Toward Effective Worship – Part 3

We’re on our way to distraction-free worship, corporate times of praise, adoration, prayer, teaching, admonition; those things your leadership regard as important when you gather together.

(Click here to catch the start of the series – Part 1)

If yours is a church where people haven’t thought through worship very thoroughly, you’ll need to start by teaching the value of each segment of your time together so people can worship intelligently. I view this concept as secondary application of Jesus words “In spirit and in truth” from His conversation with the woman at the well. An informed congregation is going to make good spiritual-use of your hour together if they know and understand what each aspect of your service is intended to accomplish.

Thankfully you don’t have to start a class, recruit and approve a teacher, then hope everybody comes. Just teach as you go.

I found a phrase in “Music is for Me” a Kindergarten music curriculum by Connie Fortunado. One of her main premises was:

“Experience first, understand second.”

I immediately latched on to it and put it to work, not only in my Kindergarten music class, but also on Sunday mornings. The principle works for adults and students in worship just as well: Teach them about what they’ve been participating in, some for decades.

I doubt that you’ll get the results you want by picking one Sunday to teach them EVerything they need to know about Sunday morning worship. The one person you hope will catch a certain emphasis and decide to shape up will probably be out of town or home with a cold that day, and you’ll be frustrated. So pick one or two elements of your service each week and instruct as you guide your congregation through the service. You don’t have to tell them what you’re doing (unless you want to), just weave it in to the flow of events. Review and re-phrase as needed until everyone pretty much gets it. After you have an informed congregation, include your visitors in on-going review. Here are two examples, taken from things I’ve used:

We’re going to receive your gifts to the Lord in a moment. It’s one of the ways we express our love for God, live in joyful obedience and provide for the ministry needs here at First Church. If you’re a guest here today, please let the offering plate go by, this is for the folks who call First Church “home”. Focus on God’s goodness and all He’s given you. Tell Him Thank-You while the organ plays …

After a prelude:

Thank you, instrumentalists. (to people) Opening moments are key, aren’t they? If we were at a ball game we’d have just sung the National Anthem. Maybe shouted “Play Ball!” Each week at this time we have an appointment with God for an hour or so, so we begin with a song to draw you in close, remind you to lay aside your To-do list for an hour, and focus on God. That’s what the prelude is for; to give you a couple minutes in which to focus in and make sure you’re ready to praise and worship Him wholeheartedly. (to instrumentalists) Thanks for helping us do that each week.

One or two at a time over several weeks teach and remind your worshipers why you do what you do, gently expressing what they should do and expect as the morning (or evening) progresses. If they’re new to the church they need to know. If they’ve been with you forever, they may have forgotten. As people come to understand more fully, they’ll begin to minimize distractions on their own. It won’t happen overnight (does it ever?) But you’ll see and appreciate the growth over time.

In Part 4 – Ways to eliminate some common but bothersome distractions — without touching your worship and music budget!!

2 Replies to “Toward Effective Worship – Part 3”

  1. Jonell

    Good stuff Phil!

    I like reading your thoughts and then thinking how we can look into it further and use it in our church setting. Would there be anything wrong with putting some of what you wrote (for example) about the reason for the prelude in the church bulletin (ours always seems to have some extra space or a blank back page) in order to let the people read it over and over again? I realize it would have to be worded differently if it wasn’t being talked about from the pulpit.

    My reply was going to just be the first three words at the top, but then I started thinking and typing and look how long this entry has become already!

    Thanks again!

  2. Phil

    I think that’s a GREAT idea!

    You’ve probably heard it said that we hear something about six different ways, sometimes from six different sources on our way to really getting something. In-print would be a super way to do that.

    Something like “In case you’ve wondered…” in front of the explanation would soften the approach so it’s enlightening (beats scolding any day!)

    Good idea!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Article/Post Archive