There’s no element of surprise in church services anymore. There, I said it.
As Carlos Whittaker has said,
“We’ve created a system of church in that there is zero anticipation for something new…We need to disturb and disrupt the career Christian for the sake of them seeing Christ’s face afresh.”
In church, we have become experts at churning out the plan for a church service. Prayer, songs, greet, songs, offering, announcements, sermon, songs, prayer. Those are the usual elements of a church service, right? And we wonder why ‘going to church’ just becomes something that people do to check off their list. And we wonder why people leave the service and go on living their lives the same way they did when they entered the service. There’s no element of surprise anymore.
Something needs to change.
I’m not talking about just moving around elements of the service for the sake of switching things up. I’ve sat in meetings with pastors that were convinced that if we simply put all the songs at the end, then it would surprise people and cause them to leave the service differently. That’s not what I’m talking about.
Instead of just handing them something on a silver platter, give it to them piece by piece. Instead of just handing people something, invite them into the story of Jesus Christ.
It’s Like Christmas.
When I was a kid at Christmas, if all of my gifts were simply sitting unwrapped under the tree when I came downstairs on Christmas morning, it might be cool for a couple minutes, until I realize that there is nothing to unwrap. The element of surprise comes when I discovered something for myself, but that would be gone. And let me tell you, the anticipation that was built up inside of me on Christmas morning was crazy. I couldn’t wait to unwrap my gifts.
In order to create surprise and anticipation you have to be okay with confusing people. When you confuse people you’re inviting them to ask a question. You’re creating a sense of mystery and awe that I hardly see in many church services today.
Jesus is the best example of this. He didn’t present the Gospel the same way every time. He told parables. He forced people to unwrap the Gospel for themselves. He made people think about their own lives, and then He presented them with the Gospel. How can we do the same?
To do this you must be able to think outside of the worship service itself. There are a number of things you can do inside of the service to create surprise, but today I’d like to focus on how your church can create anticipation before people even walk through your doors on a weekend. Because if you can’t break through the predictability that people expect through your marketing and communication, you’re definitely not going to be able to break through during the service.
Here are two ways to create anticipation through your church communication:
1. Release previews of upcoming sermon series through different mediums.
One great way to bring people into the story that you plan to tell through a sermon series is by releasing pieces of that sermon series prior to launching it. This could happen through video trailers or images on social media. Another way that we’ve loved creating anticipation for a new series in my church is by sharing very abstract photos on social media of the stage design that we’re building.
These visual pieces can really pique your community’s interest and cause them to ask the question, “I wonder what is going to happen at church this weekend?” When you can do that, you will have grabbed their attention and invited them into the story that you’re going to tell.
2. Ask questions on social media
Some of the most engaging posts my church has ever created on social media are those that are asking a simple question. These questions could be relating to something of interest to your community or more of a challenging question. But if you’re trying to build anticipation for a weekend service, it should subtly relate to something that is going to happen in your upcoming church service.
Again, this all ultimately comes down to marketing and communication. When people know exactly what to expect when walking into a church service, they’re going to be more likely to tune out. So when you’re planning your communication for the upcoming weekend, ask yourself the question, “Are we handing this to people on a silver platter? Or are we inviting them into the story of Jesus by wrapping it like a Christmas present?”
If you can create a sense of awe and surprise for people, they will always want to come back for more. Because that’s what the Gospel is. It’s a story of constant surprise by the love that Jesus has for you and me, and when we can tell that story well, people will always want more.
What are some other ways you can create anticipation through your church communication?