How often have you asked, ?How do we top what we did last week?? The question seems innocent enough. In fact, I don?t blame you for asking. All of our churches are after excellence. We all want to do our best.? We?re creative worship leaders. We want to find creative ways to tell our story.
But when we ask that ?bigger and better? question, we?re in danger of creating an unhealthy staff and a numb congregation. Let?s explore the danger of the ?bigger and better? attitude, and how to take a healthier approach to planning our worship services.
A Church of Addicts
Many of our churches are full of addicts, and we’re to blame. We’re creating little ?experience? junkies. Each experience is phenomenal and powerful. But after a while, what worked last week doesn?t provide the same effect this week. We have to go bigger. Otherwise they?ll leave to get their hit from somewhere else. The desire for bigger and better refocuses our attention away from what?s really important and focuses it on pleasing the people.[quote]The desire for bigger and better refocuses our attention away from what?s really important and focuses it on pleasing the people.[/quote]
The constant desire to ?one up? the previous service can lead to burn out. Church work is tough work. Each week we have a brand new service (maybe even multiple services) we?re planning. As the desire to go bigger grows?so does the workload. The expectations get much higher, and if not navigated carefully, things can get out of control. Your purpose becomes to create the bigger and better service. Your team ceases to be your team and becomes only a source for content generation.[quote]The constant desire to ?one up? the previous service can lead to burn out.[/quote]
One Service Fits All
The bigger and better model doesn?t allow for less. Small isn?t valued. We always have to have more. This doesn?t leave room to be responsive. It doesn?t matter where people are?we have to uphold our quality and consistency. This isn?t church for real people. This isn?t church for people that experience pain or want silence. This is church that demands you meet us where we are.
A Better Approach
If we have to do this week in and week out, we?ve got to find a good, healthy way to approach our service programming and planning. Let?s take a look at a few alternatives to the bigger and better attitude.
The Well-Balanced Meal
I like to think that the best part of being an adult is that you can eat dessert for dinner. Why wait ?til after dinner to eat ice cream? Make ice cream your dinner! As much as it’s the greatest part of adulthood, I know I can’t do that every week. I need to eat a well-balanced meal.
We have to start approaching our programming as if we’re creating a feast for our people. How do all the dishes work together? Looking at the meal as a whole improves each individual dish.
Look at your last month of services. What were they saying? Step back further. What?s the plan for this year? Do all your services work together to tell a big story? Are you feeding your people dessert every week or are you creating a great feast? Take inventory of your recent services and decide if you need to change what?s served next week.[quote]Take inventory of your recent services and decide if you need to change what?s served next week.[/quote]
?Tis the Seasons
My wife and I are the envy of our entire family every winter. Living in Florida, I wear shorts and flip-flops in the middle of January. Meanwhile, they’re all bundled up to survive the cold. As much as I appreciate that there?s no need to alter my summer wardrobe, I miss the seasons.
We long for summer after a bleak winter. The cool and beauty of fall is a relief from the blazing heat of summer.
Life is made up of seasons. It?s normal and it?s part of God?s plan to experience seasons. In the same way we adapt our wardrobe to fit our season (unless you live in perpetual summer like me), we need to adapt our services to be more responsive to the season in which we find our congregation.
If your congregation is hurting, allow them to hurt. Create experiences where they can weep and cry out together. This would be a great service to pull out a few acoustic guitars and turn off the hazers. If your congregation is celebrating, crank up the amps and hazers to eleven and celebrate. Pick songs to reflect your season. When you’re hurting, sing from a place of need. When you’re celebrating, sing songs that remind you the battle?s already won.
Walking out into a blizzard in shorts is painful and not appropriate for the season. Don?t create a painful experience for your people. Create services that celebrate the seasons and respond to them appropriately.
Shock the System
You just finished this Sunday?s service. Great job, now guess what. Sunday?s coming again, and it will continue to come again and again.
In order to manage our service every week, we?ve created systems. We know how to take a topic and turn it into a series, title package, worship songs? and we can crank out services easily. Our services have a structure to them every week so we can consistently create quality experiences. Our people have come to expect a certain quality and structure. Systems make our job easier but here?s the problem with systems:
Systems create efficiency
Efficiency creates comfort
Comfort creates contentment
Many of our churches have created such a well-run machine that we can often become blind. Blind to the power of the message we?re sharing. We become blind to why we do it all in the first place. You need to shock the system. Take a week and do everything different. Why? It will force people to pay attention when they?ve learned to overlook it. It will drive home the story you?re trying to tell that week. Shock the system to regain everyone?s attention and refocus it on what matters.[quote]Shock the system to regain everyone?s attention and refocus it on what matters.[/quote]
This week, as you plan for service, ban the bigger and better attitude from the meeting. Plan on creating a great feast, responding to the season, and shocking the system. And may I suggest doing it all over a giant bowl of ice cream?