There is a lot to be said theologically and philosophically about a worship service. I have written about worship from those perspectives in the past. In this post I wanted to share with you how we plan and seek to execute a worship service. While none of these ideas are original they have been honed to fit our vision and place in the Kingdom of God.
The key word we use in our planning is balance. Every worship service has to strike a balance between the tensions of reaching out to others while helping Christians grow in their faith. This is our method of trying to achieve equilibrium. Remember, our vision is to reach the unchurched by accepting them and meeting their needs. This vision is a very real part of our worship planning.
Above is what is called “The Rules of Engagement.” As you can see we seek to find balance by making the first half of our church service welcoming, just like you would welcome someone into your home. The second half of the service is keyed on engaging you with God and challenging you to grow in your faith- just like you serving a great meal to your friends at a party- except the meal is the Word of God.
The sideways pyramid indicates that we start out our service with very broad strokes and then come to a point. Success is having people engaging and challenged through an experience with God.
Preservice Experience: The church experience actually starts in the parking lot. This is why we have 6 signs up welcoming you to church! It also includes the greeters, the bulletin, the coffee area, and the kid’s sign-up area. During this time we want to give the best first impression possible. Many first time guests make their decision if they are coming back or not during the preservice experience. Here comfortable takes precedence over theological.
Opener: The opener is generally the first song we sing but it also can be a game or something fun. It’s a win if we can get you to smile or laugh in the first three minutes of the service. It is designed to create a sense of enjoyment.
Welcome: if you have noticed Bobby will specifically say what we will do in the worship. He’ll say we’ll be singing some songs and listen to some teaching from Kirk. This is not designed for the regular attender, but for a person coming for the first time. It tells them what to expect and this helps them feel welcome. It’s sorta like telling your guests what you’re preparing for dinner that evening. It’s not announcement time. It’s a time to make people feel… welcome!
Singing: During singing is when we ask people to get involved. We intentionally use singing and not worship because that is what we are doing. There are many forms of worship, including our lifestyle, so we specifically say singing. By being more specific we are more likely to engage a new attender because we are telling them exactly what we are doing and not using some bibulous term.
Communion: We celebrate communion weekly at Celebration modeling after the early church in the book of Acts. At Communion we invite all believers to participate in the grace of Jesus Christ. This is also a time that a sojourner (one on a journey of faith) can see us model the significance Christ has in our hearts.
Special: We have not done too many specials here at Celebration but when we do this is where they fit in. Specials must fit in with the point of the message being given. They are designed to stir tension, to stir people up. When we do a special we are not seeking to answer questions, but to ask questions. The message is designed to answer those questions and resolve the tension.
Title Package/Message: When designing the message we ask basically two questions. Was it helpful and was it truthful? Here we run the risk of offending people. Here we present the truth of God’s word in the most compelling, memorable, and challenging way we can.
Closer & Offering: Usually, the closer is a song and we take up the offering during the song. The intent is help everyone leave with a sense of closing to the service. Sometimes though we will switch it up and end with a video or some other special exercise. On these occasions the offering is placed earlier in the service.
Baptism: We baptize whenever someone is ready to be baptized. We celebrate our baptisms in the Y’s pool and have cake afterwards. It is a great event as someone is baptized into Christ and into the family of God. It’s a time of Celebration!! While right now we have to have our baptisms at the end of the service our hope in the new building is to bring them in the middle of the time of worship.
So this is the nuts and bolts of how we try to set up a worship service at Celebration. Remember, the key word is balance between making people comfortable and engaging them in an encounter with God.