Vineyard Stories: How To Produce A Great Church Service

In this article, Mike O'Brien, a Vineyard worship leader, trainer, producer, and church systems leader in Atlanta, GA, shares practical, helpful ways to produce a great church service—all the way from your church's "why" to your website.


Mike O'Brien

Vineyard Worship Leader & Mentor, Atlanta, GA

Church shopping. Soon after transitioning out of a 20-year long church staff position, my family was on the hunt for a new church. Since I have been planning church services for so long, I thought I knew what I was doing, but what I learned as a church spectator/visitor in the next six months transformed how I think about church. Do you have any idea what couples and kids talk about when they are in the car following your service?

Here are some thoughts on how I think you can produce a GREAT church service:

1. Start With Why

In a world of endless high quality music, podcasts, and religious resources, WHY should people come to your church service? Why would any reasonable person come to a building to sing simple songs and listen to a person teach from an old book before noon every Sunday? You and your team must have an emphatic and impassioned answer to that question.

Simple phrases like “To Love God, Love People” are not enough—you must know WHY you meet.

BIG IDEA: Post (on a wall) your “why”—where the whole staff can see it every week.

2. Pop Your Bubble

I’ve attended hundreds of hours of training in Willow Creek, North Point, and Saddleback seminars learning how to create great church services, but there was no better education than visiting 10 different churches back-to-back near my home. Wow. Once you get out of your bubble and see the good, bad, and ugly of the modern church, you can better see what could work in your context.

BIG IDEA: Take a few field trips (with your team) to churches with similar and differing demographics compared to those at your church. It’s counter intuitive, but literally, skip your church and attend another for the purpose of learning.

3. Activate Your Values

The “about” section of your website is useless unless you can identify the actual behaviors of your staff and volunteers that meet during your service.

BIG IDEA: Print off your values and require every team in the church to tell one another HOW they flesh out each of the church values in their areas. Be specific.

4. Get The Bosses Together

The modern trend is definitely moving to autonomous office hours, but the shareholders must get together! Whoever is preaching, choosing the songs (leading worship), and overseeing the kids/youth, need to be in the same room at least once before the main gathering, connecting back to the core vision of the church. If you don’t love one another and you’re not going in the same direction, people will notice.

BIG IDEA: Commit to a one-hour check-in with your main players for weekend services.

5. Create Countless Boring Spreadsheet Files And Never Stop Using Them

Bad administration hurts people. Create systems (or borrow them from churches that are 50% bigger than you) with checks and balances for facilities, volunteers, staff, assimilation, etc. Most extraordinary experiences have countless hours of administration behind them. Don’t keep resting on the “God can move without all this stuff” mantra. Well crafted, measurable, and activated systems might be the engine of your revival.

BIG IDEA: Utilize the Google Drive system that is accessible to your whole service team. Give each leader a part to facilitate.

6. Fall In Love With Consistency

There is really nothing else in this world that happens 52 weeks a year and then starts over again. Don’t fall into the trap that everything needs to be “fresh” and “groundbreaking” every single week. People are over-stimulated and will actually lean into something that is known and consistent. Sure, you can and should recalibrate, tighten, and sharpen things now and then, but stop pursuing wholesale change every season. Why would anyone invite people to your church if it’s constantly changing?

BIG IDEA: Whoever is on stage should introduce themselves like the room is full of visitors: “Hey, my name is Jae, one of the pastors here at Victory Church.”

7. Give Less Weight To Anecdotal Evidence

Most pastors have a line of folks suggesting well-meaning refinements at the end of every service. These continual offerings of praise or tweaks should not define whether or not the service was great. Instead, we should have several measurable metrics that determine the win: attendance, the number of people prayed for, what percentage receive communion, 50% God-centered songs, the number of connect cards filled out, the number of return visitors, etc. These kinds of data points should steer your decisions, versus what Ms. Betty thought of the new drummer.

BIG IDEA: Clarify the “win” for your service (Example: 1. We prayed for 20 people during ministry time, 2. The worship team started on time and led 50% vertical songs, 3. We clearly shared the gospel.)

8. A Great Church Service Starts At Your Website

Visitors are stalking you. Are your address, contact info and service times CLEARLY listed on EVERY page of your website? Is the pastor’s picture and updated bio listed on the site? Other than pictures of your church in action, these are the most important items for helping remove obstacles for visitors.

BIG IDEA: Search for your church and your name on a new device. Pretend you are a 27-year-old mom with 3 kids who’s never been to church. How easy have you made it to be part of your church?

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You can find out more about Mike’s work at themikeo.com.