Yesterday was a monumental day in the life of Disciples Church. If you had been there you would immediately say it was because of all the baptisms we did during the service, in fact we did more baptisms in yesterday’s service than we have done in our first two years as a church combined. It was a stunning sight to see of God’s hand transforming lives.
But the sheer amount of baptisms done yesterday in our service is only part of the story of yesterday. Yesterday marked a final step in a monumental journey for us as a church. The monumental shift has been moving for some time and I think it finally clicked completely for me yesterday. It’s a simple thing, really:
SUNDAY MATTERS, BIG TIME.
When we started Disciples we were so focused on the bigger picture of what we wanted to be in the city and what we wanted to do for the culture of church planting in Sacramento that we made the Sunday Gathering sort of an afterthought. And believe me we paid the price. After all, if we cannot inspire people and connect them with Jesus in a planned 90-minute gathering each week, how can we be trusted to lead them in far more intangible and mysterious ways throughout the rest of the week? Furthermore, we often work under such pressure to pump out the next Sunday’s “product” that we often gloss over the power of THIS Sunday. In all of the leading that we all do, we must never forget or minimize the power of the weekly gathering for inspiring and calling people to the life of Jesus.
Today’s article is designed to give you some tools and encouragement to make this Sunday great! In my travels with GHC Network and my involvement in my local pastor’s group, I am privileged to rub shoulders regularly with some of the greatest leaders around. So today, I hope to synthesize a few of their wise nuggets on how to make the Sunday Gathering great. And for those of you not involved directly in the planning of your church’s Sunday gathering, I believe these principles will translate smoothly to your youth gatherings, small groups or even your next staff-meeting agenda.
Have a Menu, Use the Menu
I am notoriously bad at using the menu in most restaurants. I tend to know what I like and what I want to eat in most places I frequent. I guess that is a fine practice for me, since I am the one who will eventually eat the food, but imagine the frustration for my wife and our double-date companions if next time we went to a restaurant altogether I ordered for everyone what I like?
This is unfortunately how many people in your church feel a lot of Sundays if you are not using the menu you created. Every church has a list, whether explicit or implied, of elements they use in a service. My suggestion is once you have established the overall content and direction of your service, have an actual list of elements you use. In addition have dates next to each element indicating the last four times you have used them. This goes even for the songs, scripture passages, message series ideas and more.
Here is a near-complete list of the elements on our “menu” so-to-speak:
- Message/talk/sermon by your Key Communicator
- Message/talk/sermon by Guest (this is indeed a different element and I would argue should be listed as such)
- Congregational Singing by your key Worship Leader(s)
- Congregational Singing by guest
- Text-in Q&A panel discussion
- KidsChurch performance/song/skit
- baby dedications
- testimony interview
- video announcements
- other video or film use
- prayer circles
- platform/stage prayers for local churches
- Interactive response time
- Tactile objects to be interacted with during service
Content is King
In their book, Renovation of the Church, Pastors Kent Carlson and Mike Lueken unpack in rare clarity their journey to reorient the mission of their church in a new direction, and the importance that their Sunday Worship Service played in making that shift. While their ecclesiastical shift is not the topic of this article, it does go some distance in emphasizing how much your gatherings say about WHO you are, WHERE you are going and finally, WHO will go with you. Taking it a step further, I will say, show me your “main room” as we call it at Disciples, and I bet I can tell you the demographic of your congregation and the tone of your service. Creepy, maybe, but if true (which I promise it is) imagine how much more that weekly gathering defines you.
So in their chapter on the Weekend Service, Kent describes the importance to first and foremost establish what the content is for each service, then work on a structure that will best reveal and respond to said content. Style is a final factor, one that I think is likely more cultural than intentional, unless of course you are shifting as were the authors.
Content is the single most important and first thing to establish. Too often, we force the content into a mold of what our morning provides. For example, maybe not every sermon needs to be the same length. Maybe we can say some things in 15 minutes and other weeks we need 40. In addition, there are some subject matters that likely need more reflection afterwards and still others that need some group discussion to fully engage. When Content is king in your service, everything you do and even how/when you do it will be tailored for that day and your target group.
Plan in groups
NEVER, I mean NEVER, have a service or gathering planned by one person. I know this is pretty elementary, but I am amazed to find out when I talk to other leaders who struggle with creativity and fresh ideas for their gatherings, that they are planning alone. If it’s a holiday week, or everyone on your planning team is sick, I think you’re better off in “reruns” than trying to “write a new show” alone.
In addition, plan multiple services at each meeting. Every planning meeting might be more productive if you’re talking about more than just the immediate, but also looking down the road a few weeks and at least giving a glimpse of the next few months too. This will be most natural for those who teach in series format, but valuable to every type of teaching model.
A QUICK THOUGHT ON SCHEDULING OF PLANNING MEETINGS
Even the day-of-the-week you choose to plan your weekly service will have some bearing on how creative and inspired that actual service will be. If you meet on Mondays, as we often do, you might be too fried or too euphoric from Sunday to actually speak with any objectivity about the previous day’s gathering. In contrast, if you wait to meet until Friday, you might not have enough time to pull together any creative elements you want to integrate.
Learning Styles Matter
There is a staggering number of school teachers who are bored in church. Bored in my church. I think this can be attributed to more than just the surface reasons, but this learning style thing is key. Teachers know that every student learns differently. Just ask them to lecture all day long with no other elements in the classroom and they will laugh at you. So when you are working to put together a service or even a grouping of services keep Learning Styles in the forefront of your planning process. Think about how much you are depending on people’s hearing, it’s likely too much! Be careful to integrate Kin-esthetics & Visuals into every gathering or meeting so the content gets a chance to make it’s biggest impact.
Yesterday at Disciples Church we made a shift. A monumental shift, indeed. In our first two years as a church we did baptisms in a backyard pool, or down in the river. This seemed great and communal, and it was certainly both. But after being convinced of the power of the Sunday Gathering it took this “cool personal experience” of baptism and made it far more amazing. After the several scheduled baptisms were conducted, a woman came forward who had not yet made the commitment publicly to follow Christ. Her name is Amanda, and many of us have been praying for her for a very long time to begin her Walk with Jesus. After my talk she tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I’m ready to be baptized, will you do it right now?” Amanda was now ready to Walk with Jesus and be baptized, God was doing something powerful in that Sunday gathering that had never happened before in a backyard or beach setting. I invited her into the baptismal on the spot, and there in her church clothes we all witnessed a life being changed.
SUNDAY MATTERS, BIG TIME.
To read more Leading thoughts from Lead Pastor Stu Streeter click here: http://www.discipleschurch.net/info/leading-thoughts/