Plan Worship Like Ron Howard

As a means toward service planning, using Post-It Notes, or index cards to lay out your ideas, having the ability to move them around or eliminate certain ones, is a feasible way of arriving at the most cohesive Sunday worship theme.

On the planning desk at First Presbyterian in West Chester, Pennsylvania, there is one single Sunday worship theme, which is surrounded by many Post-It Notes, including a collection of 20 possible praise songs.

Greg Stovell  ·  March 28, 2017

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I know ... I know.

Ron Howard?


Those of you that are 40 or older will probably ask what the freckled red hair kid who hung out with cool-man Fonzie on the Happy Days set has anything to do with worship.

How does one make sense of such a mess of possible worship elements?

Others will recognize him as an influential film director for decades who set his mark in the film industry with blockbusters like Backdraft, A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Cinderella Man, and the Dan Brown-based series: The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons and Inferno.

The question still stands, though, doesn’t it? What does the director of a movie like Inferno have to do with teaching church staff and volunteers about worship planning?

Apparently, a lot. Enough to change my preaching and worship planning ministry.

A few years ago, I came across a documentary series entitled, “The Directors.” It was compiled by the American Film Institute and features the work and technique of some of today’s most successful filmmakers. In this series, you will find work of Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and of course, Howard.

In that series, Howard speaks on how he goes about putting together a movie. He begins alone in his office, with a large stack of index cards. On the first card he will write the end scene of the movie (it’s always a good idea to start at the end). On the second card, he will write the beginning (or one of the possible beginnings) of the movie.  The rest of the cards on the stack are reserved for every possible scene, plot twist, monologue, dialogue, action scene, title sequence, etc.

After a few hours — or days — he will end up with a desk full of a thousand possibilities, but no movie.

And that’s when the magic starts.

Howard will then engage in a ballet of index cards moving and rearranging them into a sequence which flows cohesively from beginning to end.

Once arranged, leaving most of them scattered out of the sequence, he ends up only with version one. The editing process continues as reviewing the sequence, Howard pulls a few scenes out, inserts others, changes the opening, rearranges the dialogue, etc.

When the process is complete, Howard ends up with a short stack of cards and a solid blueprint for a movie, way before the first actor is hired or the first camera is switched on.

This process has become invaluable to my preaching ministry.

Instead of index cards, though, I’ve become addicted to Post-It Notes when I coordinate the necessary planning. I will normally begin with 60 to 70 notes with possible beginnings, stories, quotes, theological statements, sermon points, transitions, newspaper headlines; a serious Post-It mess.

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Leadership · Communication · Development · Biblical · Experiences · Index Cards · Planning · Post-It Notes · Ron Howard · All Topics

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