Developing creative worship – just how interactive are we?
All around us media providers are scrambling to make their products interactive. You don’t just watch the News – you email your opinions and photos. You don’t just listen to the radio – you text what you are up to, and what you thought of that song. You don’t just view TV talent shows – you decide the outcome by phone vote, or even better you audition to be the star. The internet has been transformed by what people call Web 2.0 – sites like facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia and Twitter where you provide the content, sharing your films, thoughts, music tracks, photos, writings and pretty much anything else. Always ahead of the curve, Radiohead have provided the individual ‘stems’ for some of their tracks and invited fans to remix their own versions, and then post them back on the band’s website (and then, inevitably, people can vote for their favorite).
“Interactivity is hard-wired into the postmodern brain itself. This is the key to cyberspace: it is an interactive forum of communication, a two way media.” says Leonard Sweet in his essential and prophetic book Postmodern Pilgrims (2000, B&H). He quotes musician/producer Brian Eno as saying that ‘unfinished‘ is probably a better word than ‘interactive‘ – people want to participate in the outcome of the thing they are engaging with.
How about church? How interactive are your services? How ‘unfinished’? So often we dictate what people ought to sing, pray, think and respond. One or two people will provide the ‘content’ and everyone else is expected to absorb it. Where is our Church 2.0, our red button, our text number? Paul says to the Corinthians “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” (14:26) Today many people are afraid to even open up the meeting to open prayers or testimony – and for others that is as far as the interaction goes.
One of the problems is we have taken so much from the ‘event’ model of worship – big conferences and festivals where the sheer size of the congregation makes it almost impossible to solicit interaction from the crowd. And yet at Spring Harvest this year I saw Krish Kandiah receive and put on the screen hundreds of texts from the Big Top congregation. Some were funny, some poignant, and many asked searching questions which helped shape his content and delivery.
Anyway, lets face it, most of us are in churches small enough to make interaction possible. So here are a bunch of simple ideas to begin to turn the mic around and begin to lead ‘unfinished’ worship:
Psalms Praise – a simple idea Sara came up with to give the congregation a safe way of speaking out words of praise.
He’s my Saviour – we’ve used this ‘unfinished’ song from Joel Payne lots of times now, and it never fails to inspire a unique response from the congregation as they help to write the lyrics.
Testimonies Praise – a simple, cringe-free idea to help people give glory to God for the stuff going on in their lives.
Prayer Wall – create a large space with paper on a wall for people to write or paint their own prayers or praises, perhaps themed around your subject for the service or an aspect of your worship that day.
Text number – it is easy enough to get a free pay-as-you-go SIM card and invite people to text prayers, praises, questions or thoughts during a meeting. These could help shape the worship or teaching – perhaps the service leader could read out appropriate ones over the mic, or someone could put them on to the screen. We’ve just started doing this in our evening service, inviting questions and comments on the teaching to be answered the week after.
Everyone does the sermon – we once got people into groups to discuss the Bible passage for an evening service. Each group was quite big so nobody felt put on the spot, and was led by an experienced facilitator. At the end of the discussion the group had to sum up what they thought were the most important points from the passage, and present them to the rest of the congregation however they liked (max 3 mins). An ‘unfinished’ approach to teaching, where everyone got to input as much as they wanted.
I’m feeling increasingly excited by the potential of ‘unfinished’ worship to release everyone in the congregation as a potential worship leader, as people offer their own praise, prayers and thoughts.
Of course, I would undermine this whole article if this didn’t remain ‘unfinished’ – here is your opportunity below to suggest your own interactive/unfinished worship ideas…
Sam Hargreaves is co-founder of engageworship.org. The resources linked to in the above article are from that site.