In this issue of Pastorpedia, pastors Knute Larson, Jeff Bogue, and Jim Brown talk about how pastors can improve the worship service experience.
We can wish they would really check our discipleship materials or children’s programs. We can beef up the counseling or clean the building better. We can quote Barna who says 80% of people come as guests because they are invited by a friend.
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The Main Way People Judge Church
But we all know they come back the second time and more because of the worship service and the sermon. And we can pray about those, and do everything possible to expose the Bible and communicate better.
But here let’s talk about the rest of the worship services. And maybe let’s take responsibility personally for what can be done to improve them and see that they connect with God and also with the people.
See what you think.
Knute, Jeff, Jim
Who is the main worship leader of the church?
- The senior pastor and the pastoral staff should be the main worship leaders of the church. It is often those people who live their lives publicly, who take positions of leadership on platforms, and who vocally express the teachings of the scripture that wind up setting the pace for how the congregation worships and responds to God.
- In a public service setting, half of the service is going to be preaching/teaching. The other half of the service is going to be music/alternate forms of communication. In that setting I would look and say I and the worship pastor are the main worship leaders. When we come into other settings, one of the associate pastors or one of the elders may be setting the pace for that environment. It tends to be the vocal, up front people who set the pace for worship.
- The senior pastor should model worship. While he isn’t leading from the stage, he is leading from his seat or standing with the people. He gives permission and influences many people by modeling it well. Plus it prepares his heart to preach!
- The worship pastor, staff or volunteer leads the people with a heart in tune with God. It is critical that this person loves Jesus, has a rich understanding of the Bible, and has solid theology. Plus he must have been impacted by Jesus before he can ever lead us!
- The pastor. Like it or not, people note how involved we are.
When I was young, many called the singing, praying, and Scripture reading “the preliminaries.” Once in a while the pastor would stay seated and work on his notes, rather than worship the Creator of the universe. Selah.
- Volunteer or staff, there must be a person who joins the pastor in feeling responsible for details and quality of the ingredients and attitudes and segues and modest apparel and focus of those on the platform.
- The Spirit of God. I should have written it first. But all of us do pray that His inspired Word will be elevated and His fruit will be seen.
What do you ask of volunteers and staff in this area?
- When it comes to worship services we ask the volunteers and staff to be fully engaged in the efforts of the worship services. Our main prayer and focus points are based on the belief that when we hold a worship service we are participating in a divine appointment with God:
- We are speaking for God and creating an environment to focus on God and for God to be “heard.”
- Therefore, whatever we do must be done to the best of our ability and as free of distraction as possible.
- We ask that the staff and volunteers are walking right with God, are fully committed to what they volunteered to do, are focused when it comes to executing their duties, are fully prepared to do what they volunteered to do, and are talented in the areas that they are doing it. For example, people who don’t like kids should not be working with children, and people who cannot sing should not be in the band!
- We ask for a full level of commitment. If you are not able to be focused, not able to be committed, and do not take a divine appointment seriously, we would ask you not to volunteer in those areas.
- All our other “asks” would be explicitly tied to the area in which they are volunteering. So, if you are going to work with children we ask that you be trained to work with children. If you’re going to be playing in the band, then we’re going to ask you to audition to be in that band, etc.
- To be an active participant, fully engaged in the worship with hearts and minds.
- We even ask our auxiliary staff who are are serving during one of the services, to stay and worship in another service.
- Because of how visible the worship team members are, we ask that they model Jesus well all week long.
- We provide an alternative gathering for children of auxiliary volunteers so that they don’t have to sit in the same children’s ministry setting more than once on the Sunday their parents are serving.
- I challenge our men to lead from the front in worship so that their children and families can learn from them and prioritize it in their lives.
- We elevate the value of worship so that it doesn’t just become a preliminary to the message. It can impact the rest of their day and week.
- Recognizing that worship breaks down strongholds of Satan we give our very best to Jesus week after week in this area.
- No showing off, palaver, focus on themselves by actions or words.
- Repeat #1.
- Stay for the rest of the service. Some think you are leaving for coffee or to kill time while the sermon is on.
- Sit toward the front to model allegiance and involvement.
- Careful dress. When a host pastor of the church where I spoke recently asked me to evaluate specifics, I asked him candidly, “Do you think there was one man in the first half of the room who was not distracted by that short, short skirt of the ‘oh ahh’ singer on the right?
Every team must have a “modesty Nazi” (a woman) who does not allow for immodest dress. Threaten with a choir robe.
What are the main ingredients of a worship service?
- For us the main ingredients would be preaching, teaching, music that is responsive in nature, and vision-casting. We look at that time and say, “We want you to hear from God’s Word and respond to God however that is appropriate.” We use our music to do that, and we want to cast a vision—perhaps for the church, perhaps for a certain activity, but mostly a vision for how God can work in our lives and we can be used by Him to do what He has called us to do.
- We are unique at Grace Church in that we do the majority of our music after the sermon. We spend less time “preparing” to hear God’s Word and more time responding to what has just been taught.
- Jesus, our Lord! Anything else is not worth gathering for.
- We work hard at giving praise to Jesus and not man. Ask yourself this question, who gets the praise on your platform, man or God?
- Every part of the service is an act of worship—preaching, technology, singing, offering, prayer, and announcements.
- I have often told our people, “What if God allows us to worship Him in heaven the way we worshiped Him on earth?” That should impact our worship.
- We prioritize these items in every worship gathering: vision, challenge, response, and a call to action. We do not want our worship gathering to just be a holy huddle, but a time to equip and then go and live it out.
- We always gauge our services by what we call “heart.” We don’t want a mechanical setting or “performance” worship service. When we engage Jesus in worship it should change us!
- Worship by singing, praying, preaching, and listening to God’s Word, encouraging each other, love and joy.
- Okay, here goes a hobby horse: why not have, at least sometimes, a planned pastoral prayer to model Praise-Repent-Ask-Yield (see notes we share on that). This is as opposed to the guitarist’s impromptu, “Dear Jesus (strum, strum), I love that song we just sang. Thanks for helping me write it. I just hope…”
- I encourage pastors to pray a planned P-R-A-Y with their wives once in a while. This models a lot—your marriage unites, a woman on the platform leading worship planning, and P-R-A-Y (and many are sacred to pray out loud even in small groups, until they learn the ease and sense of a planned prayer).
- One more rant: “give attention to the public reading of Scripture.”
Pastorpedia is produced monthly by three experienced pastors: Jeff Bogue, of Grace Church, in several locations in the Bath-Norton-Medina areas of Ohio; Jim Brown, of Grace Community Church in Goshen, Indiana, a church known for its strong growth, family and men’s ministries, and community response teams; and Knute Larson, a coach of pastors, who previously led The Chapel in Akron, Ohio, for 26 years. Pastorpedia is brought to you by CE National. Visit cenational.org/pastorpedia for more issues and to read the bios of our contributors.