Sunday, September 18, 2005

Community and Sub-Community

Greg, Dave, and Dave have been zeroing in on Saddleback Church's (Rick Warren's homebase) providing nine different 'styles' of worship services to appeal to people who find a particular style meaningful. The sentiment at two of these three places is that the specialization of services (taken to a more extreme degree than might be seen elsewhere due to size and resources) takes away from community by pulling people into so many separate services (we'll ignore that the church is so huge that intimacy in that community would be next to impossible to begin with). At the third place, the provision of options is defended because meaning is found by different people in different forms.

There's really something to both of these views, and I must say that as I consider this as a pastor of a smaller congregation, both views offer something to apply to smaller congregations. We use a more 'blended' style of worship, with praise choruses sung to guitar as well as hymns with organ, written liturgy as well as more free-flowing prayer, and a sermon sometimes in, sometimes out of the pulpit. It has a little something for everyone, the consequences of which being that worshippers find meaning in some parts and 'put up with' others.

Now, if our church ever separated those elements out and had two services, a few things would happen. First, there would be about 40 worshippers at each service. Second, there is always the potential, perhaps moreso in smaller churches, for attendees at one service to poo-poo the other. I've seen it happen. It ain't pretty. That's where Greg and Dave's point about community comes in.

In smaller churches, worship tends to be THE point in the week where all are together. Sure, there are specialized study groups, committee meetings, Sunday School classes, etc., but for that hour the congregation is most visible and can be experienced most distinctly.

For a place like Saddleback, opportunities are greater and more warranted to provide niches for people. People generally go to churches like that searching for niches to begin with because the opportunities for specialized ministry is there. That's the difference between a larger program-oriented church and a smaller family-oriented church. Perhaps there's a little romanticizing of the smaller church in there. I'm not sure.

I suppose that ultimately, I'm saying little more than, 'It works for them; it doesn't work for everyone.' I've pretty much said that before.