Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Why Churches Should Have a Printed Order of Service

In my role as a missionary and church training consultant, I speak in a wide variety of churches on a regular basis. I find it interesting to observe the wide variety of worship styles that different churches have. Some are very formal, some less so. Even in churches of the same denomination, the order of service varies.

As a frequent guest at church, I am always more comfortable when I am offered a printed order of service that tells me what is coming up next in the service. I feel more comfortable when I can see a song or two listed that I know, even if the rest of the song  selections are unknown to me. I feel better knowing when the prayer time or offering is going to be, so I can be ready to take part instead of scrambling around at the last moment. There is nothing more awkward than everyone around me suddenly standing up during a prayer or Bible reading time and I did not realize I were supposed to stand. It is always awkward when everyone suddenly starts saying the Lord’s Prayer, or some other verbal response, and I missed the cue because it was not given. It leaves me wondering if I am supposed to join in or not.

Though the regular attendees may not need a printed order of service, visitors sure do appreciate one. If we want our visitors to feel comfortable, we must make sure they know what is going to happen during the service and when they are supposed to stand, kneel, sit, or respond in some other way. Otherwise the uncomfortable feelings they have as the guess their way  through the service may keep them from returning.


Terry Dorsett has been a church planter and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. Find all of his books at:


  1. Recently I was asked to provide pulpit supply to a small independent Christian church. The had a printed order of service, but I was still was left embarrassed. When the deacon passed the communion tray I took the elements and proceeded to hold them until everyone had been served, as has always been my Baptist practice. The embarrassment came because I noticed everyone else took the elements and ate and drank as it was passed to them. The lesson learned that day is that a church needs to add information in the order of service about how things are done, not just what is done in the service.

  2. My question is how much is too much? To what end? Where does it stop? I understand that an order of service is nice to have and helps us seasoned veterans of traditional church because we expect it. But when I go to church I understand that it isn't all about me. So my feelings of discomfort or being out of place does not bother me as much. But my concern would of course be for our visitors who may be novice church attenders, far from God, or never even stepped foot in a church. So, perhaps it would be better if those that sat next to the visitor actually took the time to speak to them (actually cultivate an investment in a relationship with them) and helped to answer any questions they may have or be sensitive to their potential confusion and/or ignorance. Preemptively helping them by being there for them would make a huge positive impact on them. That's what I would remember about a church instead of having a bulletin filled with instructions, lists, explanations, prayer requests and calendar items that I wouldn't be interested in anyway unless I were to consider investing in that church. And I wouldn't feel like investing in that church unless felt loved, appreciated and accepted. This should happen in a way that says to the person they are being helped and served...NOT like a car salesman trying to make a sale. This of course would require a change in church culture in many churches. Are printed orders of service helpful? Yes. Are they essential? Depends. What will probably make a lasting positive impression? People, relationships, love, genuine concern, and investing in people by establishing relationships. The helpful person sitting next to me makes all the difference.