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What it Means to be a UMC Pastor

As part of our series, I would like to reflect on the different aspects of serving as your pastor. This week, I would like to talk about worship planning.

Worship planning begins with the long range planning of creating a series of sermons that are linked together to work within a theme. Maybe this comes from my days as a teacher, where learning was often planned by units and chapters.

So far, this year, we have had three of these units which served different areas of Christian life.

  • The first - Our Money Story, focused on stewardship and how we can be more faithful with our personal finances as disciples of Jesus.

  • The second series featured guest speakers to lift up the voices of black preachers during black history month. This series had a focus on social justice.

  • The next series focused on the life and teachings of Jesus and concluded with Holy Week, where we experienced the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, the last supper with his disciples on Maundy Thursday, and the crucifixion on Good Friday. Yesterday was a joyful celebration of the new life that comes with the resurrection of Jesus.

Once a series is planned, we used a cloud based program, Planning Center Services, to enter the order of worship, including the liturgy - prayers, hymns, songs, scripture, and sermon. The musicians, liturgist, AV Team, and others all have access to this planning document and we each enter our information there.

You may wonder why we don't have bulletins anymore. We stopped having them during COVID and honestly, just do not want to go back. They used an enormous amount of staff time as well as an large expense of paper and ink. We have returned our copy machine and are trying to reduce our paper costs, to be good stewards of all that God has given us. There is a link to this document in every Friday's newsletter as well as a QR code on a card in the pews, so that everyone can see what is happening in worship. I am happy to help you find that. This week, we will also have a slide during the announcements that tells you where to find the order of worship and QR code for giving.

I try to plan the sermon themes and scripture readings one to three months in advance, so that the music team has time to plan music that supports the theme. On Monday, I complete the plan for the week, by entering a Call to Worship, a hymn, the Offering Prayer, An Affirmation of Faith, and Communion Liturgy, if we are using a formal liturgy. I listen to the songs and music that have been entered by the music team, which sometimes inform the direction of the sermon. Lu Ann Harrell schedules the liturgists and we usually have some communication on Mondays about that week's liturgy. The other team members use this plan to make slides for worship, plan AV needs, and finish the preparations for worship.

We are working with a blended style of worship, where we combine contemporary music, hymns, gospel songs, and anthems to reflect the diversity of all of God's people. Some people may prefer traditional worship and some may prefer contemporary worship, but at TUMC, we are finding a middle ground, where people can build a foundation of traditional hymns and also learn new songs that gather us as a congregation for worship and prepare our hearts to hear the scripture. We also use traditional creeds and communion liturgy sometimes and more contemporary words at other times.

Our basic pattern of worship focuses on four movements:


  • Prelude - people enter the church and prepare their hearts for worship

  • Welcome and announcements - gathering the life and activities of the church and welcome all to worship

  • Call to worship - we engage in a responsive call to begin our time of worship together

  • Opening song - usually a contemporary song to gather our voices in song

  • Hymn - chosen to reinforce the sermon theme from the UMC Hymnal

  • Children's moment - this actually is an act of proclamation

  • Pastoral Prayer/The Lord's Prayer - a prayer that is prayed based on behalf of the people, then a corporate time of prayer together

  • Offering prayer - giving thanks for all that God has given us

  • Offering music - normally sung by the choir or a soloist

  • Doxology - this is a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God


  • Scripture - we focus on one scripture thematically each week

  • Sermon - taking the words of the scripture and applying it to our current context

Response to the Word

  • Holy communion - a time when the church gathers to remember what Christ has done for us, to bond together as the body of Christ, and to express hope for the resurrection and redemption of all things. We have music that takes place during this time and we all stand and sing on the last chorus of this song. It ends with a prayer after communion

Sending Forth

  • A benediction, or blessing, is given to send the church out into the world.

  • Because He Lives - we end our service with a chorus of this hymn. I am not sure when this began at TUMC, but I would love to know more about how it got started.

  • Postlude - the service concludes the sending forth as it began, with music.

It is important to note that the word "liturgy" means "the work of the people." So, instead of coming and expecting to be entertained, there is an expectation that people will come to worship prepared to give themselves to the work of the liturgy.

If you ever want to talk about any of this and why we do what we do, I would love to meet with you. If you are interested in serving as a liturgist, please contact Lu Ann Harrell. If you are interested in serving communion, please contact Carolyn Wohl.

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