Archive for January, 2009|Monthly archive page

Semester Based Groups

Jody May, our Connections Pastor, has recently led us to transition all of our groups to semester-based, topical groups. These groups replace the ongoing sermon-based groups that we’ve done in the past. I think there are several advantages.

– semester based groups are shorter, meaning they are less scary to people

– semester based groups are topical, meaning that people can choose a group with a topic that interests them

– semester based groups provide a natural push point…we can promote them for a month, then run them for three months.

– they give people a time of rest. group leaders can lead groups two out of three semesters, so if they have kids really involved in baseball, they can rest.

– semester based groups look like something more familiar to unchurched people.

– semester based groups allow us to offer material that we aren’t necessarily covering on Sunday

– they give us three launching points throughout the year, meaning we can actually focus on groups more.

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The Third Thing

If you’re like most churches, then your Sunday service has music and teaching. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the third element. Sure…we try to make the music and the message creative, interesting, relevant, truthful, authentic and all that. But as I look back on our 2 1/2 years worth of services, the ones that had a 3rd element are often the most memorable. Here’s some things that we’ve done or that we’re thinking about doing:

  • A scripture reading as a part of the worship set
  • Silly videos like this one, this one and this one
  • Text to screen during the sermon or during worship
  • A goofy game
  • Elementary kids singing…helping lead the church in worship
  • A drumline or cheerleaders interrupting the welcome
  • A personal testimony or story

What about you?  What have you done in your worship services that isn’t worship or teaching?

Why Bother?

People in your city or town are not sitting around wondering about what kind of music you do on Sundays or what translation of the Bible you use. Their #1 question isn’t about your service times or what you offer for children. They are not primarily concerned about your college degree or your leadership structure.

They are wondering if going to church…ANY church….is really worth it. They are wondering why in the world they should take their only day off to go at all.

Google Docs

One of my favorite tools to communicate is Google Docs. We keep our teaching calendar there, so those on our staff can see what we’re doing and add their comments.

I keep a version of my message there and give various people access so they can provide feedback as I study. For example, for these end times messages, I got feedback from a few smart people that don’t even go to our church.

I can also share the most recent copy of my message with production people, graphics people, and our creative people.

Google Docs makes it pretty easy to collaborate.

The Most Important Thing First

A few weeks back, I made a change to my weekly schedule, and though it’s only been a few weeks, it’s shaping up to be one of the best leadership decisions I’ve ever made.

On Monday morning, before I do anything else, I put the finishing touches on the upcoming weekend’s sermon. It’s probably already 80% done, but I finish it all up and send the final version to everyone that needs it.

Not only does this give our graphics and production people the message early, it means that my most important task of the week is done early. It’s kind of like the tithing principle, I guess. Do the most important thing first.

I can’t tell you how freeing it is to go through the week’s meetings and schedule knowing that I’m ready to go for Sunday. I’m really a fan of this new schedule.

Creating Flow

Good worship leaders know how to create the all-important flow between songs and elements in a worship set, but I wanted to give some ideas for improving flow throughout the entire worship service.  Transitioning between elements is something that is often over-looked, but if you sweat the details, you’ll have a better service.  Here’s some ideas.

1.  Acknowledge what just happened.  When a person gets up on stage, he or she should acknowledge what just happened.  If it was a high energy worship song, he could say “man, you guys sound great.”

2.  Direct people.  Dont’ assume that people know to stand up when the music starts.  Don’t just turn down the lights and show a video without warning.  Give people clear directions.  If you want them to stop by the lobby and pick up something, hold it up for everyone to see.

3.  Tell people what is about to happen. If you’re about to receive the offering, say “in just a few minutes, ushers are about to come pass some buckets down the aisles.” If you are transitioning from a welcome to some worship, tell people what they should do.

4.  Control everything in the room.  Whoever is on stage is in charge of the entire room.  From time to time, the person handling the offering will direct the ushers.  “Guys, go ahead and send those buckets down the aisles.”  A good speaker will own the room.

5.  Have personality.  You don’t have to rocket through the information or the element.  If you’re on stage, let your personality come through (and don’t put people on stage that don’t have a personality).  From time to time, I will interact with the worship leader and make jokes.  I’ll ask people how they are doing.  I’ll drop in quick stories about my kids.  These personality moments make your service personal for people, and not just something they watch.

6.  Use the pause.  Great speakers are experts at the pause.  They will say something dramatic and let it sink in for a minute.  Pauses can build anticipation.  I’ve seen people get up after a great time of worship and stand still for 10 seconds…as if they are allowing the room to breathe.

7.  Be prepared.  This is the most important this for us.  It’s why we wrote an official guide to the welcome and an official guide to the giving talk (I’ve posted those before if you want to check them out.)  If you are going to be on stage, you need to plan out what you are going to say, and you need to have an understanding of everything else that is happening in that service. Prepare your transitions just like you prepare the elements themselves.

What else would you add to this list?  Have you ever been in a service with a terrible flow?  What do you do?