A couple of weeks ago, VOUS celebrated seven years as a church (cue the confetti popping and rowdy cheering). From our initial interest meetings and early church days to a global pandemic and the quickly-approaching end of 2022, we’ve seen God’s hand of provision through it all.
Over the last seven years, roughly 364 Sundays have come and gone. Each and every one of them has been marked not only by God’s presence but by the sacrifices of our pastors, staff, and servant leaders. Every weekend is a learning opportunity with insight to how we can make next Sunday better than the last.
We have discovered that the key to a smooth Sunday service is programming. Programming is planning and planning is essential. Here are three of our pillars to programming a meaningful church experience.
We like to say that failing to plan is planning to fail. Scheduling out an entire year may seem daunting, but breaking the year into sections makes it more manageable. Following a seasonal model has worked well for us (you can find more on that here).
As every new season in our church approaches, we begin to intentionally plan the next few months. Starting with the big picture and working down to more minute details, the first step is to lay out all upcoming events on the seasonal calendar for each department to contribute to. You can check out this Sample Programming and Events Calendar as an example of how we visualize the year ahead. From there, we gather for a programming meeting to begin compiling the Sunday program based on the information provided by each department, determining what needs to be shared with our church and how we can best share that information. We establish both a PCO and outdoor environments plan for the upcoming Sunday that’s shared with anyone who plays a role in executing a Sunday service. Teams begin finalizing everything that needs to be done in order to make it happen. After we complete the Sunday, we repeat the process to begin preparing for the next.
Planning ahead allows us to play offense — dreaming bigger and focusing on innovative ways to move our vision forward — rather than defense, trying to execute everything at the last minute.
In all of our planning and preparation, we create a framework to fill. There are some elements to a Sunday service that will always be present:
Service Hosting and Generosity Moment
We believe as we gather as the body of Christ, we are facilitating an environment for people to experience Jesus and be encouraged in their faith. This becomes our basic framework. Having a framework for your Sundays helps ensure that service flows in an organic way and you keep the main thing, the main thing!
3. FUNDAMENTALS OF FLEXIBILITY
When planning, it’s important to hold loosely to boundaries within the framework, leaving room for last-minute additions that bring weight to the timeliness of the moment. There’s always room to expand the program. For example, after Hurricane Ian struck the west coast of Florida, we adjusted our service flow to include a prayer moment for all of those who were impacted.
When we have a solid program to follow, we’re able to see the gaps and spaces we have an opportunity to fill. Thinking back to when the pandemic hit, we needed to find a way to integrate the in-room experience into a unique online experience. Enter: the Culture Room.
The Culture Room is our pre and post-service experience for guests tuning in online. Even though we’ve had the privilege of gathering together in person for awhile now, the Culture Room has remained a permanent part of our programming as we continue to reach more people through church online. It helps emphasize our values and connects online viewers with their next steps. What started as an opportunity to fill the gap became an integral part of our framework, and it was flexibility that allowed it to happen.
We never want Sunday to be a space where we wing it and hope for the best. We don’t practice on people; focusing on formation, framework, and flexibility help us create a distraction-free environment and put our best foot forward. As we look forward to the next seven years, we believe the best Sundays are still ahead for us and for you, too.