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People remember what they experience better than what they see or hear. I know I do.

It?s hard for me to remember information spoken or shown to me, much less to assimilate them into my values, habits, and lifestyle. That?s a huge challenge for churches, whose whole purpose is discipleship ? changing those values, habits, and lifestyle. But when I experience something, that experience becomes a story I recall and relive. Experiences have a more profound imprint on people, which can help shape their perspective and behavior.[quote]When I experience something, that experience becomes a story I recall and relive.[/quote]

What if we transform our worship services into memorable experiences for our congregations?

Here are a few practical ways to do that.

Begin with a Mission

We?ve recently expanded the mission of our worship services from ?make the entire service the message? to ?making the entire experience the message?. This change accomplished two things:

1. For the service production team, which includes the teaching, worship, creative, and tech teams, it challenged us to be more intentional about making every service element purposeful. The steps and changes we embrace are outlined below.

2. Proverbs 29:18 ?Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint.? It galvanized other departments like guest services, kids, and altar ministry leaders around the message and purpose for each Sunday. Every department has become more intentional about knowing what the big idea of each Sunday is. And they target the experience they provide to support and reinforce the unified message.

Kill ?Cool?

One of our most powerful arsenals in the ministry tool chest for engaging people at the experiential level is art: video, drama, space or stage design, illustrations, shared or interactive experiences, etc.

Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, that one word ?cool? has compromised the quality of the art we produce. Cool has become the default adjective for describing a great video, graphic, or creative illustration. It compromises the efficacy of the art we produce because, as a descriptor, it embodies no specific purpose beyond signifying entertainment value. It lacks emotional depth, and in order for someone to experience art, the effect has to transcend the cool factor (or people liking it). It has to strike an emotional chord deeper than the pleasure of amusement.

Cool has been used so much over time, it has become what creatives aim to produce. As creative ministry leaders, we can elevate the art we produce for the church by ?killing the cool?. Whenever you find yourself attributing that word to an idea or creative element, challenge yourself to replace it with a specific feeling to describe the art. For example, instead of saying a video is cool, say what it made you feel: inspired, disgusted, sad, happy, childlike, nostalgic, etc. We create experiences by aiming for specific feelings, not just by giving people cool experiences.[quote]We create experiences by aiming for specific feelings, not just by giving people cool experiences.[/quote]

Emotional Charting

The key to creating an experience is participation. A common misconception is that creating some type of physical activity like doing the wave or getting them to raise their hands is the only way for an audience to participate. In fact, getting someone to do something does not always achieve the goal of participation, which is to create a memorable, meaningful, and emotional experience. Even without incorporating some form of audience exercise, every service can be an experience that targets specific feelings.

This can be achieved by adding these steps into your service programming process:

1. Answer the question: What do I/we want the audience to feel about the big idea of this service? After programming the order, evaluate and determine what the overall emotional goal of the service is. Is it celebratory or contemplative? Do you want people to feel alarmed, challenged, or confident about the takeaway from the message?

Knowing the emotional packaging you want around the main point or purpose of the service is equivalent to not just identifying the right tools (a song, video, dance, lighting, etc.) to use, but also determining the best way to use them (comedy, dramatic, etc.) and the person (or type of person) to make the package.

2. Along with listing songs and elements like announcements, videos, response, etc. in programming the order of service, identify the feeling you want the audience to experience for each element. This enables you to map the emotional highs and lows of the service.

3. Chart the emotional map for big segments. Some elements involve several emotional steps for the audience to arrive at the targeted emotional state you want them to land on. A video or hosting segment may start off making the audience feel intrigued and then move them to laughter and end with feeling inspired to take action.

4. Create effective transitions. A key ingredient to effectively shape a holistic experience that most people neglect is the transition. The transition is the thread that ties the service together and helps keep the integrity of the whole experience intact. After the emotional map is charted, often a bridge is necessary to move a person from one emotional step to the next. Reviewing the emotional steps of the service progression can help catch and avert the jarring effect of ending a solemn worship song and going into a funny video without a smooth transition.[quote]The transition is the thread that ties the service together and helps keep the integrity of the whole experience intact.[/quote]

5. Expand the experience to before and after the service event. The experience can begin way before they arrive through social media ? the week before. And before the service starts at the parking lot, at kids check in, the lobby or even the walk-in experience. Then after the service, the lobby, social media, the website, small group conversations for the week, etc. can reinforce the experience.

What a great honor to be entrusted by the Lord with the role of helping equip his people through the creative presentation of His teachings! Let?s make each Sunday more than just a lecture or an ordered service. Let?s turn it into an experience people will remember!

What are some of the ways you transform your services into experiences?

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