Resources for Planning Worship

When you plan worship services year after year, it’s easy to fall into a rut and start repeating the same phrases and images. Keeping up with new resources can help you resist this temptation. Of course, no resource is a perfect fit for every church, but you can use the following resources to spark new ideas and adapt them to your own situation.

Praying the Bible
Philip Law, ed.
(Westminster John Knox Press, 2007)

Helpful for both worship planners and for personal devotions, this collection provides an introduction to scriptural prayer. It begins by briefly discussing the various types of prayer that form the organization of the text: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession. Written in conversational language, the prayers are direct quotations, paraphrases, or adaptations of Scripture. The book includes indexes organized by Scripture passage and theme.

Baptism Services, Sermons, and Prayers
Kenneth H. Carter Jr.
(Abingdon Press, 2006)

Carter begins with a section on baptism and congregational care that offers ideas for helping people of various ages and abilities prepare for baptism. He also suggests prayers and songs for baptism in special situations, such as retreat settings. The second section provides multiple ideas for sermons, coupled with ideas for further study and reflection. The book closes with several baptismal prayers; many are for specific occasions in the church year.

Palm Sunday and Holy Week Services
Robin Knowles Wallace
(Abingdon Press, 2006)

This text includes prayers, dramas, Scripture readings, and musical suggestions for Holy Week services. It is roughly based on the Revised Common Lectionary, but it’s also very useful for churches that don’t follow the lectionary.

Food in Due Season: Daily Table Graces for the Christian Year
David Goode
(Canterbury Press, 2005)

This book opens with background information on traditional table graces. It then presents mealtime prayers and litanies specific to each season of the church year, as well as table graces from various traditions. This resource would be most useful for families who wish to enrich their practice of mealtime prayer with longer litanies.

Celebrate Advent: Worship & Learning Resources
John Hendrix, Susan Meadors, David Miller
(Smyth & Helwys Publishing Inc., 1999)

Based on Eleanor Farjeon’s Christmas carol “People, Look East,” this collection includes an introduction to Advent, orders of worship designed around the images from each stanza of the hymn, and sermons and educational activities that coordinate with each order of worship. Use this song and its images for a fresh approach to Advent planning.

Worship: A Symphony for the Senses
C. Welton Gaddy & Don W. Nixon
(Smyth & Helwys Publishing Inc.)

This three-volume series brings together free church and liturgical practices to reflect on the use of creativity and provide resources for worship planning.

Volume 1—Resources begins with a study of the metaphor of symphony for worship. It examines the use of the five senses in worship, the art of flower arranging for worship, and liturgical movement. The rest of the book is dedicated to resources for the Christian year. The authors describe each season and its symbolism before providing specific resources, including suggestions for flowers, banners, Scripture readings, choral selections, instrumental arrangements, sermons themes and titles, prayers, and congregational litanies.

Volume 2—Annotated Orders of Worship follows the Christian year but includes civic holidays and special services as well. It is a series of orders of worship with various prayers and music suggestions.

Volume 3—Sermons follows the same structure as the second book in the series and corresponds with the Scripture selections and services outlined in Volume 2. Unlike the first two volumes, this one is geared more toward pastors than worship planners; however, pastors and worship planners could use these three volumes together to help them coordinate planning.

Lectionary Worship Aids: Cradled in God’s Heart
Thom M. Shuman
(CSS Publishing Company, Inc. 2007)

This compilation of prayers and litanies is organized around Year A of the lectionary cycle. Each section provides the lectionary readings and several prayers and litanies created for the theme of the day. Shuman uses vivid images and language that is poetic yet poignantly grounded in reality.

Celebrating Sunday Evening Prayer: A Resource for Parishes and Communities
(Canterbury Press Norwich, 2006)

This book, which resulted from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, provides resources for recovering the practice of evening prayers. It begins with an introduction to evening prayer and explores the various parts of evening prayer services and the symbols typically used in them. The book includes a discussion of the process for introducing evening prayer to a community, but the majority of the text contains suggestions for prayers and songs for the various parts of the service.

Gathering for Worship: Patterns and Prayers for the Community of Disciples
Christopher J. Ellis and Myra Blyth, editors
(Canterbury Press, 2005)

This collection focuses on the community of believers and provides resources for various situations of pastoral care such as marriage, healing services, funerals, ordinations, and ministry with people who have disabilities. Since this book comes out of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, some of the resources would not be particularly helpful for a Reformed congregation. Even so, much of the book contains teaching notes and prayers that can enrich worship in many traditions.

Carrie Steenwyk ( is the Coordinator of Special Projects at the CEP.

Reformed Worship 91 © March 2009, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.