Worship Transition: All Things New

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.

MUSICIANS
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
Before: 
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
8:00 choir
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

Now: 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.

So?? 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.

6 thoughts on “Worship Transition: All Things New

  1. beth… i know. I get confused, too. :) So far, we’ve heard quite a lot of positive feedback from those attending the classic service, and very few negative comments overall. The classic service is definitely allowing those who have been most dissatisfied in the past to ‘exhale’ in a worship environment that fits them. The guest factor… honestly, I think all the services would be equally conducive to guests. We have the same greeting strategy throughout…. our pastor keeps his speaking style (very direct, very approachable) consistent throughout….. Our contemporary service attendance has been climbing over the past few months, and I’ve noticed more and more young adults showing up. However, being in the midwest, we’ve learned that a large percentage of our guests have some kind of experience in churches before this one, and there are some who prefer a more traditional setting, as it is more familiar to them. So it will be interesting to see if we do attract new people in that venue. The weaknesses within our church family ‘system’ for integrating new people haven’t necessarily been addressed through this transition, but I’ve got to believe that when more people are excited about our corporate worship venues, we will see them bring more and more friends to share it with.

  2. Kim…I got confused! But I think I get it, and this is inspiring. It’s a huge challenge to meet such diverse needs, but it sounds as if you guys have found a creative and palatable way. What’s the crowd saying? And is one particular service more conducive to guests who want to check it the church?

  3. I hope the changes give you longevity and a fresh perspective. Good for you. By the way, I added your blog to my blogroll. I have no idea why it wasn’t on there before. Peace.

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