It is certainly not my intention to belabor a point, but my last post (related to a workshop on worship that I recently facilitated) inspired some good and thoughtful chat here in the confines of blog-land.
So, here is another list of personal convictions that I shared with the workshop participants.
The list of convictions in my last post focused on music ministry. This list is a bit broader in its scope and touches upon different components of the journey toward a new worship experience.
Of course, each one of these convictions deserves an entire post and then some. I list them briefly here simply for the purpose of inspiring further thought and exploration.
Some Personal Convictions
Concerning the Development and Implementation
of a New Worship Experience
Eric Park (June 2007)
1. A creative and committed Vision Team is essential in the process of dreaming and planning a new worship experience.
(Many congregations fail in their development of new worship experiences because they do not allow sufficient time in the dreaming and planning phase. The dreaming and planning phase, if managed well, will generate the vision and passion necessary to sustain the new worship experience even after it loses its sense of newness. It is critical that those chosen for this vision team are creative in their thinking, committed in their worship life, and gracious in their demeanor. Allow more time for this dreaming and planning phase than you think that it will require. It is best for the Vision Team to be facilitated or convened by a leader who understands the liturgical components and some portion of the history of Christian worship.)
2. The work of the Vision Team must include both liturgical dialogue and liturgical experience (i.e., both conversation ABOUT worship and participation in the innovative worship offered by other congregations).
(Experiencing the worship offered by other congregations can be an enormous help in the development of vision concerning what new or different worship might look like. It must remain clear to all members of the vision team, however, that, when they visit other churches, it is not for the purpose of finding a liturgical blueprint to steal. Rather, it is for the purpose of gaining new insight and fresh inspiration that might undergird the team’s ongoing work.)
3. When dealing with the church’s administrative process, it is far better to ask for permission than forgiveness.
(Accountability to the Church Council—or whatever your church’s governing body might be—is not to be underestimated. Regular and articulate presentations to the Church Council can go a long way toward helping the church’s administrative officers to feel invested in the new worship experience.)
4. When choosing the day and time for the new worship service, it is sometimes more helpful to run than to fight.
(Congregations can be enormously protective of their Sunday morning patterns and routines. Sometimes—not always, but sometimes—holding a new worship service on a Saturday or Sunday night is a good way of avoiding unnecessary warfare and congregational turmoil.)
5. If the pastor and church staff are not fully invested in the new worship experience, then your church is probably not ready for a new worship experience.
(The pastor and staff are the leaders from whom the congregation will take its cues in responding to the new worship experience. Their full and enthusiastic support, therefore, is nothing less than crucial.)
6. The congregation will not support what it does not understand.
(It is essential, then, that at least two months are devoted to the task of interpreting the new worship experience to the existing congregation. This can and must be done through every medium: newsletter; website; postcards and letters; and, perhaps especially, preaching and teaching.)
7. Worship is not fundamentally about technology, but a sanctuary that is not technologically equipped can hinder worship’s impact.
(The months of planning and preparation leading up to a new worship experience must also include the technological upgrades that the new worship will require.)
8. The placement of the right leaders in the right positions on a worship team is every bit as important as finding the right preacher, if not more so.
(In addition to having the right man or woman to preach the Word, a new worship experience will require a variety of gifted and growing leaders, each of whom must organize a team that will function under his or her leadership. The following list is meant to provide insight concerning the types of leaders who may very well be necessary in the implementation phase of a worship initiative.)
-A MUSICAL LEADER is crucial, a musician whose musicianship is matched by his or her love for God and his or her ever-expanding repertoire. In most circumstances, this musical leader will be responsible for the recruitment, training, and organization of a growing team of musicians that will provide the ministry of music at the new worship experience.
-A WORSHIP LEADER is also crucial. This will be someone who provides a winsome “platform presence” and who can offer spoken prayer and liturgical leadership in a way that is both articulate and evocative. In many churches, the worship leader and the musical leader are often one in the same. But this might not make sense in certain church settings.
-A TECHNOLOGICAL LEADER is a must, especially if your worship experience is audio-visually complex. It helps if the technological leader is highly competent in the areas of lighting, sound, video, and computer technology. It will be the technological leader’s responsibility to build a team of techno-wizards to support the new worship experience.
-The need for a CHILDCARE COORDINATOR or OVERSEER requires no elaboration. Creative care for the young sheep of the fold is never to be minimized.
-A HOSPITALITY COORDINATOR is a key component in any new worship experience. He or she will recruit the ushers and greeters and will work to create an hospitable environment in the lobby or narthex.
-If a new worship experience is going to become everything that God wants it to become, a PRAYER TEAM, overseen by a PRAYER TEAM LEADER, must be in place. This team will be responsible for praying before, during, and after worship. It is helpful if some members of the team are available to pray and talk with those who are in need of such ministry following the worship experience.
9. If the aforementioned leaders do not find a way to work in sync, worship will have a schizophrenic character.
(Part of the overseeing pastor’s responsibility is to find a way to make certain that the different leaders are operating with a similar vision and liturgical understanding. This may require weekly or monthly meetings. It will also surely involve the nurturing of an environment in which all of the leaders feel challenged and appreciated.)
10. A new worship experience will only be as deep as the prayer that undergirds it.
(The prayer of righteous people, according to Scripture, is powerful and effective. Any new worship experience, therefore, must be saturated in the earnest prayers of God’s people. Prayer, quite simply, is the primary conduit through which the Holy Spirit can make his way into a new ministry of worship.)