Beyond filling slots: Planning worship

The Alban Institute’s focus this week is worship planning and going beyond the linear ‘who does what when’ model to a more expansive and spacious planning process.

Distinguishing the imaginative/affective conversation from the functional/equipping process allows for diverse ideas and interpretations as well as for careful organization. The discussion among members of the planning team is more spacious; there is no rush to put the ideas into “slots.” In ordering the service, planners base their outlining of the logistics on the needs of the worship service, as well as on local custom.

As we gained skill in practicing this conversation, moving from planning to ordering, then into worship and the reflection that followed, we adopted an acronym for this conversational process: POWR (pronounced “power”). The POWR model goes beyond merely preparing worship services. It includes the work of preparing the people who will worship—through study and discussion, questioning and wondering—so that they might worship more honestly and live more faithfully. This process guides the planners and leaders and congregants, uniting a community of diverse spiritual practices and expressions into a vibrant, worshiping congregation through word and gesture, song and prayer, preaching and sacrament.

The underlying premise of the POWR model is that planning and preparing for worship is holy work. The planning and preparation are themselves opportunities to experience the Holy, to see God’s Spirit at work in us. We are formed by practice.


After Planning and Ordering comes Worship itself, in which all of the liturgical elements are played out. What follows Worship is Reflection, when the worship planning team gathers to “pray and to reflect on what happened in the community’s gathering before God.”

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