The lights went out during worship last week. All of them. The ones overhead. The platform spotlights. The projector’s bright beam. Even the multicolored LEDs on the sound board went out.

They’d lost power. 

In retrospect, everything turned out alright. There was enough light streaming in through the stained glass windows that most people could both reach and read a hymnal. One quick-thinking family flung open the supply cabinet and in no time the dark nooks were brightened by candlelight. And the pastor kept his cool and hardly missed a beat.

Afterwards, though, there were plenty of comments.

  • “I couldn’t hear the preacher.”
  • “It was too dark to read the hymnal.”
  • “The deacons had a hard time juggling the communion plates.”
  • “It got cold so quickly.”
  • and words that might terrify any pastor: “I couldn’t see to write my tithe check.” 

I met with the worship team during the week. They shared how the “crisis” was handled and how well the team functioned under difficult circumstances. All was going well until I asked to see a copy of their contingency planning manual. 

Over the past couple of years, many churches have been busy creating Active Shooter Plans. In churches that are visited by inclement weather, they likely have snow or ice plans.  But I’ve been struck by how few churches have taken the time to create a plan for other likely scenarios … 

… Like losing power
… Losing heat or air conditioning
… Atypical weather or natural disaster
… The death or sudden illness of someone during worship (it happens more often than you’d think)
… Someone experiencing a disruptive psychotic – or non-psychotic –  episode
… The pastor is an unexpected no-show on Sunday morning

There are certainly hundreds of unlikely scenarios that your church’s leadership could spend time making plans for, and there are likely people in your congregation who would be excited to help you brainstorm all the possible things that could go wrong. But it’s simply prudent to create a plan for some of the most likely issues that could (and probably will) come up over the next few months or years. 

It turned out that in less than a half-hour, the worship team was able to put together a Power Outage Plan. Rather than creating a lengthy or detailed document, they wisely opted for a bullet-point list with specific assignments. I’ve shared their list below:

In Case of Power Outage During Worship

  1. Worship leader or pastor will invite the congregation to be seated while flashlights are secured.
  2. Lead deacon and one other person will get flashlights (in Deacon’s Cabinet, lobby) and return to worship center.
  3. Use flashlights to illumine aisles and invite congregation to move to the front rows in the worship center (so people can hear the non-amplified worship leaders).
  4. If interior temperature is likely to become uncomfortable, deacons will get fleece blankets or hand fans from the Deacon’s Cabinet for distribution as needed.
  5. Worship will continue as normal. 
  6. Worship leader will call out1 hymn lyrics during hymns as necessary.
  7. Deacons/ushers will use flashlights to guide people out at the end of worship.

Although the list doesn’t cover every possible issue, it deals with the most likely inconveniences and safety issues. 

Always be prepared. It probably shouldn’t just be the Boy Scout motto. Take the time to get ready before the inevitable happens. At the worst, it could save you some kvetching from those who “couldn’t hear” the preacher 🙂

1 Call Out – to read aloud the words to each stroph prior to the congregation singing the phrase. Generally spoken “over” the actual singing of the previously called line.