Worship 101

A Five-Part Worship and Preaching Series on Worship Basics

Updated May, 2024

"Let’s start at the very beginning.”  

And all God’s people sing in response: “A very good place to start!

Many churches have planned their own versions of a Worship 101 series. In fact, this series is a blend of Worship 101 series from two very different congregations with different needs and approaches to such back-to-basics reflections on worship. The one goal they shared was a desire for the series to bring greater unity to their congregations.

In a time of transition in the life of ClearView Church in Oakville, Ontario, the council asked their then lead pastor, Joan DeVries, to address tensions about worship. She proposed a sermon series called “Worthy of Worship” to examine the broad theological threads that form the fabric of worship.

Many miles away, Hillcrest Christian Church in Denver, Colorado, was planning a similar sermon series on the basics of worship. As a brand-new congregation formed by the merger of three distinct bodies, Hillcrest was in the unique position of teaching basic patterns of worship to many in the congregation who had no previous experience with liturgical forms. Hillcrest’s twelve-week series, led by their associate pastor, Joy Engelsman, became a primer on a Reformed perspective of communal worship practices.

The following Worship 101 series is easily adaptable to your context and available time. If your congregation needs theological reflection on worship and you have just a few weeks, focus on the major movements of worship. If you have more time, dive more deeply into specific worship practices, applying theology as you go.

In theory, the order of these services is somewhat interchangeable. For instance, DeVries began her series with Revelation 5, setting a vision for eternal worship. The calendar happened to coincide with World Communion/All Nations Heritage Sunday, so she preached about the grand theme of worship on heaven and earth at the beginning of the series. But the same service could be the culmination of the series, so we have placed it at the end of this article.


Movement 1

Gather and Praise

Both ClearView and Hillcrest used Psalm 95. ClearView used the entire psalm to teach and model the full range of worship postures, while Hillcrest Church focused on just the first seven verses to teach the principle that God moves first in worship.

ClearView’s Service on Psalm 95

Opening Songs of Invitation

Uyai mose / Come All Ye People” Gondo
“Now with Joyful Exultation” Psalter 1912

Posture 1: Lift High

Scripture Reading : Psalm 95:1–5, read responsively

Sermon (Part 1) 
Verses 1–2: Act one of worship is noisy and messy! People are arriving at the temple carrying their offerings. “Come!” is an invitation. We all want to be invited along. God’s people come together with wonderful things to celebrate.

Children’s Message 
[Children are invited forward. End the message with the following call and response. Optionally, enhance the noise with instruments and flags as the congregation joins in the songs.]

Leader: Praise the Lord!
Children: Amen! Hallelujah!


“I’m Gonna Clap My Hands” Depledge/Vineyard
“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” Neander
“Indescribable” Tomlin

Posture 2: Bow Down

Scripture Reading: Psalm 95:6–7a

Sermon (Part 2) 
We move closer. Our posture shifts from lifted faces to bowed heads and bent knees. The Holy God, creator of all things, invites us into his presence. Bowing is a posture that expresses our humility before God’s greatness and our acceptance of his personal rule in our lives.

[Congregation is invited to move from the pews to kneel at the cross while singing. This is done in groups to give opportunity and space for all.]


“Come, Let Us Worship and Bow Down” Doherty
“I Surrender All” VanDeVenter
“The Heart of Worship” Redman
“Lord, Speak to Me That I May Speak” Havergal

Posture 3: Listen

Scripture Reading: Psalm 95:7b–11

Sermon (Part 3) 
God says we should stay this way—worshiping, hearts softened and pliable, open and near to the Lord. The psalmist warns us of a time when people were impatient, whiny, and complaining. God wants to give so much more—God’s rest and God’s presence. The key is in the preamble to verse 8: “. . . if only you would hear his voice . . .”. Listen to God’s words to us.

Optional Scripture readings: Romans 12:9–21; Matthew 11:28–30; or Isaiah 43:1–7
Choose a reflective reading of appropriate Scriptures that reflect the heart of God to his people. Use different voices if possible, remembering to rehearse with them.


“Change My Heart, O God” Espinosa
“Cry of My Heart” Butler
“Take My Life” Havergal



Sending Song

Hillcrest’s Service on Psalm 95

Hillcrest’s service based on Psalm 95 also included 1 Thessalonians 1:1–3.

The main idea conveyed throughout this service is God’s initiative. God moves first, speaks first, and acts first, inviting us to worship and embracing us in relationship. The section titles in the order of worship reinforced the idea of God’s initiative by making God the subject of every action of worship.

God Gathers Us into Worship

God’s Greeting: Ephesians 1:2


“I Will Enter His Gates” Von Brethorst
“Come, Christians, Join to Sing” Bateman
“Lord Most High” Harris and Sadler

God Renews Our Relationship with God’s Self

Prayer of Confession 

Lord, you have called us to worship you.
We gladly gather!
We joyfully sing!
But as we praise you, we remember that
when you have been faithful to us,
we have sinned against you.
Our worship fails to be what it could.
We go through motions, pretending to honor you,
but we are thinking about ourselves.
We forget that you seek us, you choose us,
you want to engage us deeply.
Forgive and renew us according to your steadfast love.
Remind us of your covenant faithfulness,
and have mercy on us in the name of Jesus Christ.
—Adapted from Reformed Worship 56, © 2000 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church

Assurance of God’s Forgiveness: 1 Timothy 1:15–17


God Proclaims God’s Message to Us

Prayer for Illumination

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1–3 and Psalm 95:1–7

Sermon: “Invited to Worship, Greeted with Grace”
God acts first in our relationship. God is the one who seeks after us before we even know to look for God. God calls out to us when we are still wandering.

Prayer of Application

God Listens

Congregational Prayer

Apostles’ Creed

God Sends God’s Gathered People Out

Song: “My Friends, May You Grow in Grace” Meaney and Diamond

The service ended as it began, with the words of Ephesians 1:2.


Movement 2

Renewing Our Relationship

In making confession in corporate worship, we recognize our fallen nature and that God’s grace renews God’s relationship with us. ClearView Church combined the worship practices of confession, assurance, and law in one service detailed below, while Hillcrest designated separate services for each of these practices (details of those services are not included here). For another example of a liturgy of confession and assurance, see the Reformed Worship blog post “Confession and Assurance,” by Rev. Chris Schoon, published on November 8, 2018.


Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1–5

Opening Songs 

“Here I Am to Worship” Hughes
“Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” Heber

Opening Prayer


God’s Commandments

Responsive Reading of the Law 

Hear, O people of God, the law which the Lord speaks
in your hearing this day, that you may know his
statutes and walk according to his ordinances.
Teach us, O Lord, the grace of your law, 
and give us life by your Word.

The God who saved us in Jesus Christ gave this law,
saying: I am the Lord your God! You shall have
no other gods before me.
We will worship the Lord our God 
and serve only him.

You shall not make yourself an image of anything to worship it.
Living no more in bondage to earthly gods, 
we will worship the Lord our God in spirit and in truth.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord.
We will use the holy name of God with reverence,
praising him in everything we do and say.

You shall observe the Sabbath by keeping it holy,
for in six days you shall labor and do all your work.
This is the day the Lord has made; 
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

The first part of the law is this great commandment:
That we love the Lord our God 
with all our heart,
with all our mind, 
and with all our strength.

The second part of the Law is similar to the first:
you shall honor your father and mother, that you may live
long in the land the Lord your God is giving to you.
As children we will be obedient to our parents in the Lord;
as parents we will correct our children
   and guide them in the training and instruction of the Lord; 
we will respect the lawful authorities appointed by God.

You shall not murder.
We will be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other, 
just as in Christ God forgave us.

You shall not commit adultery.
We will use our bodies in ways that are holy and honorable, 
and abstain from immorality and impurity.

You shall not steal.
We will do what we can for our neighbor’s good,
and work faithfully so that we may share with the poor.

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
We will speak the truth with our neighbor in love,
render judgments that are true and make for peace,
and not devise in our hearts any evil against anyone.

You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.
We will be content whatever the circumstances 
through the strength of Christ within us.

Thus we must love our neighbor as ourselves.
For the Lord requires of us to do justice, to love
kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. Amen! 
—“As a Rule of Gratitude,” no. 5 of Responsive Readings of the Law on the CRCNA website (tinyurl.com/RRL1981)

-“As Summarized in Matthew 22:37–40,” no. 6 of Responsive Readings of the Law on the CRCNA website (tinyurl.com/RRL1981
-The Worship Sourcebook, 2.7.20


“Change My Heart, O God” Espinosa
“The Power of Your Love” Bullock

Children’s Message


Congregational Prayer

God’s Word

Prayer for Understanding

Song: “Open My Eyes, That I May See” Scott

Scripture Reading: Micah 6:1–12

Sermon: “What God Wants”
Cheating, lying, and taking advantage of others sound like big sins. They are the kind of sins we easily see in others but often excuse in ourselves. Simply put, these sins are about putting ourselves before others. When we get in the habit of looking out for “me, myself, and I,” we neglect anything that doesn’t serve our own interests. God’s expectation for our lives is that we turn our eyes and attention toward the needs of others. Christ is our model for doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God.

Confession and Assurance

Prayer of Confession 

Merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you
with our whole heart and mind and strength.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
In your mercy forgive what we have been,
help us amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be,
so that we may delight in your will
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your holy name.
Through Christ, our Lord. Amen. 
—Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources 2.2.11


“Take My Life (Holiness)” Stampley
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 56

Assurance of Pardon

Romans 8:1–4
“Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” Newton, Tomlin, and Giglio




Movement 3

Drawn Into the Presence of God

In worship we are drawn into the presence of God. In the previous week we reflected on our broken relationship with God because of our sin as well as on the reconciliation that is given through Christ. This week we hear the invitation to come closer, to boldly approach the throne of the Lord.

We Gather to Worship

Call to Worship 

God invites us into his healing presence with these words:
“I am the Lord, who heals you.”
Diseased, depressed, dysfunctional, defeated,
we come hungering for health that only God can provide. 
God calls us to bring open eyes, hearing ears,
and tender hearts turned toward him, the Great Physician.
We bow before him in faith and expectancy! 
—based on Exodus 15:26; Isaiah 6:10. Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources 1.2.27

Opening Songs 

“All People That on Earth Do Dwell” Kethe
“As We Seek Your Face” Bilbrough


God of goodness and grace,
we long for your presence,
for the peace your promises bring,
and for the assurances we have received
through the gift of your Son.
May we, your people,
this day and every day,
have open eyes to see
and open ears to hear
your presence among us. 
Open us to your Holy Spirit, Lord,
and prepare us for worship. Amen.
—Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources 1.4.31


Song: “Take Me to Your Sacred Place” Richards and Richards

We Confess Our Sin and Pray for One Another

Prayer of Confession 

Let us be still before the Lord;
rest quietly in his presence.


Let us bring before the Lord
the words that may have hurt
and all those left unsaid;
the anger we have felt
and resentment we have fed.

Let us be still before the Lord;
rest quietly in his presence.

—from faithandworship.com, © John Birch, 2016, used with permission.

Words of Assurance 

The Lord is slow to anger,
willing to forgive,
full of grace.
Draw near to him;
rest quietly in his presence.
—from faithandworship.com, © John Birch, 2016, used with permission.

Congregational Prayer

We Enter the Holy of Holies to Hear God’s Voice


“Come into His Presence” Anonymous
“Boldly I Approach Your Throne” Rend Collective

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 10:1–25

Sermon: “Come Right In!”
Consider walking your congregation through the conflict between God’s perfection and our sin. Boundaries and restrictions are reflected in the setup of the temple. After explaining all the barriers and noting that the closer one got to God symbolically, the more restricted the access, the message can turn to the Hebrews passage to illustrate the way Christ has now opened the way and provided free access to God’s throne room.

Response: “Only by Grace” Gustafson

We Are Being Made Right with God

Lord’s Supper

Songs of Thanksgiving 

“And Can It Be” Wesley
“In Christ Alone” Getty

We’re Sent into the World to Serve


The Lord bless you
     and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
     and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
     and give you peace.
—Numbers 6:24–26

Closing Song: “Eternal Spirit, God of Truth” Cotterill


Movement 4

Response/Lord’s Supper

To introduce new believers to the common practices of Christian worship, the team at Hillcrest planned worship services that focused on details like offerings, communal prayer, preaching, and the sacraments. Below is the order of worship focusing on the Lord’s Supper.

Call to Worship 

There is none like you, O Lord,
     nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
     and bow down before you, O Lord,
     and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things,
     you alone are God. 
—from Psalm 86:8–10, NRSV

God’s Greeting


“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” Van Dyke
“Lord Most High” Harris and Sadler
“How Great Is Our God” Tomlin, Reeves, and Cash

Renewing Our Relationships with God . . . 
For a liturgy of confession and assurance of pardon, including prayers and songs (“Jesus Is Lord” Chua and “He Is Lord” Frey), see RW 111:17.

. . . and with One Another

[extended time of greeting each other]

Congregational Prayer

Offering: “In Christ Alone” Getty

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:17–34

Sermon: “One Bread, One Body”
The celebration of communion is a wonderful expression of both our individual and our corporate dependence upon God’s grace in Jesus Christ. We remember that Jesus died and rose again for each of us as he offers himself to us in the bread and cup. Communion also binds us to each other, as we become the body of Christ by receiving his body and blood together.

Response: Apostles’ Creed

Lord’s Supper 
According to long tradition, the church surrounds Holy Communion with a Great Prayer of Thanksgiving (see “The Heart of Holy Communion” in RW 22:34). This can be adapted in many ways according to your congregation’s practice. During the communion, members were invited to come forward to receive a piece of bread and a small cup of juice, and they were asked to hold these elements as they made a circle around the sanctuary. When all were served, they ate and drank together. For other creative ways of celebrating this sacrament, see the article titled “Finding Your Focus” in RW 88:3.

Song during Distribution of the Elements: “One Bread, One Body” Foley


Movement 5

Worthy of Worship (Doxology)

Christ-centered worship ascribes glory and praise in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Chapters 5 and 7 of the Book of Revelation paint a picture of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language worshiping God before the throne. The ancient Greek word doxology captures the picture of sayings, songs, and hymns that give praise to God. This last service of the series emphasizes our exaltation of God.

We Gather to Worship


Call to Worship: Psalm 86:8–10

Opening Songs 

“Let Your Glory Fall” Jobe
“Worthy, You Are Worthy” Moen

Opening Prayer

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

Say among the nations,
“The LORD reigns.”

All the families of the nations
will bow down before him.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth. 
—All Nations Litany (Psalm 96:1, 3, 10; 22:27; 108:5)

Songs of Praise

“We Bow Down” Paris
“Lord Most High” Harris and Sadler
“Praise to the Lord” Neander

God’s Greeting

Children’s Message

Congregational Prayer

The Lord’s Supper

The Body 

“Come to the Table” Glover, McDonald, and Frey
“Let Us Break Bread Together” Spiritual
“Bless the Lord, My Soul” Taizé

The Blood 

“I Lift My Eyes Up” Doerksen
“The Wonderful Cross” Tomlin, Walt, and Reeves

We Offer Our Gifts


We Hear From God’s Word

Prayer for Understanding

Scripture Reading: Revelation 5:1–14; 7:9–10

Sermon: “Worthy of Worship: Window to Heaven”
This passage helps us set our sights on a heavenly picture as we look at worship. Note who is worshiping: every tribe, every language, every people, every nation. All are united by the only thing that can bring fractured people together: worship of the triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit.

Songs of Response 

“You Are Worthy” Mills
“Alleluia/Alabaré” Alonzo and Pagán

We’re Sent into the World to Serve


Closing Song: “By the Sea of Crystal” Kuipers

Alternative:  “Shout to the North” Smith

Postlude: “Lion of Judah” Upton

Rev. Joy Engelsman is a multivocational pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. She preaches frequently in Denver-area congregations, provides ministry coaching throughout North America, and serves as a missionary with Youth for Christ/Africa developing staff and leaders.

Rev. Dr. Joan DeVries is a Christian Reformed pastor who has led several congregations in Ontario. She now lives in Langley, B.C., where after several years as a professor of worship arts she is now a professor of foundations core. She also serves as an Endorsed Worship Coach for the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

Reformed Worship 136 © June 2020, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.