One thing that I learned during my time at Willow Creek was the importance of transitions. It’s very easy to get so focused on the content – the various bits and pieces – of what we’re doing on any given weekend that we neglect look at how they all fit together. You can have a great song, or moving video, or some other very profound service element – and an awkward transition can drain the impact from the moment, sometimes completely.
We make sure that we do two complete runthoughs each weekend (actually three, since we do an abbreviated one on Sunday morning, as well). The first one has every single service event, in order, with every single element, including announcements. The only thing that we don’t do as part of that is the message. In addition, we run through all of the lighting, where everyone is staring, the lyrics and Scripture verses, etc… each Thursday at 1:30pm.
This takes planning. I do think that our worship leaders have to have a certain amount of freedom to react to the moment. However, I also know that sometimes freedom can be an excuse for laziness. The people of our churches that God has entrusted us to serve deserve the best we can bring, and like anything else in life, planning, practice and preparation help us to be able to bring our very best!