One of the most impactful worship services I have been a part of was on the beach in Louisiana and a bird tried to swipe the communion bread. Worship can be a formal affair, or it can be relaxed and informal. I know of people who connect with both styles. I think we can get caught up the style. What kind of music? Procession or not? Robes or civilian clothes?
As I travel around the country telling the story of the Lakota people and the work done through the center, I am exposed to a wide variety of worship styles. And the great thing is: THEY ALL WORK. There is no perfect style. Different styles speak to different people.
I will admit I prefer a laid back, interactive, kid friendly service. At Atonement, before COVID shut it down, we had started this very type of worship. We called it 5:01 starting the worship on Sunday Nights at 5:01 pm. My tech crew was an eight-year-old boy. My readers ranged from a 6-year-old girl to a 90 something gentleman. We worshiped not in the sanctuary rather in the family room with the couches and comfy chairs.
Communion occurred every week. But instead of wafers we used pita. Instead of coming to the front of the worship we brought communion to the people. A six-year-old told us, “I want a Job!” so we gave her one. A preteen girl was my worship assistant for the communion offering the wine to all. We tried to live out the idea that if we wanted kids in worship, they needed to see kids leading worship.
Music was a fun component of the worship. The first night we had a flute and a violin lead us the next week had a mini band. We let the spirit lead us. And the singers helped to get the congregation engaged in singing with them rather than making it a performance.
Besides my joy at seeing the kids in worship I loved the message time. See I did not stand up in front and give a sermon. Rather we worked our way through the Gospel message of the week together. They were allowed to interrupt the gospel reading to ask questions. And after the reading was completed, we would have a discussion about the reading. And perhaps the best thing was how the adults encourage the kids to speak up and take their opinions seriously.
What warmed my heart most was the team’s response to a comment card that was submitted one week. We had candy, chips and beverages available for the people during worship. And Yes sometimes the kids would get up to refill during the service. And we had reminded them to watch the food once we started to serve communion. And they listened. Well one lady who came to see what the buzz was all about wrote us a comment card. She thought that we should not have candy and snacks since the kids would get up in the middle of the service.
We met as a team after the worship to briefly go over the comment cards. And my 90 something leader summed it up. “Well it sounds like this is not the worship service for her. I like that we have kids wanting to be here.”
And friend of mind reminds of what I think are Martin Luther’s words. “We need to speak the words of the father in the language of the children.”
We need to be willing to try new things in worship. I am not a fan of a performance worship. BUT if that speaks to someone, they should find that style. But we must be willing to adapt and change to continue to be relevant today.
I enjoyed the 5:01 worship. Even if it was a victim of COVID. It taught me that a different service will work. It worked because we listened to a range of people from their 30’s to their 90’s. We talked about what we wanted before we started and one of the things, we all agreed upon was a willingness to experiment and change. We brought in people that had not connected with church in years. It was working.
I really miss the people that did this with me. They are special. I love them.
God loves you and so do I.