One of the most refreshing observations I’ve made over the past few years is seeing greater diversity and experimentation with service formats, elements and styles. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not speaking about abandoning the empirical truth of the Word of God. That must always remain even in the midst of diversity.
One study has shown that people stop paying attention after more than 50 repetitions of the same thing. This applies to every aspect of your worship service. Diversity can be a wonderful instrument for ensuring that the truths of God remain fresh in people’s minds. Just as Jesus told multiple parables with central truths, so we can share the truth of God through multiple expressions. Another parallel can be found in the different approaches to the four Synoptic Gospel Parallels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Here, stories are repeated but reflect different presentations based upon writing style, interpretation and experience. However, the essence of truth is unchanged even though writing styles and some content is different.
I want to encourage you to step beyond your denominational and stylist norms to look at the rich diversity of Christian expressions in worship. You may find new expressions that enrich your worship experience. Please don’t stop there. You can step back hundreds and even thousands of years to traditions that have stood the test of time and have enriched the worship lives of those who have gone before us.
Over the next few blogs I’ll be covering some elements of the worship service that you may wish to either incorporate for the first time or adapt. Some of the ideas will be common to many and others may be new. Hopefully, you’ll find something over the next few blogs of value.
Most churches find that up-tempo music played as a prelude works the best in creating a welcoming atmosphere for the majority of people, and especially families. The Disney Empire has studied people’s preferences for decades. They are masters at creating atmosphere. There’s a reason why the music people enter the gates to resounds with energy. While you may be hesitant to compare something as sacred as Christian worship to anything with the icon of a mouse, we can still learn from those around us.
However, Disney intentionally plays more serene music as people leave the gates. After a particularly stressful day, Disney knows that they want people to forget about all the long lineups, sunburns, screaming kids and stomach-churning rides. Quiet music soothes the savage beast.
That’s why other churches prefer to play more meditative music to create a sense of the mystical and serene. There’s a strong argument to be made for this. Life is often like Disneyland, full of brain-baking stress. We often need a sacredly serene atmosphere to slow down our over-stimulated minds just enough allow the Spirit of God to break through the concrete-like protective shell around our hearts.
What style of prelude is right for your church? I’d say both. I believe that variety without scriptural compromise is a gift to your people. However, only you will know what works by trying different forms. Don’t be afraid to try both and see what works the best in your church.
Generally speaking, keep the volume modest on your prelude. This way, when the service finally starts there will be some volume headroom to announce to the congregation, “We’re here! We’re starting! This is what you’ve been waiting for all week!”
Most churches use live musicians for preludes. Other churches simply play CDs while people enter to create a sense of anticipation much like music played before a concert or a movie.
Other options include many excellent ‘call to worship’ videos that are now available. Some are like movie shorts, others are atmospheric. Some of these resources include www.worshipfilms.com, www.worshiphousemedia.com, www.ignitermedia.com, and www.easyworship.com. There are many more resources out there as well.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. A prelude is a subtle call to worship. If things are becoming stale, change things up for a while. Surprise is a critical part of any good story. Variation can become a powerful ally.
Our next blog will continue with other worship service elements. Stay tuned . . .
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