Worship Associates Training Sample (West Shore)

Santuaries Boston leading Saturday night worship GA 2014

Worship That Works Theory and Practice for Unitarian Universalists

By Wayne B Arnason, Kathleen Rolenz, Nancy McDonald Ladd

From Skinner House Books

The second edition of this classic UU text includes revisions and new chapters on multicultural worship, multigenerational worship, and new models of services for contemporary practices.

Buy This Book

Overview of the Context and Premises for this Training Model

West Shore’s worship associates team was established in 2001. Most years the team had as many as six people, serving overlapping two-year terms. People had to apply for the program, and understood they could only serve two years. The team met monthly, and these three to four trainings were built into the monthly sessions, which generally met on a Saturday morning from 9:30 to Noon. Each meeting included evaluations of the preceding month of services, scheduling, and planning for upcoming themes and services.

Each worship associate worked directly with a minister on at least one service every six weeks or so, and had the option to plan and preach their own summer service at least twice in the two years.

When Worship That Works (WTW) was published , the trainings presumed a read-through of WTW as a “text” but the training did not follow the format of the book and reading it in advance was not required.

At the end of this three session outline is an Appendix that includes our Chancel Checklist.

Session One

(presumes a January startup for the new team and training schedule)

9:00am Chalice Lighting & Welcome 

We would begin by reminding people that they are public voices and representatives of the congregation when they are worship associates, and that they need to be mindful that their role and voice within the congregation changes as a result. This role involves, however subtle, a change in the power they hold in the congregation. Then after processing this for a while, we would go on to review our covenant.

Introduction to Worship Associates/Roles & Expectations

  1. Each worship associate is expected to be a pulpit, tech and PowerPoint associate. Everyone will receiving training on microphones, lights, PowerPoint, etc.
  2. Arrive at all meetings and for your worship assignment on time. Most of the time, you will need to arrive at church by no later than 8:15 a.m. for the 9:30 a.m. service.
  3. If you know you are going to miss a Worship Associates meeting, let a minister know immediately.
  4. Attend all sessions of Worship Associates Training. If you miss a training, it is up to you to make an appointment with a minister and a member of the Worship Associates Team to review materials.
  5. When you are a worship associate, take care about your dress. No jeans, flip flops, t-shirts or sweatshirts. Dress as if you were going to pay your respects at a funeral! If you have concerns about how to dress, speak to a minister privately. Be aware that many congregants are allergic to perfumes & colognes. Don’t wear them when you are a worship associate.
  6. Be Prepared for Sunday morning. Take time to read through the announcements, your reading or other assignments.
  7. If you are a worship associate, handle all the chancel needs. They include: chalice, matches, votive candle, water, mic tests, lectern & pulpit handling, etc. (see hand-out)
  8. Worship Associates speak with one voice. That’s not to imply we don’t have differing opinions, but once a decision has been made, we support that decision.
  9. Meet with the ministers when it is your time to co-lead worship.
  10. Consider offering a sermon yourself during the summer.
  11. Check your email on Sunday morning; the ministers often have last minute changes or announcements that we could not send you in advance.

9:30am Getting to Know You

Tell us your name, a little about yourself and church involvement and a significant memory of worship, positive or negative from either your past life or your life here at West Shore as a congregant or as a worship leader? (3 min. each)

10:00am Establish regular meeting/training dates & times

  • regular meeting times of worship associates
  • Tech training, liturgy and music training and sermon training dates
  • Date of Worship Associates Commissioning Ceremony—this month or next?

10:30am Prayer

  • Reflections from the Ministers on the differences between:
    • Prayer, Reflection, and Meditation
    • Private and Public Prayer
  • Each person is asked to write a prayer to be delivered at the next session.

11:00am Review schedule for upcoming services & assignments through to March.

  • This included a reading assignment for the chapter on Multigenerational Worship in WTW.

11:30am  Chancel and Power Point Training for New People (in pairs) 

  • Wayne and Kathleen alternate with 2 pairs of new associates to review Power Point and Chancel procedures.
  • Ongoing Associates can leave early.


Offering Prayer / Multigenerational Worship / Music/Hymnody

(this particular script was for an afternoon session)

1:30pm  Lighting the Chalice/Opening Words 

  • Somebody prayed for me…
  • Everyone takes a turn in the sanctuary at the microphone and offers their prayer.
  • After everyone has had an opportunity to pray, we discuss how it felt/sounded/went.

2:15pm Discussion about Multugenerational Services

We usually invited/included the RE Director in planning this discussion.

  • Assignment was : Read chapter in WTW on Multigenerational Worship
  • Compare the theory of Multigenerational Worship (layering) with the practice. Does it “work?” Why or why not?
  • Do you believe there is a value in worshipping together as a faith community? Why or why not?
  • What skills do you think you can work on to co-lead full multigenerational worship services or offer your own Time for All Ages?
  • What suggestions do you have for Multigenerational Worship at West Shore?

2:30pm (all) The Musical Life at West Shore—Theory & Practice

Co-led with the Music Director

The Concept of a Musical Baseline

  • How a Congregation works with a musical baseline
  • Past: Classical “baseline” – long time members describe
  • Present: Attention paid to diversity of musical styles
  • Present: More attention given to diversity of music from regions all over the world; to composers of color; to the role of music in worship formats from diverse cultures.

2:45pm Discussion: Is it ever OK to “change the words?” 

  • A composer writes from their own cultural context.
  • UU’s have routinely changed hymn words to accommodate our changing theology.
  • Is this OK with other pieces of music? Classical? Popular songs? Why or why not?
  • Resources on cultural (mis)appropriation

3:10pm  Tour of the Hymnal OR how to choose singable hymns

  • Difference between “classic” hymnody vs. “new” hymns
  • Meter signatures
  • Other-as Music Director determines

3:55pm Reminder of next business meeting; upcoming assignments

4:00pm  Closing words & Adieu


Sermon Training (this session would be followed by a sermon delivery session within one two months for those who chose to lead a summer service )

10:00am Elements that Make for Effective Preaching

Pick a Message and Know What It Is

What is the ONE thing I want the congregation to know. What do I want them to do as a result of hearing this message? If I asked you to tell me what your sermon was about over a cup of coffee, what would you say? This will help you in writing your sermon blurb.

  1. Process for developing a one point message:
    1. Dig around until you find it
    2. Build everything around it
    3. Make it stick. (Sometimes a memnonic or slogan helps “when it doubt—check it out!” “To understand why, submit and apply”

Know What Is Religious or Spiritual About This Message

as opposed to: A college lecture; a political speech, an interesting essay—what’s the difference?

1. Ask yourself—what does Scripture or other sacred texts say about this topic?

2. Does this message connect with any of the world’s great religious tradition or questions?

3. Pray about it; or meditate on the topic. What does your own inner wisdom say about it?

Writing Techniques—How We Do It; How Others Do It

1. “Mind map” or associational brainstorming

2. Classic outline format, titled according to function (examples):

Opening story—question—text—application—challenge

Opening question—Illustration—text—challenge—application—closing story

3. Three point sermon

4. Andy Stanley technique

Questions to Ask Yourself When Writing

1. What do they need to know?

2. Why do they need to know it?

3. What do they need to do in response to what you’ve said?

4. Why do they need to do it?

5. What can I do to help them remember?

11:00pm Break

11:10pm The Sermon In Me Right Now

We asked you to bring a title or a sermon blurb, or a beginning or ending paragraph, or a story you would use, or an outline. Each person presents, then gets to answer these questions:

  1. Why is this relevant to the lives of the congregation?
  2. In a single sentence, what you would like the congregation to take away?
  3. How might they respond in a sentence to what this sermon is about?

Discussion for up to seven minutes with each person

Ongoing Individual Work: Work on Your Sermon – how Kathleen and Wayne can help

11:45pm what NOT to Do in a Sermon  

Hand-out by Rzepka & Sawyer— (found in WTW) If time have a Discussion/Reflection – if not, read later.

11:55pm Closing Words & Extinguishing of the Chalice 

from “Expect Chaos” by Vanessa Southern

Chancel Orientation

What is the “chancel?” In architecture, the chancel is the space around the altar

Stage left and stage right vs. house left & house right.

Basic Tasks of Worship Associate

  1. Get to church on time, one hour to 75 minutes before service depending on role
  2. Check chalice fuel; replace (worship cabinet)
  3. Replace votive candle (worship cabinet)
  4. Check chalice lighter wick (worship cabinet) when necessary
  5. Have water behind pulpit/lectern for speaker.
  6. Make sure if hymnals are used; all speakers/readers have appropriate hymnals.
  7. Work with tech associate to do a thorough sound check; test all microphones
  8. Do not talk while the choir is rehearsing
  9. Meet with minister/worship leader in Ellen’s office before the service to review.
  10. Assist chalice lighter child if necessary.
  11. Set boxes up for large pulpit if required.
  12. Turn on & off projector.
  13. Be familiar with walkie-talkies; PowerPoint person will also manage walkie-talkies in the event of an incident or concern.
  14. At end of the service; make sure candles are extinguished, microphones are put away, sound system & lights turned off, chancel is cleaned up, etc.
  15. If you notice batteries are low; purchase some you will be reimbursed; if you notice we are getting low on chalice fuel, let a minister know.
  16. If there is no staff person present; you are it! Be familiar with exits, office staff, membership coordinator, etc. People will look to you for leadership or information. Be prepared for it!
  17. Relax! Enjoy! Be the non-anxious presence.

About the Authors

Wayne B Arnason

The Rev. Dr. Wayne Arnason is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist with a forty-year career of service in UU congregations and institutions. Rev....

Kathleen Rolenz

The Reverend Kathleen C. Rolenz has served Unitarian Universalist congregations since 1993. From 2000 - 2016, she was Senior Co-Minister with the Reverend. Wayne Arnason at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Cleveland, OH. After Wayne retired from full-time parish ministry, Rev....

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