How to Transition Well
Going smoothly from worship into the Word
Of all the elements in your weekend worship service, which do you think is most important? Those of us who preach will say the sermon, of course. But ask any worship pastor, and he or she will have a different opinion. But instead of those two main pieces working against each other, what if they worked together to be more fluid and connected?
The best way to make sure both your worship and sermon are the best they can be is by transitioning well from one to the other. Of all the elements in your weekend worship service, this may be the most overlooked.
You will spend a lot of time in sermon prep each week. You will spend a lot of time preparing the set list for worship, making sure the band is practiced and prepared. You will even spend some time in making sure announcements are interesting and engaging. But what you may miss is moving from one to the other smoothly.
When you transition well, these elements complement, rather than compete with, one another. When you don’t transition so well, both your worship and message can fall flat. With an awkward transition, you may be struggling to get your audience focused in the first five minutes. Wouldn’t you rather keep the atmosphere of worship moving along into your sermon?
Meet With Your Worship Pastor
It is imperative that you have a good relationship with your worship pastor. Of all the staff members on your team, this one relationship may be the most important. How the two of you get along will set the tone for your weekly services. It will also allow you to support each other in your roles.
How is your relationship with your worship pastor? Do you have similar tastes in worship styles? Do you agree on most things? Are there any lingering arguments from past worship services that didn’t go well?
Meet together weekly to discuss the worship set and sermon. Provide an outline of upcoming sermon topics and main texts as far out as you can. On a weekly basis, make sure the worship pastor knows the main theme and direction of your sermon so he or she can prepare a worship set that supports it instead of working against it.
Make sure you also go over the expected transition you have in mind. It may be a prayer that leads directly into your message. It could include a break for offering and announcements. There is no one right or wrong way to do it, but knowing beforehand will allow you to plan and make it as smooth as possible.
Determine Your Flow
Each congregation will respond differently to worship. What’s the best for your situation? Some churches elect to open the altars during the worship set, while others wait until the end of service. There’s no one universal way to do things, so make sure you understand how your people respond.
Exercising discipline in how you transition from worship to the Word can be powerful.
Now, get practical about the transition. Who will pray at the end of the worship set? Do you use a bumper video to transition to the sermon or go directly onto the stage? How will you or the lead communicator that morning get up on stage, and do you need a stagehand to bring out a table, a chair, or any other objects? These are important questions to ask before Sunday morning.
One way to do this well is to end the worship set with a word of prayer from an associate pastor who then gives one announcement or testimony before transitioning into the offering. While the plates are being passed, have an announcement video play.
The final video clip should be high energy and engaging, either announcing an upcoming event or leading directly into the message. Then the lead communicator can head directly to the stage at the end of the video with excitement and energy, reinforcing quickly the last announcement before moving straight into the sermon.
Another way to transition well is to place the offering either earlier or at the end of service. Then, at the end of the last worship song, the leader can say a short prayer while the lead communicator moves on stage to go right into the Word.
Have a Plan
Now that you have an idea for how you want to transition, come up with a plan for it. Make sure everyone is on board. Whoever has a responsibility during that transition needs to be in the room. That includes you or the main communicator that week, the worship pastor and whoever is leading worship, any associate pastor who may be covering announcements, and any technical team members who will handle sound, video, and light transition. With so many moving parts, make sure each person knows his or her role.
The best way to do that is to have a time sheet for every service. Write out the start time for the service and how long it will take for each song, each announcement, the sermon, and any other production piece. With a time sheet in hand, and a clock to help manage time, no one should have an excuse for going over.
Planning in advance does not prohibit the move of God in your service. In fact, having a plan beforehand means you can focus on the Spirit more intently. You actually have the ability to change up more easily.
Put your plan into action. Find a pattern, and stick to it. There are times when you may want to switch things up to keep it fresh, but consistency not only helps your team execute with excellence, it helps your congregants anticipate what comes next and get into the flow themselves.
There will be times you need to make changes, like special services or when you have a guest speaker. On those weeks, planning is even more important.
But exercising discipline in how you transition from worship to the Word can be powerful. You will find a more receptive audience. You will see a more prepared soil. And you will have more productive salvation invitations. When you transition well and the service flows smoothly, your church will stay in the Spirit and be ready to hear and respond.