Should Your Praise Set Be Before or After the Sermon?


I recently visited a church who prides themselves in always doing their praise sets after the sermon. In fact, the Sunday I visited, the pastor explained in great detail why they do this (does this explanation happen every Sunday?) – they want to give the congregation the opportunity to “respond” to the message (as in musically – we’re not talking about going forward while singing “Just As I Am.”)

Great! So let’s see how this works out in real life. I sat through a fantastic sermon that really got me thinking – it hit home in a powerful way. Then, the praise set started and the feeling that immediately came over me was one of… annoyance.

I felt literally annoyed to be singing. I did not want to sing. I did not want to learn new songs (I recognized one out of the three songs in their praise set.)

Let Me Marinate On That Message!

What I wanted to do was think about the message.

Now whether you do your music before or after the message is neither right nor wrong. However in this case, the church’s actions (worship after the sermon) completely thwarted their intentions (helping me reflect on the sermon.) Surely I’m not the only person in the congregation to have had this reaction (and in typical megachurch fashion, the more a congregation complains about “X” the more mega leadership digs in their heels.) After over twenty years of church work, I’ve noticed church leaders can sometimes come up with ideas that look absolutely marvelous on paper but don’t work so marvelously in real life. Then, they stubbornly continue on that not-so-marvelous path with absolutely no course correction.

Why Most Churches Do Praise Sets Before the Sermon

There’s a practical reason why most churches I’ve visited and worked in do their praise sets before the sermon:

Worship warms the soul. Sure, music is more than a warm-up to the sermon (although many a pastor really doesn’t believe this) but the time-tested paradigm of music+message just… works. The classic contour of a few upbeat songs that cool down into a worship ballad or two simply arrests, then engages a crowd who mostly arrive in a frenzy after having fought with kids to make it to church on time. Now just how often have you felt that “sweet spirit” in the congregation after an exceptionally touching worship ballad – then the pastor gets up to deliver the sermon and has their undivided attention?

The Power of a Well-Placed Praise Set

I’ve seen it time and time again – a skillfully crafted worship set can soften hearts and prepare minds to receive the Word. It’s like a spiritual appetizer that whets the appetite for the main course. When we rush into the message without allowing people to transition from their hectic lives into a posture of worship, we miss out on a prime opportunity to create an atmosphere conducive to life-change.

Mix It Up, Church!

To this church I’d say: if you want to plan your service this way, fine. But must you follow the same order every single week? Try changing it up on occasion – how about three weeks with music after the sermon and one before? The same churches who would denounce a dead, unchanging liturgy have actually created their own contemporary version.

The Bottom Line on Praise Set Placement

There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for crafting the perfect service. But in my humble (yet experienced) opinion, placing the praise set before the sermon is usually the way to go. It allows for a natural flow and progression, preparing hearts and minds to engage with the message.

That said, I’m all for mixing things up now and then! If you feel called to experiment with post-sermon worship, go for it – but pay attention to how your congregation responds. And please, don’t do it every week without fail. Variety is the spice of life, and it’s the secret sauce of vibrant, engaging worship services too.


Essential reading for worship leaders since 2002.


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