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Ten Tips for Contemporary Worship
- Spice it up—with different perspectives, different voices, and fresh music. Have several people thoughtfully address the same topic, perhaps in dialogue. Invite new bands in your community looking for exposure to play at your worship.
- Give people the message in manageable bites. Many people simply cannot pay attention well to most 20-minute sermons, as well as they might be written or preached. Look for sensible places to chop it up into smaller parts.
- Create a spiritual atmosphere and tone. This doesn’t have to be tied to a specific theology, but think about how people walking in feel. Is there a sense of being connected to something larger than the individual? After the service, do people feel renewed and alive, or simply as if they have been to a lecture?
- Break out of the expected time slots. Worship does not have to only happen on Sunday mornings. It can also happen on Wednesday evenings, Sunday afternoons or Saturday mornings. Think "both-and." You can have both a Sunday morning service and one at another time. It is not an either-or proposition. Of course, you can also have contemporary worship on Sunday mornings. Think about offering two services on Sundays—one traditional and one contemporary. The same message (perhaps broken into parts) can serve as a basis for dramatically different elements. Above all, don't label your contemporary worship as "alternative," which translates as "less than." Good contemporary worship is the worship of your community of faith.
- Balance intimacy with welcoming. Intimate, personal sharing in worship services often excludes newcomers who don’t feel like they’re a part of the community, so think about how the elements in your service balance these elements. To do intimate worship right, you also need a small group, imposing a severe size limitation on your worship service. Choose elements that invite people in to programs in which they can develop real relationships with others in your community.
- Keep an eye on justice. Our faith is at its best when we realize what we have to give to a world in need of our message. Many people are attracted to a faith that encourages people to live out their values in the world. Anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multiculturalism are important filters to use in choosing elements for your worship. Keep this in mind as you develop themes and topics for your services.
- Create programs that are attractive to young families with small children. Include wonderful stories, and perhaps drama presentations for children. These worship services can be great opportunities for intergenerational time—if children are welcomed and encouraged to stay. Choose hymns that are easy to sing, and sing a lot! Excessively complicated hymns can leave out children and others lacking confidence in their singing abilities. Try to make some hymns child-friendly and take special care to teach the songs to the children present.
- Think about adding multimedia components. Multimedia doesn’t have to mean expensive or complicated. Start by projecting hymn lyrics on an overhead projector—it encourages people to sing out instead of down. Think about projecting slides of interesting artwork during a meditation or the sermon. If you can, move on to video presentations or more complicated technology (LCD projectors, for example, are a good investment if you know how to use them well).
- Have a somewhat predictable structure. Believe it or not, contemporary doesn’t mean that the order of service is radically different every week. It is comforting to many—especially those wary of coming to a worship service in the first place—to have something that feels familiar.
- Think embodiment. How is your message embodied? Are people only encouraged to think, or are they asked to move, to feel, and to sense? Do people get to dance to the wonderful music? Are there portions that engage our eyes through visual stimulation? Sharing taste sensations is another idea for worship—such as through communions of different sorts.