Planned or Spontaneous?

Jimi Williams —  February 13, 2014

Planned or Spontaneous?

Whenever I teach about preparing for worship at an event, I inevitably have someone raise their hand and say “I don’t like to plan too much. I’d rather be spontaneous and respond to what the Spirit is doing.” Or I’ve heard people say they won’t use tracks during worship because it limits there spontaneity.

Let’s think this through. There is nothing spiritual or unspiritual about making a plan. In fact, Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.” The Bible is filled with examples of people who made detailed plans to do something important for God. Nehemiah rebuilt the entire wall around Jerusalem. David built the first temple for God. Jesus’ plan was to endure the cross.

However, making a plan doesn’t mean that God won’t change the plan. Proverbs 16:9 says “A man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” David had a plan to become king, but he would be tested and run for his life before it finally happened. In Acts 16, Paul was prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching in Asia even though he planned to do so. So what we see from Scripture is that we, as children of God, are to plan well, but be sensitive to the Holy Spirit if He wants to change our plans.

Within the context of worship ministry, I believe we are to approach worship with a detailed plan that’s been thought out and prayed through. The more I prepare and am confident in my plan, the more freedom I feel to deviate from that plan. I believe sometimes the “freedom in the Spirit” argument is just an excuse for not putting in the hard word of planning ahead. God can speak to you 7 days before your church service the same as 7 minutes. I tire under leaders who are always changing their minds at the last minute and blaming it on God. Yes, sometimes God will redirect you at the last minute, but in my experience this is the exception and not the rule.

Planning honors those around you as well. No one would ever get on a bus if the driver’s plan was to go wherever he felt. The next time you get the urge to switch that song right before walking up on the platform, think about what it will do to your band and congregation.

Finally, if you’re a spontaneous person and love freedom in worship, plan times in your worship set where you can “wait on the Lord’ or have a time of free worship. I’ve been out with worship artists who have a “spontaneous” worship moment during the same song every night of the tour. And guess what? It’s usually awesome every night! The worship leader is providing a planned space where people can engage with God directly in their own words and songs. That’s a very loving thing for a leader to do.

So work hard, plan well and watch how the Spirit will bless your preparation.


Jimi Williams

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Jimi is VP of Worship Resources for Capitol CMG Publishing, overseeing all Worship Together initiatives and resources. He also leads worship at his home church and at various events and conferences.

6 responses to Planned or Spontaneous?

  1. a FB friend of mine in Singapore plays keys in a worship band. When his drummer decided that rehearsal was unnecessary because the spirit could lead him he pointed out that when Christ needed a coin to pay a tax he didn’t send the tax collector to the water to catch the fish with the coin, he sent the most prepared: the fisherman

  2. Roland De Aragon February 19, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Great stuff man! I grew up in small a pentecostal church where I was music director where worship totally unplanned and spontaneous. As I got more experienced I realized we need to create a culture of preparation and expectations. The spirit will flow a lot smoother. I wrote a guide on how to plan your worship check it out.

  3. Well said Jimi. Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. Lovely article with good references. Seriously, all done with God’s presence is the best.

  5. I totally agree. Make a plan!!! God is constantly speaking to us in a variety of ways. It is our job as worship leaders to compile all the data and create a feast of worship that will take our congregation to where God wants us to go. I also don’t have a problem with deviating from the plan because things happen and sometimes it’s necessary to change. Our team trust the song list but knows that we are seeking to please the Holy Spirit and we are open to any adjustment that He wants to make.

  6. I believe in prayerfully planning the whole set, it leads to excellence when everyone knows what we’re doing.
    But, many times the Holy Spirit directs me to make a change right during the worship. But, usually, I am shown how the meeting is going to run, even how the congregation will respond. I’m happy to accommodate spontaneity, and we’re blessed with an amazing team here, in Abergavenny, that they often know what the Holy Spirit is saying, the same time I do. And if not, they easily and readily adapt.

    I do like spontaneity, but I don’t think I would go to anything other than an informal meeting without anything planned.

    I believe it’s Bob Kauflin who talks about practicing your spontaneity. Sounds weird, but he makes a great case. :-).