Experiencing church for the first time as a twenty year old young man was quite the experience. I’ve been a part of brush arbor revivals, where you go out into a field and gather some sticks and build a structure to have a church service in. I’ve been in church services where they couldn’t find anyone to play the piano or sing, so we skipped that part of the service. And I’ve been in services in homes where people got so “filled with the spirit” they started knocking things off walls, which led to a quick exit for me.
All that to say, I’ve been in some pretty bad worship experiences.
Even in the church I currently serve, we haven’t always had a great worship experience.
There were times in the beginning in which we never got started on time, prayer time turned into gossip time, and testimonies turned into the second sermon of the day.
It’s really amazing that our church survived those early days, but the one thing we had working for us was a love for God and a genuine love for others.
Once we combined those two things with a great worship experience, we really started to see our church take off, growing twenty, thirty, and even forty percent some years.
So, what makes up a great worship experience? I believe it should consist of these five elements.
The same buzz and excitement that Jesus brought to every town He visited, I believe we should try to bring to our worship services. Greet people with hugs and high-fives. Provide coffee so people aren’t falling asleep. Create a kids’ ministry that parents have to drag their kids away from. Use high-energy music to set the mood for the day. The world has a way of beating people down throughout the week. Make sure your service lifts them up.
Nothing–and I mean nothing–will kill energy faster than a bad flow. Not getting started on time, fumbling transitions, dead time between songs, too many announcements, these will all ruin the experience. Most churches should be doing a full rehearsal of the service before the service. I lay out a good format for the worship experience in this post.
Creativity builds anticipation, and anticipation creates energy. So, while you should have a consistent flow, you also need to sprinkle in creativity. This could be a video element. It could be a sermon illustration or even a small giveaway that helps them remember the sermon. Each week people should be thinking, I wonder what they’re going to do this week.
One of the biggest reasons small churches don’t grow is because they focus too much on those already in the church rather than those outside of it. Andy Stanley wrote a great book on this subject called Deep and Wide. Every church leader should read it. Prepare with the outsider in mind. What do they need to hear? What are the issues they’re facing? Chances are the issues they’re facing are the same as the insiders. The insiders just hide it better.
5.Intentional Next Steps
If you have the four previous elements mentioned, you’ll have a great opportunity to call people to action. What do you want them to do with the information you just shared with them? If you have a hard time answering that question, chances are your sermon isn’t helping anyone, and you need scrap it and start over. If you teach on money, encourage them to sign up for a budget class. If you teach on the importance of community, encourage them to sign up for a small group. If you teach on grace, encourage them to take Jesus up on his offer to follow Him. Whatever you do, don’t miss your opportunity to help them grow in their faith by putting it into action.
Know someone else who could benefit from this information? Your next step is to share or forward this on to them. Thanks for your help in equipping small town church leaders around the world.
I am a husband, father, and executive pastor of a small town church that went big. I have a passion for helping pastors grow themselves and the churches they serve. You can find out more about me and my ministry at http://travisstephens.me