Do you prefer to watch a performance or be part of it? I’ve always been more of a watcher myself. I remember the first time I saw the barrier between watcher and participant crossed. It was when I watched the Blue Man Group in Las Vegas one night. Whether I was getting doused with paint, or unrolling toilet paper with my neighbor, it became obvious that I couldn’t just watch. I didn’t willingly submit to the chaos, but ultimately it proved to be an unforgettable evening.
We are seeing this transition happening in our worship services as well. If you plan on attracting people to your Sunday morning experience, it better be just that – an experience. Not an observation. Yes, it’s a lot easier to just do a performance. But if we insist on just letting people sit and passively watch, we will soon discover that they will do that at home on Sunday morning instead.
There are six principles for moving your congregation from passivity to participation. I’ve taken these from Constance Cherry’s wonderful book, The Worship Architect. Here are three of them.
- Recognize that participation is the very thing that this generation desires. We need to design worship services that involve the whole person. Do we have service elements that use sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch? I recently participated in a communion service expecting the “blood” to be grape juice. Discovering the bitterness of red wine instead, was a shock to my system. But I found that the different taste changed the way I experienced the Lord’s Supper. His death was full of pain and ugliness – not sweetness. Look for ways to engage more than just the senses of sight and sound in your services.
- Recognize that participation involves partnering with others. How can we connect people with one another? Yes, as an introvert, I prefer to avoid as much human interaction as possible. But, keeping that in mind, there are ways to gently encourage the worshipers to share with one another – prayer in small groups or that dreaded “greeting time” are options.
- Recognize that most people will naturally tend to be shy. They will need to be encouraged to not be passive. That is part of the leadership ingredient in worship leading. It’s not just music leadership – it is people leadership. How often do we ask the congregation to do something? Are there groups of people in our church the we neglect in the worship service – handicapped, senior citizens, children? Stretch people a little each week.
Let me leave you with a quote from Contemporary Worship for the 21st Century: Worship or Evangelism?
“In the post modern culture, people will go to those churches that offer them an experience of God that lifts them beyond their everyday existence. In an [entertainment] world, filled with images and sound bites, everyday experience will be hard to match, except in one way: the live, hands-on experience of worshiping the living God in a community of faith.”