Practically speaking, how can a pastor plan services?

When planning services, each pastor should do whatever works best for himself. That said, here is the broad outline of how one pastor does it (Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC).

  1. Determine the preaching schedule for next four months. Who’s preaching? What texts will be preached?
  2. Identify a theological and an anthropological theme within each sermon. These themes will shape the content of the songs and Scripture readings.
  3. Pick fitting Scripture readings from the Old and New Testaments for each service.
  4. Select music that fits the sermon’s themes for each Sunday. If possible, involve other people in both this step and the last one.
  5. Insert prayers of praise, confession, thanksgiving, and intercession into every service. (Click here for a description of each kind of prayer and a rationale for why it’s a good idea to include them in every service.)  
  6. If you involve others in leading the service (e.g. leading music, praying, etc.), contact them in advance and give them the order of service so that they can prepare.
  7. Hold a meeting with the church’s pastoral staff each week to preview the upcoming Sunday service(s). Read the Scripture readings, sing the hymns, and consider the overall coherence and flow of the service. Consider others’ input.