In light of the devastating hurricane and tragic flooding in TX (my state, by the way), the wildfires in Montana, and countless other less-known tragedies that have happened in our respective worlds and church communities, sometimes we find ourselves in a place where we are quickly needing to change directions with our worship service planning. Our previously planned service theme of “Living a Life of Joy!” (while a truly Biblical application of Scripture) might not be what our congregations need in time of unexpected sorrow. While I am a full-time composer right now, I was on church staff for many years, and was heavily involved in service planning. Here are a few of my experiences – you may have had the same experiences:
Have two or three pre-planned services ready and waiting, specifically for situations such as this. Detailed, ready to go, musicians in the know (as much as possible), and then file them away for times when you need to change gears at the last minute. In this same manner, prepare several choir anthems, dust them off occasionally in rehearsal, but save them also for those last minute service changes. I’ve included a list of anthems below that would be appropriate.
Here’s a different experience I had: I would do my service planning about six weeks in advance. This allowed time for all music to be learned, any corresponding videos to be made, etc. On this particular week, not knowing of the events to come, I had planned a service of comfort for those hurting. For six weeks, we worked hard on the music, and prepared special elements to help communicate God’s love and comfort to anyone who might be going through a difficult season in life. On the Saturday evening before this service was scheduled, one of our very beloved church deacons passed away, leaving a young wife and small children. It shook our church community to the core. After the Sunday service, we had countless comments and questions on how we were able to come up with such an appropriate -and polished – service of comfort at such a needed time. Our answer? God knew what was coming and He had graciously guided our planning six weeks before, knowing that our congregation would be broken.
Tragedy and heartache are part of life, and so they will always be a part of our church community. May God grant you grace and wisdom as you navigate the services you never wanted to plan.