I was recently on a long flight home from a mission trip in Kenya. A gentleman sat next to me who had been attending our church for a few months. He began to ask me questions when he realized I was involved in planning services at our church.
We were locked into our seats for the next 13 hours, so we had plenty of time to tackle his questions. He went on to ask a few random questions about our teaching pastors, the way we do communion, why we take offering, etc. Then the kicker came: ?Why does it feel like we sing the same songs every week?? Ouch.
While the natural response might be to get defensive, I actually relished the opportunity to share the strategy behind why we do what we do. I proceeded to talk for the next several hours about the heart and thought behind every aspect of our weekend services. I don?t think he fully understood what he was about to get into when he opened that can of worms.
Our team works hard each week to plan an experience that will engage the heart, mind, and soul of the people who walk through our doors in each of our 5 campuses. We work, sometimes literally, around the clock on every single detail of our services?from start to finish. We plan every transition, song arrangement, scripture, video that hits the screen? There?s not a thing that happens without it being thought through with extreme intentionality (sometimes down to the second).
So with all that intentionality and attention to detail, why might the average attender think we sing the same songs every week? Wouldn?t you expect the services to look or feel different from week to week? Where?s all of that creative energy going?
?Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that?s easy. What?s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that?s creativity.? ? Charles Mingus
I contend that there is value?extreme value?in focusing that energy on consistency and familiarity. Sometimes, in the creative process, it might feel like there?s a need to reinvent the wheel. But in actuality, we may just need to take our services from a 7.5 to an 8. The truth of the matter is that we don?t sing the same songs every week. In fact, we have a pretty solid rotation of 30-35 songs right now and are consistently looking for opportunities to add new music to our services.[quote]There is value in focusing your?energy on consistency and familiarity.[/quote]
In the last three years of playing an active role in planning our weekend services, there are three key things I?ve learned when it comes to consistency and familiarity.
1. Consistency?breeds engagement.
When people feel comfortable or familiar with something, they are more apt to engage in their surroundings. Think about Starbucks. They?ve mastered the art of comfort and familiarity. While the individual store layouts may be different, every Starbucks feels exactly like the last one you went to. It?s familiar. It?s comfortable. And because of that, people keep coming back.[quote]When people feel comfortable or familiar with something, they are more apt to engage in their surroundings.[/quote]
Can you imagine walking into a Starbucks with bright yellow walls? You would feel completely out of place! Now imagine walking into your church service and everything was completely different from start to finish, week to week. New songs, a different order of service, etc? Again, you would feel completely out of place and become a spectator instead of a participator.
Keep things familiar and watch the level of engagement in your church consistently rise!
Tip: Whenever we introduce a new song, we make sure to pair it with a song that?s very familiar. If we can set the bar for engagement at its highest level, it gives the new song a much higher chance of crowd participation, which will almost always determine its future success.
2. Consistency removes fear of the unknown.
This concept is key when it comes to marketing your church. Yep, I said marketing. It was some years ago when our church began to realize that our people, and not the traditional outlets, were in fact our most valuable marketing tool. Sure, you can put an ad in the paper or a billboard on the freeway, but nothing sells the strength of your church like the loyalty and pride of your people.[quote]Nothing sells the strength of your church like the loyalty and pride of your people.[/quote]
With that in mind, we do our best to help remove all fears of the unknown in our services. We want them to feel completely comfortable knowing exactly what to expect?at least 90% of the time. We reserve the other 10% for creative elements that will take a weekend up just a notch and hopefully give our people something to talk about on Monday. Consistency from week to week will give your people the opportunity to talk freely with their friends about what to expect when they invite them to church. And that?s the best marketing you can do!
Tip: When planning our weekend services, we use a fictitious mental rating scale of 1-10 (10 being best) and always shoot for 8?s. We don?t try to hit grand slams once a month; we try to hit home runs every week.
3. Pacing creativity will keep them wanting more.
We can often get stuck working so hard trying to come up with a most super awesomely ridiculously cool creative element every week. Not only is this impractical and fairly impossible, it?s just not a very good strategy.
First and foremost, focus on making your services as consistently excellent as you can. Then you can start working on adding a creative element once in a while. Creativity simply loses its luster when it becomes overused. And beyond that, if it?s happening every week, is it really that creative? Pace out your creative elements and give your church the opportunity to wait in anticipation for what you?re going to think of next.[quote]Creativity simply loses its luster when it becomes overused.[/quote]
Tip: We have found that if we can produce one over-the-top creative element every 4-6 weeks, it will whet the appetite of our people and keep them wanting more. The buzz it creates will carry us while we work on developing the next idea.?
I hope this information has been helpful and informative for you and your church. I?d love to hear your thoughts. What do your weekend services look like? Are you shooting for an 8 every week or riding the roller coaster between 3 and 9? If you?ve learned any other principles about the consistent and familiar weekend planning, I?d love to learn from you. Let?s dialogue in the comments below!