How Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley Plan Weekend Services

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How would you like to hang around Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley for a while and pick their brains about their approach to developing weekend services?

That’s what I had a chance to do recently, along with a group of church leaders in the town of Bracknell, England.

When Bill and Andy were asked about how they go about planning their weekend services, every leader was leaning forward to hear their response. I too, leaned in and also recorded it on my iPhone. I didn’t want to miss a word, and I don’t want you to miss a word either.

Here, then, is an abridged version of that conversation. For the complete transcript, click here.

Friends, if you’re involved in weekend services, this stuff is gold.


You probably can’t really peg high enough just how important every single weekend is.

I have a creative team. And I meet with them for two and a half hours every single week.

I feel that’s a very important role of mine.



One of the things I learned years and years ago to help our creative people is this. They would always say, “What’s the message about?” or “What’s the series about?”

But then I discovered, I’d say, “I’m not going to tell you what the bottom line is. Let me tell you the tension I want you to help me create.”

I’m telling you, that was a game changer.

“Now I want you to put all your creative eggs in the basket of creating drama, tension, it can be funny, I don’t care. But you help me create the tension, I’ll deliver the bottom line.”



I am constantly pushing my team.

One week I was going to preach on Psalm 51; the great confession Psalm.

So I announced that, like, three weeks in advance. And the closer we got to it I could tell, “This is just going to be like a normal service,” to my arts people.

And so I said, “I want many thousands of people bowled over by the fact that we can be washed clean. So help me, would you? Help me, give me your best ideas.”

So a couple of days later one of our artists calls me and he goes, “I think I got one.”

(To read Bill’s full description of that service, click here)

I’m not kidding you, by the end of that service, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. We met God that day!

Now, my point in this is, pastors, you have to light a fire under your artists.



Some of you have the opposite problem; you’re surrounded by creative people, and you won’t take a chance.

Some of you just need to step out of your comfort zones and allow your creative people to drag you into a world that will have much broader appeal. And you will get used to it.

Take some chances. It seems disruptive to you, but that’s because you’ve been doing it the same way year after year after year, so it can work both ways. We need to sometimes direct them, and at other times we need to allow them to direct us.

Bill and Andy have presented several of their “non-negotiables” when it comes to service planning. What have you found to be a “must” when it comes to weekend service planning?

the author

Scott Cochrane


  1. Hey Mike, Hard to argue with your approach!

    Effective weekend service leaders seem to know how to navigate that line between ‘no planning’ and ‘over planning’. At the point where the Spirt has been given absolutely no wiggle room it’s a pretty good sign of over planning!

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