Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Worship services in the smaller church

Many of the churches I visit in my role as a judicatory minister are smaller churches. One of the things I am noticing is the number of these churches who are changing their worship services to reflect a more contemporary style of worship. Another thing I have noticed is that many of them are struggling and the services seem disjointed as a result.

Much has been said about worship services in the past few decades. The worship wars continue in some churches as they transition from singing hymns to singing more contemporary songs and from having choirs to having praise teams lead the worship. I enjoy both good contemporary music and praise teams if they are good, but I find that in many smaller churches the talent is just not there for these to be good experiences.

I also find that when these churches blend their music with both contemporary and hymns there is a noticeable difference in the singing. Many in the congregation (often older in many smaller churches) simply do not sing the contemporary songs, but the volume noticeably increases when the music shifts to more traditional hymns.

In some cases it may be that the congregation does not know the contemporary songs well enough to sing them. I was recently in one church and had never heard a single song they used in the worship service before in my life. Apparently, neither had many of the others in attendance because few people were singing despite the best efforts of the praise team to get people to sing.

For some time now we've been told that if churches want to grow they need to change their worship services to appeal to younger people. We are told that we need to change our music styles and we need to make use of technology. Get rid of the hymnbooks and get a projector. I'm fine with using a projector to put the words on a screen if someone in the church knows how to use a projector and the church can afford decent technology. I was recently in a small church that had problems with its computer/projector. Midway through the songs the computer kept shutting down. They would quickly reboot, but by then the song was about over, and it would shut down again in the next song. The worship service was a mess.

The worship service should be a time when we can connect with God in a meaningful way. We want people leaving the service talking about how God spoke to them through the message or through a song or a prayer. We don't want them leaving frustrated with technology glitches or other distractions that made it difficult to worship God. Some smaller churches can and have made the transition to more contemporary worship styles, but for many smaller churches it may be best to continue to use the hymnbooks and sing the great songs of the faith that continue to mean so much to so many Christians.

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