Are your services predictable? / by Ben Stapley

It’s easy for church services to get into a rut with Sunday coming every 7 days. Over 52 weeks a year and creative teams can start to rely on past successes instead of crafting dynamic new ones. Whether your services are timed to the minute or open ended, below are a number of approaches to develop dynamic church services. Hopefully these will give you a fresh perspective and help put your best creative foot forward.

  • Everyone Has A Liturgy - Regardless if your church is high or low, rural or urban, young or old, you have a liturgy. Acknowledging your liturgy allows you to adapt the service structure so that it does not become stale. If your church is nondenominational you may struggle with the misconception that you don’t follow a liturgy. Write out your unwritten liturgy. After you know your rules you can then start to break them. Check out this spoof video about the liturgy found within most contemporary churches.

  • Start With A Bang - Our cultural events have delays. Previews play before the movie starts and the game doesn’t begin until you sing the anthem. So when people come to your event, your church service, they come expecting a delay. You can combat this attitude by starting with a bang - with something people don’t want to miss. This is difficult because we want everyone to experience our best content. But if you put this principle into practice once a month, you start to change the culture and build a higher degree of expectation for the start of your service. An easy way to do this is start with an awesome video and reference it during the message. People will wonder what they missed and might show up earlier the following week.

  • Once And Done - There are a number of holidays (Mother's Day, July 4th, etc.) that you’ll want to incorporate into the service but not dominate the service. When this is the case, it's best to reference these holidays with an element (video, prayer, reflective thought, etc.) early on and move forward. These allow you to serve the holiday but not become a servant to it.

  • Address Cultural Crisis - Whenever a national or global crisis happens during the week, people on Sunday anticipate a response. They want to know that their church and their God is involved and concerned with what’s happening in the world. They want to see you model a posture that weeps with those who weep. When a crisis happens, develop a service response throughout the week that includes a thoughtful prayer along with options to volunteer and give.

  • Throw A Curveball - It’s natural to build a service to a climatic conclusion. But following a slow build to a peaking finish can become formulaic. If your guests ‘know what’s coming’ then throw them a curveball. Put an element that usually lands at the end, like communion, near the beginning. Or place a worship set in the middle of the message. Do something to break up the potential monotony of your service structure. We did this by handing out chocolate bars during the announcements on Valentine's Day. This inexpensive giveaway was mentioned by folks for weeks afterward.

  • All Killer No Filler - You have limited time for a service so make every minute count.  Avoid any moment that doesn’t serve the vision for the morning. It would be better to end a couple of minutes early than to pad time with mediocre content. Your services are the first impression for many people checking out the church and God, so make them count.

The best way to avoid stagnant services is to be spirit led throughout the whole process. We can easily forget to pray for God’s Spirit to work until the performance of a service. Make sure to invite the presence of God into the whole service creation process.  This includes your planning, practice and performance.