6 Flash Mob Secrets for Your Church

Do you tear up at those YouTube flash mob videos where unsuspecting people are suddenly serenaded by dozens of extraordinarily talented strangers? I do—every time! I’ve tried to figure out why, and I think I’ve finally got it.

Really, when you think about it, the formula is always the same, and it works in every situation. Whether it’s a shopping mall, a train station, a public square, or a subway (WATCH THIS!…and tell me what your favorite moment is in the comment box below); it just works! People are touched and refreshed in ways they never thought possible. 

So, I started pulling apart the elements of the typical musical flash mob (FMs) and immediately thought of our weekly church worship experiences. The similarities are remarkable—well, they would be, with just a little forethought, planning and intentionality. 

Here we go… 


is the first element. FMs happen when and where they are least expected, and consequently, people are blown away by the sudden adrenaline rush they receive from the shock of it. The juxtaposition of ordinary life and great art is unbearably attractive.

We can’t have church at the mall one week and a train station the next, but we could surprise the proverbial socks off our congregations occasionally by just trying something new (see 3 radical worship ideas). It’s not that hard to change things up a little, and it doesn’t usually cost much. 


is also a key element in making FMs work. It’s not just the surprise of a 100 voice choir in an insurance company lobby; it’s the fact that they sound fabulous. Can we do really excellent things in church? One would hope so, regardless of the resources. After all, it’s a matter of scale.


always seems to be part of the delight of these events. Every participant and every observer seem to be genuinely joyful about the experience. Wouldn’t it be great if every church service, every week was based on providing joy-filled moments for congregants to relish? Strangely enough, this is just a point of view issue, and starts with genuine smiles, and an “excited to be here” attitude from leadership.


is also crucial for a good FM. The fact that the performers are standing in and around people has a lot to do with their reaction. Suddenly, they feel part of something special, and they get caught up in the moment. 

Is your church locked up in old platform/chancel boundaries between leadership and congregation? Ever considered breaking down that impersonal barrier? It’s not that hard to walk into the middle of a sanctuary/worship center and let everyone feel close to the action. One worship leader I know always sings the first song of the day sitting in the first row or walking up the aisle, signifying his sense that worship is corporate, not a Chris Tomlin concert. (Love Chris Tomlin BTW) 


is a huge part of what we like about FMs. The participants seem to love what they do, and it shows in their performance, demeanor, and execution. Could that happen in a church? If not, it might be time to lock the place up! 


is the last of the distinctives that I observe. I find it interesting that everyone, and I mean everyone, ends up feeling thankful for an FM moment. Performers bubble up with the joy of performing, observers feel special and grab their phone cameras to chronicle the event, and we, the YouTubarians, cry in our coffee mugs at the sight of such incredible and serendipitous human experience. 

Could our churches make some of these things happen? Would our congregants ever pull out their cell phones to snap pics of what’s going on in a service, so that they could share it with friends? My understanding is that these six elements are at the very heart of our Christian faith. 

Not only can we do these things, we should be doing these things or at least trying our best to incorporate them in our worship. Flash mob theology? Sure, why not?

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Doug Lawrence is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and advisor, who helps churches assess and improve their skillfulness in creating engaging worship experiences. In 2007 he founded and continues to serve as CEO of Speaking as a Performing Art, a firm which coaches leading executives and their teams and includes pastors from across the country. Doug co-authored GPS for Success, published in 2011, with Stephen Covey and others. You may reach him at dlawrenceconsult@mac.com.