their best at a moment’s notice. For most people, excellence comes when they know what their tasks are in advance, can prepare for those tasks ahead of time, and can even prepare their own heart for their role in the service.

If you’re not sure how much time would be best, ask your team! Giving them time to prepare shows that you care, and allows them to serve with the best of the passion and skills God has given them.

3) Stop texting your volunteers for their availability.

Texting may seem convenient, but in reality, tracking all those details week after week eats away too much of your time. Instead of texting each volunteer for their availability and then having to text them back after you’ve made your schedule, make it easier on yourself and them by utilizing a Church Management Software (ChMS).

Through a ChMS, you can have volunteers input their availability in advance, and the system will automatically notify them when they are scheduled to serve.

4) Communicate your sermon content as early as you can.

The earlier you can communicate your sermon content, the better! This will allow your team to have plenty of time to pick out music, Scripture readings, and special elements that match your sermon content and creates a cohesive service from start to finish.

Overall sermon topics should generally be defined at the start of a series, and a great goal is for your sermon content to be planned and communicated 1-2 weeks in advance.

5) Say “thank you.”

Encouraging your team is just as important in service planning as the elements you include in the service. You don’t want your team to become a revolving door of people. Building a solid team that is engaged in the work that God has called you to do requires that you encourage your team members regularly and show appreciation for what they do.

When you see a team member serving, take time to genuinely thank them. And it never hurts to schedule regular time in your schedule to give them a personal gesture of appreciation (handwritten thank you card, a small gift card, a text, etc.).

6) Always have a follow-up plan.

One of the most important pieces of planning for your service is your follow-up plan. How will you connect with new people that just experienced your service? Will people clearly understand what the next step is and how to take it?

Churches with a clear follow-up plan are much more likely to build long-term relationships with guests. Believe it or not, it’s actually something that can be automated!


If you are not naturally a planner, all this might seem a bit overwhelming. It may feel that way initially, but as you make these things part of your routine, you will find yourself with more time and less stress.

Ultimately, this is all about helping your church thrive and fulfill its mission to encourage believers and bring the Gospel to those that are not yet saved! The Holy Spirit has the power to work in our planning just as much as He has the power to work in the moment.

Looking for a church management system to support you in effective service planning? Learn how this core feature works in One Church Software’s award-winning, all-in-one software for churches.