Pastors explore best practices in worship design

June 10, 2019 | | GNJ News

Are you looking for strategies to refresh your worship planning process? Would a five-week sermon series, worship guide, and small group curriculum allow you to focus on other aspects of ministry this summer?

The Greater NJ Annual Conference developed resources to help you “Breakthrough” with creative and relevant worship plans. And they are free for you to use and adapt at

Gina Yeske, Director of Small Groups and Lan Wilson, Director of Worship recently led a workshop on the “Road Trip” series from the Breakthrough program. Pastors learned how to more fully utilize the resources while sharing ideas and best practice with each other.

According to Wilson, The Road Trip material is ideal for summer or other Ordinary Time when people are traveling. The series is designed so that different leaders can step in from week to week while maintaining a sense of continuity.

The workshop opened with worship, incorporating elements of the Breakthrough model. From the gathering praise music and liturgy, to a sermon preached by Rev. Jonathan Campbell, the service presented opportunities for creating a meaningful order of worship. Rev. Yeske led an extemporaneous communion liturgy that connected with the sermon and other parts of worship.

Wilson later pointed out that while there are no prescribed words, a good Communion practice includes a Call, Invitation, Prayer of Thanksgiving, Words of Institution, and Consecration of Elements. Wilson said that Bishop John Schol encourages leaders to ask, “How does the Prayer of Thanksgiving reflect what’s already been said in worship and connected to what is next as people go out into the world?”

Breakthrough uses a sermon preparation strategy developed by Rev. Andy Stanley that incorporates five motions. Workshop participants used the method to prepare a sermon outline based on the “Great Commission” in Matthew 28: 16-20. The format follows the pattern: me, we, God, you, we.

Starting with a personal story (me), the preacher might talk about being sent somewhere to complete a mission. Participants then considered various focus points of the story to several profiles of people in their congregation (we).

According to Wilson, it is important to include different angles because people are going through different experiences at any given time. “How would five people you know respond to the Great Commission?” he asked.

He continued, “Look at disciple making through parishioners’ eyes.” For example in preaching about the text of “the Great Commission,” pastors might address different assignments or responsibilities that people are tasked with that are perhaps overwhelming. Or the preacher might talk about how mission and ministry is lived out through the faith community.

The third movement of the sermon is the exegesis, exploring what the Word says historically and connecting it to our context today (God).

After unpacking the Scripture, what is the challenge for the congregation based on the message (you)? What is the personal commission for each person who hears the sermon?

Finally, what is the hope found when we live out God’s challenge in the world (we)? What will the impact be as the church makes disciples for all the world who follow the teachings of Jesus?

Wilson suggested that using this format is a great way to share a message through a joint process. He selected ten people to share the sermon in two different ways. Each person quickly prepared one of the movements and then brought it together with the other four people on the team. Even though each person developed a section independently and from his or her own perspective, the final result was a meaningful and coordinated message.

The sermons in the Breakthrough series connect directly with a companion small group discussion resource. The small group can meet after church or later in the week. Yeske explained, “The program is set up to utilize the sermon as the “DVD” or introduction in preparation for the small group.”

Each session in a five-week series builds on the sermon topic and includes a prayer, icebreaker activity, discussion questions, and next steps with a measure of accountability. Breakthrough is designed “as a template for laity to feel empowered to facilitate without deep study and preparation,” Yeske explained.

Wilson and Yeske are passionate about helping planning teams reimagine worship and small groups. They encourage church leaders to break out of traditions that have become idols. Those interested in learning more can contact Wilson or Yeske go to the Breakthough webpage and download he material. More workshops are also scheduled starting this summer.