Are we boring our congregations?

It can become very easy to follow a familiar formula when planning a worship service. Let’s start with something up and end just before the sermon with something that is emotionally moving…a big ballad. It might be easy for us, I include myself in the “us”, to plan in a set formula, but have we lulled our congregations to sleep with the routine? Or have we created such a routine that our congregations know when to enter the room based on what they want to miss?

Before I go on I must state a word of caution: change and creativity can be just as damaging as the routine of the familiar. When we keep our congregations in a state of guessing throughout a service we often make them uncomfortable.

No matter the tradition I believe there needs to be a balance between the familiar and the new, the routine and the unpredictable. The changes from week to week needs to be thought out and help the congregation engage not make them sit and wonder what will be next. I also believe the changes need to be more than a change in song tempos.

Confession here: after looking back at many of the services I have planned I see that the ‘welcome’ happens at the same general place and that I have put little thought into how we encourage response to the sermon. I also noticed that we have made some progress in how we use scripture and prayer, which has been a change to the routine.

So how do we worship leaders balance creativity and the congregation’s need to feel at ‘home?’

  • Develop a Biblical philosophy of worship
  • Clearly understand that worship is something we do not something we watch
  • Establish a set of questions that will help guide you through the worship planning process
  • Invite others, trusted friends or staff, to evaluate the services you plan and lead.
  • Look back over the services you have planned and see if you have fallen into a routine
  • Look back over the service you have planed and see that you have not forced the congregation into accepting something they don’t understand
  • Be careful not to add too many new items, songs or changes to any one service or to services over a short period of time.
  • Be a lead worshiper

I have caught myself being stuck in a routine. I have also caught myself trying to make too many changes to services.

How do you strike a balance between the familiar and the new?

How do you keep your services from becoming ‘rote’ or ‘routine?’