Activity-Based New Church Growth: Relevant Worship Services and Events (Make Presentations)
Great churches and great network marketing businesses are built by focusing on activities rather than outcomes. This series takes a look at the 7 Critical Activities of successful network marketing and draws the corresponding activity in the new church start world.
Activity Three: Make Presentations: The product/service and business opportunity are demonstrated and presented in a professional manner. Consistency, timeliness, and personal testimonials are emphasized. Everyone is trained in the art of making quality presentations and sharing compelling product testimonials. Each presentation closes with an invitation to become a distributor and/or a customer. Network marketers are trained to “assume” that everyone who hears a presentation will say yes to becoming a customer and some will become distributors (leaders).
A Culture of Relevant Worship: “Meet The Parents”
Here is a tale of two families: Back in my single days, I was invited to the family dinner of a woman I was dating. I accepted the invitation but felt very nervous and anxious about meeting her folks since she was a physician and I assumed her parents were successful cultured people who might find my lack of pedigree unacceptable for their daughter. I struggled with what to wear, what I should bring, and even what I would say. Consequently I entered her family home with a very uncomfortable feeling that was confirmed by the chilly reception I received. I felt so unwelcome that I cannot remember engaging in conversation with anyone that day. The “never-again” experience ended at the dinner table with her elderly grandmother muttering “I sure don’t want my grandkids to look like him!” just loud enough for everyone to hear. Needless to say I never returned to her family’s home and our relationship was over. Her grandmother got her wish.
Years later, I was dating a wonderful woman I met through a mutual friend and she invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with her family. I had met her parents briefly before and found them pleasant and “down-to-earth”. I accepted the invitation on the condition that I could bring my elderly mother with me. Her parents were delighted I was bringing my mother and promised there would be people her age there as well. From the moment we arrived they treated my mother like royalty. There were over 50 people in attendance for their traditional family Thanksgiving and my mother was positioned with the matriarchs and patriarchs of the clan. Meanwhile, I was whisked into conversation after conversation about my life, work, hobbies, sports teams, and travels. I was told the family history and was even asked to participate in a family prayer. This family even has a time during the gathering when all of the kids (under 21) are asked to recite a poem or read an inspirational story. Some of the kids came prepared with poetry they committed to memory while others scrambled to find a familiar bible story or poem to share. The result was a sometimes moving, sometimes funny, and sometimes awkward moment of family bonding that I had never experienced. I got so comfortable that I joined into the act (ignoring the age limitation) and sang a song about family that touched everyone and especially my mother. Later my date’s aunt cornered me in the kitchen and said, “no matter what happens between you and my niece, you and your mother are always welcome here! You are family now so don’t be a stranger.” Before we departed, her parents made it a point to express the same message to me. Needless to say, 8 years and a wonderful marriage later, my mother and I still pack up and go to have Thanksgiving dinner with my wife’s family EVERY year. Her aunt got her wish.
The obvious lesson is that every new church service should be as welcoming and embracing as Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws. Every guest should feel like family before they leave and know that their presence is always welcomed.
You only have one chance to make a first impression, which makes a powerful and relevant worship service essential to growing a new church.
Powerful Worship is a product of “making room” for the presence of God in the service. Planning every moment of the service down to how many verses will be sung of each song leaves out the spontaneity that defines a spirit-led worship experience. Have you ever been singing a chorus in church and the message of the song sunk in so much that you had an emotional reaction? In those precious moments it is so refreshing when the worship leader perceives the impact of the song on those assembled and allows the chorus to repeat for a while (and sometimes ad lib’s words of praise, or worship, or encouragement). The next song on the schedule can wait or be eliminated altogether because this is an opportunity to linger in the presence of God.
Music should reflect the preferred tastes of the mission field. When you visit Africa or the Caribbean or Spain you will experience sacred songs set to the music of their culture – and God still manages to show up. Your mission field has its indigenous sound too and Christian songwriters have responded with a new catalogue of praise and worship music that touches the soul. Find out the style of secular music your mission fields loves (which is probably the same music you love if you are matched well) and seek out the sacred alternatives.
The dress code at new church should reflect the fashion norms of the mission field – from jeans and tee shirts to golf attire to business casual to suits and dresses. The key is making everyone feel welcome and loved without regard to clothing choices.
The configuration and decoration of the worship space should also reflect the culture of the mission field. For example, a new church in a mission field filled with young families must be ‘kid-friendly’. With a new church the nursery and children’s ministries must be done well and nicely decorated to create a unique environment. The fastest way to having a “one-time” guest family is for their kids to have a boring experience. Kids need to have fun while gaining exposure to the story of Christ and His love for them. The old “talking-head” approach can’t compete with the multi-sensory experiences they are getting on television, in video games, on the computer, and even in school. Many innovative kid’s ministries are making a great impact by using today’s cultural icons for kids, like Spiderman and Spongebob, to tell moral stories that are then related back to biblical stories. The same principles of creating welcoming, and comfortable spaces should be observed based on the cultural norms of the mission field. One of the most successful churches in Hawaii was planted in a high school and has grown to mega-church proportions. The space fit the mission field and created such a high level of comfort and community for the “non-Christians” who visited that the leaders decided to stay there and plant more locations in schools around the island rather than build a large “church” campus.
Relevant worship presents the love and story of Jesus in the language and culture of the mission field. It is best to assume the guests from the mission field are not “church people” with established liturgical traditions and biases. Culture is identified by musical tastes, fashion, art, and living conditions. Unless your new church start is in a community of “long-time, mainline church-going Christian homeowners over 60”, your worship service cannot be the standard Sunday-best attire wearing, hymnal-singing, creed-reciting, bible-readings, organ-music, lectionary-based sermon service. Above all, the level of energy and excitement must rise to the level (and sometimes above the level) of the mission field at a cultural event (ballgame, award show, concert, political rally, etc.)