Monday, November 06, 2017

Worship Wrinkles

I recently attended a ministry workshop stating that when it comes to Sunday worship, a church should plan 52 unique celebrations a year.

I've been thinking about that quite a lot, as this has been an issue lately in my own setting. Not too long ago, I realized that I'd become too comfortable with what I've been doing since before I began here. I've been using a basic order and just plugging in new words and songs for each spot.

When I attend certain churches I've been a part of, I've noticed that the order is the same since the last time I was there. It could be years since I've attended, but when I walk in I know that the liturgy is going to be basically the same as last time.

Many find comfort in this, not just for their own church but for the larger tradition that they're a part of. Some take this as a connection that they can feel with the Church Universal, that no matter where they go they'll be worshipping much the same way as fellow pilgrims in other places, as if right alongside them.

For many others, this gets old. What for some is comfortable familiarity is for others rote predictability. It's easy to stop thinking about what you're doing if you've been doing it the same way long enough.

This is not an argument that worship should be entertaining. Rather, this is an argument that worship should be engaging. And you don't have to make up each Sunday's liturgy from scratch, either.

Here comes a college football metaphor, because I like using those. When a coach puts together their offensive gameplan, their team has a basic identity, a certain set of base plays and go-to schemes that form the foundation of everything they do. But if they only ran those same plays every down and every game, the other team would know what's coming and be able to counter it pretty easily after a quarter or so.

So the coaches add wrinkles. They keep doing what they know and stay with their basic foundation, but add variations on what they do in order to keep things fresh and keep the opposing defense guessing.

Any given church can and should have a basic worship identity. Whether traditional, contemporary, high mass, contemplative, emergent, or whatever else, the general order and feel of a church's service doesn't need to change. Whatever you are, be that as best you can. Whatever you do, do it boldly and with as high a quality as you can muster.

But adding wrinkles helps keep people engaged. Things like:
  • A reflective video in place of the usual organ prelude.
  • A dramatization of a Bible story rather than a plain reading.
  • An entire service centered around a theme such as a justice issue or a part of the congregation's life (Christian Education, mission, etc.)
  • Inviting a group of guest musicians to help lead music rather than what you usually feature.
There's nothing ground-breaking about this, but offering wrinkles like these in worship can help a church maintain its identity while also keeping that identity fresh and engaging.

(Image via pxhere)