When I was a child, I thought as a child, and had lots of ideas, but when I grew up and worked in a church, I was afraid to have an original thought of any kind. Have you ever had the feeling you’re just parroting another church instead of being a church?
Innovation on your own, however, can be deadly when it means you end up just trying something new for newness sake. I’ve met dozens of church leaders through my years of ministry who feel compelled to keep casting new vision every 30 seconds. Maybe they’re trying to defend their salaries, or impress their colleagues, or worse, divert attention away from previous failed initiatives.
I’m not saying you should never change. Quite the contrary, change wakes people up and allows them to get new perspective on the sometimes stale agendas of the past. You can’t write about this stuff in just one blog though, so just consider—maybe—one of these 3 radical ideas for worship as a jumping off place.
1. Move your worship one week into an abandoned church in your city
(trust me, you can find many such buildings in most cities). Get the electricity and water turned on for a day. Let the theme of your hour be the declining attendance of the church in America, but wrapped in a hopeful call to energize your church community.
Put up a big screen and have everyone look at this video (you can download it and start at 40:30) which was sensitively prepared by the United Methodist Church and played at their recent General Conference 2012.
It is sobering, to say the least, but it could become the impetus for renewal in your own congregation. Themes for the service? God’s faithfulness, or steadfastness, or local mission, or urgency for action in the current culture.
Whatever you choose, surround it with music and prayer that supports the theme and uses the human voice (everyone’s) more than any musical instrument or sound system.
2. How about doing your whole service in reverse.
Start with a blessing because it really is a blessing to be able to worship. End with a call to worship which is really a charge to praise God out in the community. You can figure out the rest.
Imagine people’s surprise when you don’t do the same thing you’ve done for the past 150 years! Our service “menus” are not actually part of Scripture, they are part of long held customs and habits (some good, some bad). It’s time to shake it up a bit.
3. Let six or seven children deliver the sermon one Sunday.
Have someone write it for them who knows how to speak “kid.” It should only be 10 minutes long and it should only try to make one point like…
—God loves me even when I don’t do things right,
—God made me so I could experience His love and creation,
—God is hard to understand in some ways (death, sickness, big sisters), but I don’t have to understand everything because God said He would help me with that over time.
Don’t make it syrupy just because it’s being delivered by children. Make it profound because it’s being delivered by the people who are hopefully going to take over the church one day—that is, if we can keep them interested.
The profound outcome of being talked both up and down to by young people certainly has the potential to change the gravitas of the sermon moment. I’ve seen this work with just one child also, but he was 10 going on 40 and could sustain the engagement of the congregation for the whole ten minutes. Fact is, if I had been the pastor, I would have let that kid preach every week!
You can certainly give weight to the idea of change and renewal in your church without adopting huge plans and programs. You may be able to find your church’s “purpose” in less than 40 days. Use your imagination!