Fix It! – Let’s Fix This Order of Worship – Episode 1

September 29, 2022

With this blog post we begin a new series in our “Nuts & Bolts” section.  The blog posts in this series will be titled “Fix It” and will focus on an order of worship currently used in a congregation with analysis and recommendations for improvements.  There will be two corresponding videos for each post, an extended and detailed analysis called “Fix It THOROUGH,” and a significantly condensed version called “Fix It FAST.”  Each installment of this series will describe the order of service, analyze its content, suggested a revised order of worship, and recommend adding new acts of worship or removing ineffective acts.

In this first installment of the “Fix It” series we’ll look at an order of worship of a church I attended a few months ago. While there were many good points to make about this worship service there were clearly areas that needed help.  We’ll limit our discussion here to the order of worship and avoid addressing some of the logistical problems encountered.

As a preliminary comment I’m pleased to note that the printed worship bulletin included a section on “preparation for worship.”  This section, about 1/3 of a page, included:

    1. An invitation to the congregation to read through the order of service to familiarize themselves with the service
    2. An invitation to read through the hymns and scripture passages (they were all listed in this section making it easy to find) all with the purpose of helping the worshiper prepare for the corporate worship of God
    3. A suggested prayer of preparation.

This is an EXCELLENT idea and helps focus the congregation on worship and, by doing so, teaches them that worship is something extra ordinary.




Prelude.  This was an informal prelude for the congregation was actively greeting one another and the worship leaders assembled in the chancel.

Choral Call to Worship – Sung by the choir using an appropriate text “All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing alleluia!” 

Welcome – A greeting from the pastor with and some words of instruction for the congregation about the service.

Spoken Call to Worship – The congregation was asked to stand and participate in a responsive reading drawn from the Psalms

Hymn – The congregation remained standing and sang a medley of two hymns, “More About Jesus Would I Know” and “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”

Confession of Sin – The congregation sat and read a corporate confession of sin followed by a brief period of silence for private confession concluding with a corporate “amen.”

Apostles’ Creed – Immediately upon the corporate “amen” the congregation recited the Apostle’s Creed.

Catechism Recitation – The congregation recited a portion of the denomination’s catechism

Pardon & Assurance – The congregation corporately read a passage of scripture declaring pardon and assurance of forgiveness for the sins confessed earlier in the service.

Baptism – A very brief observance of the sacrament of baptism

Gloria Patri – The congregation stood and sang as a response to the sacrament of baptism

Offertory Prayer – A prayer over the offering in absentia (the congregation was still observing their COVID protocols and did not collect an offering)

The Lord’s Prayer – Recited by the congregation at the conclusion of the Offertory Prayer

Hymn – The congregation, seated, sang “Be Thou My Vision.”

Reading of God’s Word – The congregation stood for a reading from Psalm 119, concluding with the typical formula, “The Word of The Lord: Thanks Be to God.”

Announcements – Made by the pastor

Prayer for Illumination – A focused prayer to inspiration and understanding before the sermon

Sermon – Delivered by the pastor

Anthem – Listed, descriptively, as a “choir response”

Prayer – The concluding prayer of the service

Benediction – A typical formula pronouncing blessing on the congregation




Before we recommend changes in this order of worship let’s first identify the acts of worship in this order of service that correspond with the 6 core components of traditional worship.

Revelation – There are two acts of revelation:

      1. The choral call to worship
      2. The corporately read call to worship drawn from the Psalms.

Adoration – There is one act of adoration:

      1. The Gloria Patri (after the sacrament of baptism)

Confession – There are two acts of confession:

      1. The reading of a corporate confession
      2. A period of silence for personal confession

Expiation – There is one act of expiation:

      1. A corporately read passage of scripture

Proclamation – There are seven acts of proclamation:

      1. The Apostles Creed
      2. Catechism Recitation
      3. Sacrament of baptism
      4. Reading from God’s Word
      5. Prayer for illumination
      6. Sermon
      7. Anthem

Dedication – There are three acts of dedication:

      1. Offertory Prayer
      2. Closing Prayer
      3. Benediction

As we can see, in this order of worship there were acts of worship that corresponded to all 6 core components of traditional worship.



Now, let’s make some suggested improvements to this order of service.  First, two important acts of fellowship are placed within the order of worship—a welcome to the congregation and announcements.  Announcements and a time of welcome are important acts of FELLOWSHIP but they are NOT acts of WORSHIP.  They should not be included IN worship.  The best place for these acts of fellowship would be before the prelude.  Making this change also gives the prelude a more prominent preparatory function rather than simply being “wallpaper music” to accompany (or complete with) the congregation greeting one another.  Also, moving the welcome and announcements before the prelude makes the sequence of prelude, choral call to worship, and spoken call to worship a “tight” mini rite of revelation.

Next, let’s look at the first hymn, in this case a hymn medley.  If we remember the Biblical outline of worship, the first component of worship following the acts of revelation is adoration.  The hymns placed here (“More About Jesus Would I Know” and “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”) are not hymns of adoration.  They’re hymns of devotion.  Hymns of praise should prescribe and describe praise to God.  A better choice for these hymns would be something like “Holy, Holy, Holy” or “Shout to the Lord.”  Always choose hymn texts that fit the function in worship to which they’re appended.

Conspicuously absent is a corporate prayer early in the service.  The original order does not have a prayer that addresses the core components of revelation or adoration.  Typically this prayer is known as the invocation, a prayer that invites and welcomes God’s presence in worship and asks for His help in offering Him our praise and adoration.  We’ll add this element immediately after the hymn of praise.

At this point the revised order will be:

Welcome & Announcements


Choral Call to Worship

Spoken Call to Worship

Hymn of Praise


This service of worship, thankfully, included both acts of corporate confession and assurance of pardon.  But the two complementary components of worship are separated by two lengthy acts of proclamation.  The correction for this is simple: move the assurance of pardon to follow immediately after the corporate confession.

The placement of the creed and catechism recitation, both acts of proclamation, COULD work where they are now located (now placed AFTER the pardon and assurance) but a better location for these would be immediately following the sermon.  The historic traditions have placed these acts after the sermon and keeping them in their traditional location, even if your church doesn’t follow the historic traditions, reinforces the importance of the acts of proclamation.  Placing them following the sermon gives them a more prominent position and supports them as a response to the preaching of the gospel—the pastor proclaims the gospel in the sermon, the congregation responds by proclaiming their faith in the creed and catechism.

So, following the newly inserted invocation, the revised order would be:

Confession of Sin

Pardon & Assurance


Gloria Patri

On a “normal” Sunday (a Sunday without baptism) I’d recommend singing the Gloria Patri after the Pardon & Assurance.  It’s the perfect way to conclude the mini rite of contrition (the core components of confession & expiation) and I can’t think of a better sung response to hearing that through Christ we have forgiveness of sin!

In most evangelical protestant churches, the offertory is placed before the sermon.  But throughout the years I’ve become convinced that this is a poor placement.  It is an act of dedication and so it belongs with the other acts of dedication found toward the end of the service.  We’ll discuss the full offertory sequence in a moment.

The placement of The Lord’s Prayer in the current order of worship is, yet again, more of a “did you check it off the list” placement than an actual effective part of worship.  Typically, the Lord’s Prayer would conclude a Pastoral Prayer (a prayer addressing the pastoral needs of the congregation not NECESSARILY a prayer given by the pastor) often also called the Morning Prayer or, more utilitarianly, the “main prayer.“  Placing the Lord’s Prayer in this way connects it to the pastoral act of praying for the congregation. 

So, following the Gloria Patri (since we’ve just suggested moving the offertory toward the end of the service and adding in a time of pastoral prayer that concludes with the Lord’s Prayer), the revised order would now be:

Pastoral Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer

The singing of a hymn immediately before the reading of scripture is an excellent idea!  The hymn medley “More About Jesus Would I Know” and “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” would fit perfectly.  But the hymn “Be Thou My Vision,” would fit nicely as well.  All three hymn texts address our burning desire to know more about God, to walk closer with Him, and to let Him be our guide.  We’ll learn all these things by hearing His word proclaimed.

So, following The Lord’s Prayer, the revised order would now be:


Scripture Reading

Prayer for Illumination


Apostles’ Creed

Catechism Recitation


An alternative ordering following the Prayer for Illumination would be:



Apostles’ Creed

Catechism Recitation

If the anthem fits the theme of the sermon by amplifying or summarizing the theme, placing it after the sermon can make it be a punctuation to the entire sequence of proclamation.  When it works, it works great!  But if the anthem doesn’t support the scripture passages read or the sermon it might be better to place it in another location.  We’ll hope that both pastor and musicians have worked well enough in advance to plan music that supports the theme of worship and place the anthem after the sermon.

At this point we can insert offertory sequence—the call to offering, the collection, the presentation with the Doxology, and the dedication and conclude the service as originally ordered.

But first a note:  If you look at the original order of worship you should notice that the last time the congregation participates actively in worship is about 40 minutes BEFORE the conclusion of the service.  Since the hymn “Be Thou My Vision,” the only time the congregation actively engaged in worship is by simply saying “thanks be to God” at the conclusion of the scripture reading.  A well-crafted service of worship should be designed to have the congregation actively engaged in worship as much as possible and practical.  Active engagement includes standing and singing hymns or participating in responsive or corporate readings.  In the original order of service there is nothing in the last half of the worship that is active.  It is all passive.  Moving the creed and catechism after the sermon will help.  But there needs to be some concluding hymn, maybe even just a sung benediction response.  You want to send the congregation out to serve God in His world with a song on their lips.  End worship with the congregation singing!

So, after the catechism recitation, the revised order of worship would conclude:

Offertory Sequence

Closing Hymn




This is fairly lengthy walk through of a reordering of this service of worship.  ALL the elements from the original order of worship are still here, they are just placed in a more practical, effective, and flowing sequence.  Additionally, we’ve made a couple of helpful additions to the order—the invocation, pastoral prayer, and a closing hymn.


Can we help YOUR congregation reorder its worship?  Sacred Song Consulting exists solely to help congregations refine, revitalize, and reform traditional worship for contemporary people.  We are a resource for all worship leaders.  We’re a guide to lead you to the best practices of traditional worship.  We provide you with the tools to plan, prepare, and lead traditional worship, the nuts-and-bolts practical concepts that help traditional worship honor God and enrich the life of the congregation.  We are here to help you!  You are not alone in your desire to have transformative worship in your congregation.  Reach out to us.  Let us know how we can help!



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