Three Sundays ago our church leapt into a new worship service schedule. The background of this leap is described in this series of posts. This is the first chance I’ve had to write about it. Here’s how it’s going:
THE BIG DEAL
Before: 8:30 & 9:45 identical, ‘blended’ worship. 11:15 ‘contemporary’ worship.
Now: 8:30 classic worship. 9:45 & 11:15 identical ‘contemporary’ worship.
While I’m not a fan of these incredibly non-descriptive words like ‘blended’ and ‘contemporary’, there has to be some way to talk about what’s happening in the room. So this is where we’ve landed. Our new ‘classic’ service is truly traditional in nature, and has been very well received across the generations. My long-time co-worker in the worship ministry is doing a great job of planning this service very thoughtfully and including a variety of accomplished musicians. The ‘contemporary’ service will vary from week to week… the music sometimes being very band-driven, sometimes including a worship choir, but the overall atmosphere informal.
ATTENDANCE PATTERNS & SEATING
Before: Attendance in 8:30 + 9:45 = attendance in 11:15, give or take 20-30 people, with the 8:30 service always the least attended. Room had to be set up to accommodate the 11:15 attendance, so we had 3 huge sections of chairs with 2 long aisles. With limited ability to rope off parts of the room, the 8:30 service always felt a bit cavernous.
Now: We anticipated a more evenly dispersed attendance across the three hours, which has proven to be true. The room has been set up in a pattern of smaller sections, which allows for some areas to be roped off for the 8:30. So far, none of the worship services feel too empty, and none feel too full. I realize attendance patterns will change in the fall, but still believe this configuration will accommodate people more effectively.
Before: two different worship bands each week, one in each style of service. Two different groups of vocalists rotated with these bands. Our adult choir sang nearly every week in the blended services. Once a month, an orchestra was a part of the blended services.
Now: Two different core bands, and one pool of vocalists, rotate week to week playing in the contemporary services. We now have two distinct choirs: one will sing in the classic service 2 times a month, and one will sing in the contemporary service 2 times a month along with the worship team vocalists. Once every 2-3 months, the orchestra and combined choirs will be a part of all worship services.
REHEARSALS & SOUND CHECKS
Wed pm: 6:45-8:00 choir
8:00-9:00 blended service band
Thur pm: 7:30-9:30ish contemporary service band
Sun am: 7:30 sound check band #1
8:30 1st service
9:45 2nd service
10:45 stage re-set: move 2 rows of choir chairs, 3 large platforms, move drums & all other instruments, sound check band #2, talk through set
11:15 3rd service
Wed pm: 6:45-8:00 classic choir
8:00-9:00 contemporary choir
7:30-9:30ish worship band
Sun am: 8:00 classic service rehearsals
8:30 1st service
9:00 band meets in separate room to talk through set, run through songs
9:15 contemporary choir meets in separate room (if singing)
9:30 band moves to stage with minimal re-set, sound check
9:45 & 11:15 worship services
It’s probably not immediately obvious, but the schedule we’re now keeping is waaaaay more tolerable and sustainable than the previous plan. We used to have 30 minutes to re-set the stage between services, plug in, talk through the set, and sound check. This always felt harried to me, although we usually made it. Now, we have 15 minutes. But. The band meets ahead of that time to get our heads into the music and the flow of the set. We have very little to re-set on the stage, so the 15 minutes can be all about plugging in instruments and doing a quick sound check. Somehow, in the end, it all feels more relaxed.
In quite a lot of words, that is how this transition has affected us so far. What I didn’t write about is what I see happening every week in our church family. I see people gathering to worship, some in the same manner they have for years, some with greater freedom than they have had for a while. We set out to solve a few logistical issues, knowing that we also had a chance to provide more effective worship environments for our entire congregation, which is no small thing. I believe God has led us to a great solution for this time, for this church… and for that I am grateful.