"Over-Produced” Worship vs. “Under-Produced” Worship

(There is a big divide today between worship styles. This article isn’t intended to show preference for one style over another, but merely to show the benefits of both sides, and to unify the body of Christ in worship.)

There’s a battle going on between many churches—and even within many churches: Over-Produced Worship vs. Under-Produced Worship. In the overwhelming majority of the churches we visit, most worship teams fall under one of these two categorical extremes.

So which is right? Well, both have their benefits—and both have their drawbacks. Let’s look at both…

OVER-PRODUCED WORSHIP—

Definition: This term is meant to describe worship teams who prepare to a fault; preparing every aspect of the worship service to the point that there’s no room for the Holy Spirit to move, because every note, clapping cadence, and end of song prayer was pre-planned. (Unfortunately, this term is usually used by many who perpetually and consistently choose to come under-prepared.)

Drawbacks: When every second of the worship service is pre-determined and pre-planned, it can look a little rigid to the congregation. Can the Holy Spirit really move when you’ve already decided how every aspect of the worship service is to be executed? Is there room for Him to interrupt and reveal what He wants to do? Or is anyone really listening?

Benefits. When you’ve taken the time to plan song transitions, key changes, and the service transition (to the Pastor or announcement-maker), it shows both God and the congregation that we value them enough to have made a plan. It shows that we didn’t just throw the worship service together chaotically and haphazardly. And when each worship team member comes prepared (knowing their part inside and out), it allows us to be more free to worship (versus thinking about the next chord or lyric to sing).

UNDER-PRODUCED WORSHIP—

Definition: “Under-Produced Worship” (also known as “Unprepared Worship”) is a term meant to describe worship teams who don’t really have a game plan; more “Spontaneous Worship,” if you will. These are often worship teams who just kinda show up for “rehearsal” on Sunday mornings and let whatever happens, happen. [Unfortunately, this term is often used by those who may be perfectionists (a form of pride.)]

Drawbacks: When hardly any part of the worship service is pre-determined or pre-planned, it can look like we didn’t care enough to have planned. Is there too much awkward silence between songs? Is the entire worship team constantly watching the worship leader to know where they’re going? Are we expecting God to “rescue” us week-after-week from one musical train wreck to another?

Benefits. Okay…let’s be honest…there are no benefits to under-produced worship.

So is there a happy medium between these two extremes?

For those who fall more into the “Over-Produced Worship” camp, there are a few things we can learn from the other side. To begin, let’s not plan so extremely and minutely that we’d be rattled if the Holy Spirit directed us at some point away from our plan. And while preparing is a Godly principle, when we’re overly-comfortable on stage, pride (cockiness, pretention, showiness) has a tendency to rise up in us.

Now for those who fall more into the “Under-Produced Worship” camp, you also can take a note or two (pun intended) from learning to be prepared. For starters, how well do you really connect with the people you are leading when your eyes are glued to the charts/lyrics on your music stand, or when everyone on stage is watching the worship leader to find out where he/she is going next? Let’s be clear: “spontaneous worship” doesn’t always communicate “sincere worship” any more than preparation says “rigidity.” Sincerity—for both camps—is a choice. And if you’re using pre-service rehearsal time to learn your part, this is a sure recipe for disaster. Personal practice time is where we learn our individual parts. Rehearsal is when we bring our parts together to make sure we’re all on the same page.

While mega-churches aren’t our template, let’s be honest, the vast majority of mega-churches are not only doing one or two things right, they’re doing a lot of things right; most notably, worship. And in most mega-churches, they prepare and plan. Proverbs 16:9 tells us, “We should make our plans counting on God to direct us.” It doesn’t only tell us to let God direct us, but to make plans.

Whether you’re an over-planner in your worship, or someone who tends to go with the flow, let’s be open to other ways of doing worship, amen? And always remember this: the most important thing that both God and people look for in our worship is our sincerity.