What an experience!
Isn’t that what we want people to say when they walk away from our worship environments?
A couple weeks ago there were numerous emergency vehicle sirens, helicopters circling and street closures near my house. I asked bystanders what happened and they told me it wasn’t as bad as it looks — Well, they were right, it wasn’t bad at all. The high school near my house staged an accident to show students the impact drinking has on driving. Every student from the school came out to this “on the street” assembly to watch as police and fireman simulated a head-on collision involving a couple cars, several people, and a drunk driver. They didn’t miss a detail! There were wrecked cars, several emergency vehicles, fake blood and a lot of noise and chaos. It was amazing to watch and it all seemed so real. You could tell kids were impacted as you saw them wipe tears in their silence. It was quite the scene and extremely powerful!
This incredible, well-planned and surreal experience made me think of the 70 minutes (if we are lucky) people give to participate in services in each of the worship environments we design and lead on a weekly basis. The visual of what was staged at the local high school and the preparation that went into it caused me to think about the many times we miss an opportunity to engage people in new ways. How often do we settle for the same stage set, same songs, same prayers and same service order because we have given up our effort to create an experience that matters to people? Two of the most dangerous words for a church are comfort and routine — the very things that are bred from a lack of creativity and hard work.
Where have we gone wrong? What happened to the creativity and initiative to create an experience to help people see their life differently? Seventy minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but for people living in a world with little to no margin, it’s about all some can give us. It’s our opportunity to create an experience and to do something that makes a difference.
Here are three simple things the worship environments, campuses, and venues you lead can do to experience something memorable and different:
#1 “Use storytelling”
That’s what the police and fire departments designed– a story that high school students not only heard, but were able to experience and participate in. The power of the punch… Storytelling helps a leader talk authentically about God at work in his/her life, job, ministry and church in such a way that people will want to listen and apply. I often tell Campus Pastors that the most powerful moments in a service happen in the transition– the opportunity to help people engage at a deeper level to worship or the message. Transitions create great opportunities to practice storytelling. These are powerful moments and at times create the safety, emotion and tension needed to engage the heart. Storytelling can accomplish so many things:
- Communicates vision and mission
- Creates emotion
- Moves people to action and life change
- Builds a bridge from the head to the heart
- Makes truth and biblical principles relevant
- Illustrates a difficult idea or thought
- Creates a memory and an experience that sticks with us
#2 “Mix it up”
Change how things look and how things happen. I visit dozens of churches every year and truth be told, it’s difficult to find a church doing something different and unique. It’s as though we’re all required to use the same songs, stage décor, design, videos, graphics, etc. Part of our job is to lead people on a spiritual adventure by designing and creating experiences that are unpredictable and meaningful that move people to a different place. A good starting point would be to ask what is one thing we can do every week that we’ve never done before. Brainstorm and think of new ways to help people experience church differently.
#3 “Think a year out”
It’s challenging to create awesome experiences when your team is always working a week ahead. A good friend of mine says, “It’s Friday, and Sunday is a’coming.” He means that we better figure something out today because in a couple days we need to give people something good. By thinking ahead, we can get in front of things and bring greater planning, ideas, creativity and innovation to the experiences we want to provide people. It also helps build alignment between ministries and campuses, and allows everyone to contribute and produce more meaningful and “on point” experiences. Thinking a year out helps everyone win and contribute at a higher level.