My wife and I recently attended a nearby church on a Sunday morning. It is a good-sized church, fitting into the “megachurch” category. The service started with an uplifting time of worship through music, and people were truly experiencing God’s presence. But, then it happened! A church staff member came up and gave an endless string of announcements, lasting nearly ten minutes, and immediately after that the pastor came up to share a message from God’s Word.
When we got back in the car, I asked my wife, “Why would any pastor do that to himself?” When I was a pastor, I was very sensitive to what was going to precede the message. Why would we want people to encounter God through worship, next fill their minds with announcements and housekeeping, and then try to revert their mind-set back to encountering God through His Word?
Years ago, I heard Bill Hybels say, “The difference between a good church service and a great church service is often something simple like flow.” Improving your church services by paying attention to the flow is something that can be done by any church of any size! It won’t break your budget or cost you anything! It doesn’t take the latest and greatest tech equipment. All it requires is some forethought and planning time. Here are 4 tips to improve the flow of your weekend services and take them from good to great:
1. Watch the “hard right turns.”
In your services, do you change from a celebrative and “up” feel to more quiet, meditative elements (or vice-versa) with no transition? I called those “hard right turns.” There may be times when there’s no way around such a turn, but many times it just hasn’t been thought through. How do you bring people through the “up” times and transition them to the more “introspective” times of a service?
2. Closely evaluate your announcements.
This is probably the most common pitfall in service planning. I like what Tony Morgan and Tim Stevenssay in their book, Simply Strategic Growth, “The more you announce, the less people listen.” As a church grows, you have to make decisions (sometimes unpopular ones!) about what gets announced. As a general rule, the larger a church gets, the less you can announce. Point people to the Sunday bulletin, or the church website. Consider putting announcements on video, so you know exactly how long they will be!
Note: Resist the temptation to use the announcements for ministry recruitment; there are better ways to recruit!
3. Watch for dead spots and use all available time.
As a pastor, I knew that we had 65 minutes programmed for our Sunday service, and I wanted every minute to count! Use the time when people are transitioning on or off the stage—show a video, use music. People in our culture are not used to dead spots; even if our television screen goes blank for ten seconds people start wondering, “What happened?”
4. Mix it up.
By “Mix it up,” I mean a couple of things. First, use a variety of elements. And don’t put the same kind of element back-to-back. For example, when I was coming up to share the message, I did not want another “speaking element” right before (or right after) the message. Many times there was a short video before the message; I wanted to come up after music, or video bump, or something other than someone else talking. Second, mix up the order of the service to keep it fresh. If you always have a three-song set, then a prayer, then a welcome, then a song with offering, then change it up!
Paying attention and giving thought to the flow of a church service could take that service from good to great! What other things do you watch for in evaluating the flow of a worship service?