Transitioning Your Church’s Corporate Worship – Part One
Many churches today realize there is a need to transform their times of corporate worship from a traditional style to a unified (some would say “blended”) or more contemporary style of worship. My Worship Wars series will help you think through some of these issues. Once a church decides to make a change, your next steps can really help or hurt the process.
Most people absolutely do not like change. To have 50’s-style worship this week and next week have a transformed sanctuary, band, no choir, casual dress, etc. is a prescription for disaster. It is of utmost importance that transition be done in a well-thought-out procession of steps including much education to help your people understand biblically, missionally, socially, culturally, etc. why you are making the change.
While I have several posts already dealing with transition in worship, I feel there is much more to say. In the next few weeks, I will be outlining some ways to help a church make as smooth a transition as possible.
First, it is important to realize the most important step is prayer. Hopefully, if you have come to a decision to transition your church’s worship, you have already sought the Father’s heart for this. You shouldn’t make changes in worship just because the church down the street is doing it, or you prefer the worship at a church you formerly served.
Once you begin the implementation of change, you must continue in fervent prayer, because the enemy will find this as one of the optimum ways to create division. Worship should be the most unifying practice of the church, yet we can often make it one of the most carnal fights. Nothing could please Satan more than to disrupt worship of our God.
Every church is at a different level of preparedness for transitioning worship. For the sake of the next few weeks of posts, I will create a fictitious church that will work through the steps to change. You may find that your church is almost identical to my example, or you may find there are many or few similarities. Hopefully the steps we take together will help you in your ministry.
East City Church Profile
East City Church has been in existence for 125 years. The church has a rich heritage of God’s work in the community and beyond. The church’s corporate worship is very traditional. They sing hymns accompanied by an organ and piano. The choir usually sings a couple of songs at each service. For the most part, no music written in the last 20-30 years is sung by the congregation in worship. The Minister of Music is classically trained with a college degree in music and a seminary degree in church music. While the church has a reasonably good sound system, there are no video screens in the sanctuary. The church has demographically changed in the last 10-15 years, becoming a congregation that is growing older with far fewer children and teens than in the past years. The people of the church desire to see younger families coming in to the church and more engagement with the community around them.
Several years ago, East City Church started an early contemporary service to address some of these concerns. The service has never become well established. The number of attendees is very small. The people in the traditional service, for the most part, don’t seem to think there is any value in the contemporary service. Many of the people in the contemporary service feel the people in the traditional service are just going through the motions in worship. The dual service approach is fairly unhealthy for this church overall.
Recently, church leaders at ECC began to seek God’s heart for worship in the church. Much time was spent hearing from the congregation as well. After many months of deliberation and prayer, the decision was made to transform the traditional service to a unified worship service—a multi-generational service embracing the new and old while seeking to utilize forms of worship in the vernacular of the people.
WARNING: Worship renewal and worship transitioning requires a high level of spiritual maturity among the people. Churches that are very self-centered or that are very consumeristic will not do as well with change.
PRESCRIPTION FOR CHANGE
In the next weeks, I will lay out a plan for East City Church as it moves forward in transitioning its corporate worship. I will specifically look at these areas:
Improve technology to support new form of worship
Create a worship planning team
Develop a new song list for congregational music
Create a resource that will contain new songs for worship
Determine instrumentation to be used in the unified worship service
Identify people to be a part of a vocal team
Cast vision for the new role of the choir
Educate. Inform. Do it constantly.
Determine needed rehearsals and meetings
Determine how the video components of the service will be handled
Provide re-tooling assistance to the minister of music.
I invite you to journey with me as we help East City Church transition their corporate worship.
Kenny Lamm, senior consultant for worship and music for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, is a frequent worship conference leader with a strong focus on equipping leaders in North Carolina (USA) and Southeast Asia. His blog, Renewing Worship, features posts that explore ways to renew–impart new life and vigor to–the worship in the local church.