Taking the Congregation Beyond Their Experience

I desire to lead my church into a freedom of worship that they don’t know exists. Our pastor is open to this but isn’t sure where to start. Any ideas?

Sit down with your pastor (and other church leadership) and discuss your ideas. Talk about the strengths and weaknesses of different styles of worship you have seen and various ideas you have encountered. Prayerfully consider each of these and how they would impact your congregation. Which things would be right and relevant for your church and which would not?

In considering any changes you should develop a plan and a tentative time line for implementing those changes. What tangible results do you expect to see in six months? One year? Five years?

In your planning, keep in mind the music director who had a powerful experience in worship at a conference. In his enthusiasm he tried to introduce everything he had seen and heard at the conference to his congregation on the following Sunday. It was not a very pleasant experience, to say the least. Your congregation will need time to adjust to the changes that you are introducing. (Have you noticed that, overall, people don’t like change?)

A good first step is solid biblical teaching on worship. We take too many of our cues about what is acceptable worship from our society than from the Bible. A clear understanding from Scripture about what worship is, why we worship and how we worship can be extremely beneficial in moving people forward in true worship. (We happen to have a small group study that is ideal for this.)

I highly recommend that you not make any changes for a couple of months but simply inform the congregation that some modifications are being considered. Little by little let the people know what sort of changes are coming. This will prepare them for the changes and minimize fallout.

When you actually start making the changes be very cautious and go very slowly. Perhaps you will decide that in six months your church will regularly be singing a couple of contemporary praise and worship songs during the Sunday service(s). After the first year, maybe occasionally inviting people to raise their hands to the Lord would be a good goal. (Your goals might be very different from these, but the idea is still the same.)

Throughout the entire process consistently check in with the pastor and other leadership of the church to get their perspective on how the people are responding. Remember to go slowly so as not to overwhelm the congregation. Did I mention that people do not like change? Some refuse to change even when a solid scriptural basis is shared.

In offering these suggestions I am assuming that your congregation really loves God and is desiring to move forward in His kingdom with their lives. If this is true then these ideas will help you move forward. Otherwise there are issues that are much more foundational that need to be addressed before stylistic changes can happen.

(For a more thorough treatment of this topic, see my book, Guiding Your Church Through a Worship Transition.)