Five Steps to Develop Your Music Plan – Part 2

Have you been there before?

After leading a powerful worship set, you come to the end of the final song. It’s a
quiet moment of worship and the congregation fully engaged and focused on God, when . . .

. . . the “announcements guy” comes out with a big laugh and smile, and sets a completely different tone from the one you just created.

On their own, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about either of these worship service elements. But back to back in your worship service, the light and fun announcement time quickly jerks the congregation out of the moment like going from 1st gear to 3rd gear without pushing in the clutch.

Last week we kicked off this new series on Five Questions every worship leader needs to ask each week to help them develop their Music Plan for Sunday.

Your music plan is more than just your set list… it’s your map for making sure that the Sunday service isn’t just “three songs and a sermon”, but is a powerful, transformative time of actual worship.

Today we’re going to look at the 2nd question for developing your music plan, and this one is all about creating the right “flow” in the service: Read more

Five Steps to Develop your Music Plan – Part 1

Developing a Music Plan is one of your most important roles each week. No – I’m not talking about selecting the songs. That’s only part of it.

I’m talking about creating a plan for how the music that you have selected is going to fit into the overall flow of the worship order, help create moments of life transformation, empower members of your team to step up to new levels of leading, and engage your congregation in passionate worship. You know… the easy stuff – ha!

The songs are important, but it’s your Music Plan that will pull all the pieces together and make for a powerful worship set each week.  Read more

Help Your Congregation “Feel It” this Christmas

Have you ever noticed how, when leading worship, you and your team can be totally immersed in the moment, but when you look around the congregation looks like they’re stuck in line at the grocery store?

Arms crossed. Faces stiff. iPhone out. Heart disengaged.

I’m sure that’s never happened to you, right? 🙂

Why can you and I be so “in the moment”, and the congregation be so “out of it”? Read more

How to Keep Your Congregation Engaged this Christmas

“Why did we do that song on Sunday?”

I’ve asked myself that question in frustration before… how about you?

What seemed like a good idea in the music planning meeting, didn’t turn out all that great in the service on Sunday.

Maybe it was too hard, too high, too hip… whatever the reason, it didn’t connect. And as a result both me and the congregation left the service thinking, “Why did we do that song?”

Remember — when planning our worship sets, we’re not there to sing songs, but to create moments. And that’s especially important this time of year as we sing Christmas songs that have tremendous power, yet at the same time can come across mundane and boring without proper planning. Read more

Creating “Moments” in Your Christmas Music

You’ve heard me say it before — our goal in worship on Sunday isn’t to sing songs, but to create life-transforming moments (thanks to Tom Jackson for introducing me to this principle).

This is especially true as we’re preparing music for the Christmas season. But oftentimes, the temptation is to give Christmas music the “same old treatment” that it received last year.

Doing the same arrangements of the same songs on the same Sunday’s we did them last year.

But the story of Christmas is powerful and life-transforming. And the music of Christmas can be as well, if we’ll answer these 3 questions as we plan: Read more

When (and How) to Creatively Introduce Christmas Music

Jason HatleyWow! The response to last week’s Planning Powerful Christmas Services Free Report has been incredible. Over 350 Worship Leaders downloaded the Free Report last week which tells me one thing . . .

Christmas is on our minds!

And it should be. After all, the retail world is already “selling” Christmas, and you and I need to be “planning” Christmas, too. Which reminds me . . .

Last November, my wife and I went to do a little shopping the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. When we walked into the store Bing Crosby’s White Christmas was blaring over the sound system.

Don’t get me wrong . . . I love the song, but 2 days before Thanksgiving strikes me as a bit too early. After all, I don’t want to skip over the Thanksgiving Day meal. Am I alone on that one?

I know why the department store did it. Because they sell more merchandise when Bing is crooning. But, for you and I, that’s not why we play Christmas music.

We do it to celebrate the birth of our Savior. And this time of year, a question I always get from worship leaders and pastors alike is, “How soon is too soon to start singing Christmas music in my church?”

As you might imagine . . . I have a little system for that here at The Journey 🙂

So, in the spirit of giving, here is my guide for introducing and selecting music for the Christmas Season:

Read more

Avoid these Top 3 Worship Planning Mistakes

I’ll shoot straight with you . . . I don’t like it when someone tells me that I’m making a mistake.

Call it foolish pride I suppose. Can you relate?

After all, no one’s perfect and I know I make mistakes (just ask my wife and she’ll tell you all about it :-).

But, usually after I get over my bruised ego and damaged pride and I realize that the person telling me about a mistake I’m making really has my best interest at heart, my grumblings are replaced with gratitude. After all, I’ve been in ministry long enough to know that I don’t know it all and I need people to help along the way.

What if I told you that you are making a BIG mistake in your worship planning that was keeping you from: Read more

What Can Your Church learn from the Olympic Opening Ceremony

Did you catch the Olympic Opening Ceremony over the weekend?

It was hard to miss (at nearly 5 hours long), but I think the ceremony actually holds a great lesson for you and I.

If you watched the Opening Ceremony you know the work, effort, creativity, and planning that went into the show. It didn’t come together in a day, much less a week, a month, or even a year (they started planning the London Opening Ceremony in 2007 – wow!).

The show was written by a group of skilled writers. The music was composed and sung by British legends. When the show was finally written, the most talented singers, actors and dancers were cast.

After months (even years) of rehearsal and technical planning finally that one show is performed, and if it’s great, it will be talked about for years to come.

Now – contrast that to what you and I do every week.

In most churches, the worship order is written not months, but days before the service (sometimes hours – ha!). The best talent isn’t available when the volunteer positions are assigned. The budget of the church is nowhere near the deep pockets of the Opening Ceremony (they spent $42 million). When the service is finished, you put it to rest and start all over again.

Seems a little unfair doesn’t it? Here’s the rub . . .

Most churches live in a world where they wake up on Monday and it occurs to them, “Hey, we have a worship service this Sunday! We should start planning.”

I call that the Week-to-Week Mindset. You know you have it when you just can’t see past this Sunday to plan for next Sunday, or the next month of Sundays.

It’s a terrible place to be in ministry, constantly battling to bring the service to life this week, feeling the frustration of not being able to relieve the stress and get ahead. It leads to burn-out, stale services, and missed opportunities.

If I may, I believe this is an area where the church NEEDS to learn from the entertainment world – be it the Olympics, Hollywood, or Broadway.

Now – I know that the worship services in our churches are not the same as these shows. In fact, our services are more important. The decisions that people make to follow Christ in our churches every week far outweigh the entertainment value of a show or concert.

But because of the importance of the work we do, we need strong systems for planning our services, just as our counterparts in show business do.

What would it look like if you had a preaching calendar that laid out what you would teach on each Sunday over the course of the next year? Think of the freedom that comes with that kind of prayer-soaked planning.

What would you be able to do to teach God’s word more effectively if you knew exactly the types of creative elements in a service 4-6 weeks from now? Would you find a great testimony? Find new media to use? Empower the creative people on your team to brainstorm ideas for how to make each Sunday life transformational?

Too many of us have a “what do we NEED to do” mentality of Sunday, as opposed to a “what COULD we do” mentality?

The first says, “As long as we have some songs and a sermon, we’ll be fine.”

The latter says, “What could we do with what God has given us to make this Sunday something special?”

To do that requires time, prayer and planning . . . it requires a desire to break the Week-to-Week mentality and get to work on not just this Sunday, but the next month or even year ahead.

Here are 3 things you can do to get started breaking the Week-to-Week mentality:

#1 – Hold a 30-minute (or less) meeting with your Pastor this week to discuss this Sunday’s service.

#2 – Plan a time in the next 7 days to plan for the next 2-3 Sundays. Put it on your calendar. Prayerfully plan worship orders, song selection, creative elements, etc. Discuss it with your pastor.

#3 – Create a system that will allow you to plan your services weeks, months, even a year in advance.

A good system is the key to breaking the Week-to-Week Mentality.

In my new book, Engage: A Guide to Creating Life-Transforming Worship Services, which I co-authored with my Lead Pastor, Nelson and I teach you the fundamentals for developing a worship planning system that will keep you planned in advance and relieve the stress of weekly thinking. We wrote this book to help you plan, implement and evaluate effective, life-changing worship services.

Engage is based on 9 years of planning and evaluating these systems at The Journey and in hundreds of churches around the country.

I encourage you to pick up a copy for yourself and anyone on your staff who is involved in the worship planning process.

Engage is available in bookstores everywhere. But, the best price is on
* Engage – Paperback Link
Engage – Kindle Link

This small investment in your team can make a big difference in your Sunday service.

Your partner in ministry,



PS – You can create life transformational moments EVERY Sunday with thePlanning Worship Services for Life Transformation Workshop.

In this powerful, six hour workshop, my Lead Pastor Nelson Searcy and I will teach you the proven principles and practices that have made The Journey Church one of the most innovative and effective churches in America. 

In this resource you will learn:

  • How to maximize the worship time you have each weekend
  • How the pastor and worship leader can effectively work together
  • How to plan dynamic and effective worship orders
  • How to use media, drama and testimony that captures the heart of your people
  • How to create a healthy and focused team environment
  • How to use feedback that ‘‘builds up’’ and makes every service better
  • How to plan ahead so you can break the Sunday to Sunday tyranny
  • How to build all the elements of the service around the message
  • And much more!

This 6-hour workshop will teach you proven principles and practices to increase your worship planning effectiveness.

Recorded LIVE, Planning Worship Services for Life Transformation Workshop also includes more than 15 additional resource files, including:  

  • Fill in the blank workshop notes
  • Sample worship orders
  • Sample band notes
  • Sample message transcript
  • Sample planning notes, calendars and assignments
  • Sample ideas and resources
  • And much more!

This is a nuts and bolts resource that will teach you to make the most of your weekly worship times through effective, God-honoring planning.

Secure your 6-CD set here:

Download your copy here and save $100.00:


How much do you “Love” Sunday?

What do Sunday services and peach orchards have in common?  

I’ll explain in a moment, but first would you agree that a prerequisite for every worship leader must is a full-out love of Sunday?

I know, I know . . . sounds simple.  But before you answer . . .

When I say “Love Sunday” I don’t just mean the “20 minutes of glory” that happens when you and I are leading music, the band is rockin’, the Spirit is moving, and we’re on top of the world.

Loving Sunday also means loving the work of preparation for Sunday.  And let’s face it, that’s not always easy to love!

The administrative, the menial, the scheduling, emailing, printing charts, preparing for planning meetings, repairing gear… if we’re honest most of us don’t love those things nearly as much as the “20 minutes of glory”.

Yet, they are just as much a part of a life-transforming Sunday worship service as standing onstage and leading worship.  In fact without them, Sunday would never happen!

So let me ask again . . . do you love Sunday?

Some worship leaders (by my definition) don’t.

They only want what I call “the goody”?

That is, they only want to be onstage leading, and could really do without the hassle of the administrative prep work that goes into making Sunday great.

They want the fruit without the work.  But it just doesn’t work that way.

I grew up on a farm, and one of my favorite things in life are homegrown peaches.

My grandfather owned a peach orchard with hundreds of trees in it, and during the summer that’s where I worked.  It was grueling, hot, sweaty work.  The job came complete with wasps and sunburns (and that was just before lunch).

It was hard work.  But you know . . . I think one of the reasons I love peaches so much is because I had to work for them.  I sweat over them.  I had some skin in the game long before I took the first bite.

The same is true for us and our love of Sunday.  Long before we are able to enjoy the fruit of Sunday, we have to learn to do the work of Sunday.

It reminds me of a quote I read recently by Jim Rohn:

He writes: “Somebody said you have to love what you do, but that’s not necessarily true. What is true is that you have to love the opportunity. The opportunity to build life, future, health, success …. Knocking on someone’s door or making that extra call may not be something you love to do, but you love the opportunity of what might be behind that door or call.”

I may not be crazy about all of the tasks I do each week, but I absolutely LOVE the opportunity that completing those tasks brings.  And the truth is that leading with excellence on Sunday begins with pursuing excellence in everything I put my hands to during the week.

That’s what it means to love Sunday.  And that’s what it means (in my book) to be called as a worship leader in the church.

So . . . “Do you love Sunday?”  I hope so!


PS – Leading music each week is only 10% (at best) of what you contribute to your church. It’s the other 90% that defines the course of your ministry career!

As a worship leader God has given you a unique calling, and loving Sunday is just part of it. In The Call of Worship Leader resource, you will discover the four key areas to your calling, and how they determine you overall effectiveness in ministry.

Whether you are a new worship leader, considering a call to worship leading, or have been leading worship for years, this resource will help you discover:

  • Why the call is the single greatest determiner of how effective a worship leader you can be
  • What the call really means and how to know if you have it
  • The four key elements that are in your call and why you must develop all four
  • How you can immediately begin equipping artists for ministry in your church
  • Three ministry-defining truths that you must learn for effective leadership in your church
  • How you can build and lead winning ministry team leaders
  • How you can cultivate and inspire passion for the Sunday service . . . in you and your team!
  • And much more!

And if you aren’t absolutely satisfied with this resource (or any of my resources for that matter) simply return your product within 365 days for a prompt and courteous refund.

Download your copy here

Jason Hatley
Pastor of Worship Arts
The Journey Church

TUESDAY MORNING INSIGHTS is Jason Hatley’s free weekly training resource specifically designed to provide you as a worship leader with proven principles, tips and practices to help you lead a healthy and thriving Worship Arts Team.

About Jason Hatley and Worship Leader Insights In 2002, Jason Hatley helped launch The Journey Church in New York City, directing the programming of their worship services. He serves as the Pastor of Worship Arts and built from scratch The Journey’s worship arts team, a group of over 200 artists and technicians who develop and implement the creative and technical elements at weekly Sunday services. The Journey has been recognized as one of Outreach Magazines fastest growing and most creative churches.

Jason has been a worship leader since 1996. He invests in Worship Pastors around the country through interactive coaching networks and worship planning resources. He has been a featured break-out speaker at the Willow Creek Arts Conference, The Purpose Drive Worship Conference, as well as seminars around the country. He has a B.M. in Sacred Music Performance from Appalachian State University.
Jason is the author of Engage: A Guide to Creating Life-Transforming Worship Services and Revolve: A New Way to See Worship as well as over a dozen worship leader personal and ministry growth resources.

Jason and his family currently live in Boca Raton, FL where he serves as the Pastor of Worship Arts at The Journey’s newest campus in South Florida.

Have you said these Five Dangerous Words?

CAUTION! Uttering these five words is certain to bring disaster to your services and your team. It will create unnecessary stress, and without a doubt lead to confusion and missed opportunities.

It may even be bad for the environment and make puppies sick.

OK – so maybe those last two are a stretch (ha!), but I believe the other side-effects will definitely happen if you say these five dangerous words.

What are they? I hesitate to put them in writing, but for your sake, let me share them. They are: Read more