The backdrop was made from coroplast rectangles that we paid a local business to cut out for us. Very simple concept based on a set from North Point Church in Atlanta. We loved the idea because it had energy, was simple and was easily scalable for our regional campuses.
Tag Archives: Creative Service
We are in the midst of the longest series (31 weeks) that we have ever attempted in the history of our church. We’re going through many of the major events in the Bible using “The Story.” Week 1 was about creation and the fall of man, so we created a “Garden Of Eden” set on the stage. Usually the message ends our services, but for this service, we ended with the song “Good” from Music Inspired by The Story. It’s an aggressive piece that ends very suddenly and unexpectedly, and we created video support that had Eve’s arm reaching for the apple at the very end. As soon as she touched it, the entire room went black. In a few seconds, the lights came up slowly, and the screen simply said “To Be Continued…” No closing comments. No benediction. No dismissal.
It was a risk, to be sure. A few people didn’t like it. However, the overall feeling was that it was “a moment,” a time when people were (at least momentarily) transported beyond themselves and really engaged with what was happening. Several people said “Whoa!” out loud. It wasn’t spectacle for spectacle’s sake – we really did want people to take what happened very, very seriously. And they did. Not comfortable. But good. And memorable. That moment stuck, and it helped to reshape some thinking about the seriousness of sin. Stuff like that you can only do once in a great while – I think making people uncomfortable just for the sake of it is manipulative – and your Senior Pastor and whole staff team really need to be on board. As long as they are, every once in awhile it’s good to really shake things up…
Creative worship service planning is a difficult and imperfect process. It takes trust. It takes a balance between the comfortable and the unexpected. It takes the understanding that the (very) different people that God has created react to to service elements in (very) different ways…
I make no claim to have worship service planning figured out. I fairly regularly include elements in our services that are found to be less than stellar in our service review process. I have found that what works best (again, as best as I can tell) for our services is to change things up every week. Not in radical ways – we have our liturgy, of sorts – but in look, feel, and – most of all – creative elements.
This takes a lot of brainstorming. The best brainstorming comes in a team setting. The variety of ideas matches the variety within the congregation. The the mindset of those involved in the brainstorming sessions is of critical importance. You see, the problem comes when people get locked in to a certain idea early on in the process – it blocks any further idea generation. In all honesty, I believe that this is usually because of ego – each person wants his or her idea used, so, once an idea comes to mind, the focus shifts to getting that idea used, rather than coming up with more (and often better) ideas.
The solution? There is no easy one! But here’s a couple of ideas:
1. Instead of asking each person for an idea, ask them for five. That forces the mind into considering alternate points of view.
2. Ask the team member to come up with an idea that is in some ways the opposite of their current idea, but which might still work.
3. Have each person write down their idea on a sheet of paper, and then pass it to the next person, who will amend or adjust it in some way. Than pass it on to the next person, etc… Each person has at least somewhat ownership in every idea through this process.
Sometimes, you just have to have three drum sets….
Every once in awhile, we have what’s called a “friend” weekend. These services are designed to be friendly to people who have never been in a church environment before – it’s a chance for our folks to invite their unchurched friends, family and neighbors. We don’t water down the message in any way, but we do include elements that generate “buzz” (people saying: “You should come see this!”). It might be as simple as a secular song that ties in with the topic, or a full-blown major production piece (click here for an example from a Mother’s Day service a couple of years ago).
A week or so ago, we did a service on the importance of “play.” Our area is full of hyper-driven, Type A, overachiever types who never take a break. Since it was the first week of an eight week series, we thought we’d combine the friend week idea with the play idea. What came out was a service that included a triple drum solo, thousands of glowsticks and the mascot of the Indianapolis Colts (who goes to our church, although not usually in costume). It also included a great time of worship and some straight-up teaching. You know, it is OK to have fun every once in awhile! : )
One of the sins of the American church is ageism. I’ve seen it take a couple of forms. The most common is the mid-20’s to early-30’s young hipster worship leader, surrounded by a band of similarly young and hip players and singers. Less common, but also there, is the aging worship leader that only draws similarly aging team members (or has been playing with the same team for so long that it has become an exclusive club).
I would suggest a middle road – a team that reflects the entire body of Christ. We work hard to be intentional about having diversity on the team. Many churches get the importance of racial diversity, and many get gender diversity, but not that many (in my experience) get age diversity. I love seeing a 60-year-old percussionist standing next to a 22-year-old guitarist. Maturity and energy meet in a really good way. And don’t mistake me – I’m not pushing diversity as a politically-correct buzzword. I’m pushing it because God created us in diverse ways, and at diverse times, and that should be celebrated!
Or maybe I’m just getting older… : )
I’ve hit this topic before, but I really thing that there is value in “branding” a service, for lack of a better name. Our Lead Pastor gives me his messages about two months in advance, which is an incredible blessing and really helps us to be able to build fully integrated services where everything is built around a central theme. That’s a big deal to me. I was a teacher before I became a pastor, and I know that how we communicate has a big impact on how much people are able to absorb. Having a central idea that is hit in a bunch of different ways (visually, musically, etc…) helps it to stick. The service name or title gives a special identity, so I try to choose names that are a bit unusual to aid that stickiness. Here’s a recent one that we did on dealing with adversity called “AQ.”