Enhancing Worship “Repertory”: Think Outside the Box(es)!
I’ve consulted with too many churches who previously started a “second” service in order to add variety to their worship offerings and then each service suffered because they didn’t have the resources (motivation, time, energy, money, people) to sustain two ongoing services. The result was a “bad taste in their mouths” about doing something “different” and they often tell me, “we won’t try THAT again.” And yet, the initial desire to offer a variety of ways to worship God was a valid yearning and a real need. If your church or organization is feeling this nudge, I want to encourage you to think outside the box that says that the only choice is to start a new service (AND out of the boxES of
“traditional” and “contemporary” as the only two choices available). I don’t necessarily mean that you have to “do it all” in your existing worship (although most worship can be enhanced with some diversity of expression). I’m suggesting that you begin to think like a producer of repertory theater who schedules a year of events that offers diversity through several thematic series of occasional offerings outside of the “normal” fare.
… different times of the liturgical year lend themselves to various dynamics, or modes of expression. Lent is a wonderful time for a weeknight series of services in the tradition of Taizé (http://www.taize.fr/) or to offer a space to walk a labyrinth. Advent would be a wonderful time to host a weekly drum circle with reflections on the “rhythms of life” (get the local high school or college percussion section involved to anchor the drumming if you don’t have access to someone who can facilitate the circle). Epiphany is a great time for good old-fashioned “hymn sings” and testimonials. The Easter Season (from Easter to Pentecost) is perfect for a more “praise and worship” kind of offering on a Saturday or Sunday night. Invite a nearby praise band from another church to play at a time when they aren’t playing for their own church – it is a wonderful way to forge an ecumenical or “sibling” church connection. Several years ago when I lived in Kansas City, I coordinated a Jazz Vesper Series in the month of May. It was ecumenical and it drew jazz lovers and jazz musicians together simply to affirm that the Spirit is present – whether in a jazz club or church (this tradition of jazz worship is now going strong in KC!). The weeks immediately after Pentecost can offer a natural time of introducing the congregation to music and liturgy in the many languages of the global Christian community and can also be an opportunity for cross-cultural fellowship.
Occasional services can also focus on timely events. Creating multiple “prayer stations” in a fellowship-hall space might focus on a particular theme such as prayers for peace. Having a “worship response team” that can start a “road-side” altar in a timely manner in the front of the church can offer a place for the community to respond to a tragedy, concern or matter of justice by lighting candles and writing and leaving prayer notes or pictures. When a team is preparing to leave for a mission trip, weekly gatherings in the time just before and during the trip can offer a way of learning more about the place and people where the service project will occur and surrounding that trip in prayer by the whole community. For instance, it may be as simple as preparing flood buckets for the first 30 minutes and then singing a prayer song as pictures of the place where these buckets will go are shown.
I’ve probably made my point by now. In order to offer a variety of ways to worship God, just use your imagination. Of course, the answer for your church may be, in fact, to add another service. Great! But also think about these occasional ways to open to the Spirit in all its forms! Use “Comments” to send me other ideas about ocassional series of worship offerings!