Five Elements of a Great Worship Experience

Experiencing church for the first time as a twenty year old young man was quite the experience. I’ve been a part of brush arbor revivals, where you go out into a field and gather some sticks and build a structure to have a church service in. I’ve been in church services where they couldn’t find anyone to play the piano or sing, so we skipped that part of the service. And I’ve been in services in homes where people got so “filled with the spirit” they started knocking things off walls, which led to a quick exit for me.

All that to say, I’ve been in some pretty bad worship experiences.

Even in the church I currently serve, we haven’t always had a great worship experience.

There were times in the beginning in which we never got started on time, prayer time turned into gossip time, and testimonies turned into the second sermon of the day.

It’s really amazing that our church survived those early days, but the one thing we had working for us was a love for God and a genuine love for others.

Once we combined those two things with a great worship experience, we really started to see our church take off, growing twenty, thirty, and even forty percent some years.

So, what makes up a great worship experience? I believe it should consist of these five elements.

  1. Energy. The same buzz and excitement that Jesus brought to every town He visited, I believe we should try to bring to our worship services. Greet people with hugs and high-fives. Provide coffee so people aren’t falling asleep. Create a kids’ ministry that parents have to drag their kids away from. Use high-energy music to set the mood for the day. The world has a way of beating people down throughout the week. Make sure your service lifts them up.
  2. Flow. Nothing–and I mean nothing–will kill energy faster than a bad flow. Not getting started on time, fumbling transitions, dead time between songs, too many announcements, these will all ruin the experience. Most churches should be doing a full rehearsal of the service before the service. I lay out a good format for the worship experience in this post.
  3. Creativity. Creativity builds anticipation, and anticipation creates energy. So, while you should have a consistent flow, you also need to sprinkle in creativity. This could be a video element. It could be a sermon illustration or even a small giveaway that helps them remember the sermon. Each week people should be thinking, I wonder what they’re going to do this week.
  4. Outsider Focused. One of the biggest reasons small churches don’t grow is because they focus too much on those already in the church rather than those outside of it. Andy Stanley wrote a great book on this subject called Deep and Wide. Every church leader should read it. Prepare with the outsider in mind. What do they need to hear? What are the issues they’re facing? Chances are the issues they’re facing are the same as the insiders. The insiders just hide it better.
  5. Intentional Next Steps. If you have the four previous elements mentioned, you’ll have a great opportunity to call people to action. What do you want them to do with the information you just shared with them? If you have a hard time answering that question, chances are your sermon isn’t helping anyone, and you need scrap it and start over. If you teach on money, encourage them to sign up for a budget class. If you teach on the importance of community, encourage them to sign up for a small group. If you teach on grace, encourage them to take Jesus up on his offer to follow Him. Whatever you do, don’t miss your opportunity to help them grow in their faith by putting it into action.

I’d love to hear about your crazy church experiences. Please share them with me in the comments below and let me know if I left anything out. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to make sure you get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week. Know someone else who could benefit from this information? Your next step is to share or forward this on to them. Thanks for your help in equipping small town church leaders around the world.

4 Ways to Jump Start Growth

The weather in Tennessee this time of year is unpredictable to say the least. It’s not uncommon for it to feel like four different seasons in one week. It may be scorching hot on Monday, cool and breezy on Wednesday, tornadoes on Thursday, and then frigid on the weekend. It’s not good for the allergies, and apparently it’s not good for my car battery either. Recently my car wouldn’t start as I was trying to leave work. Luckily, I had some jumper cables with me, and a friend who helped jump-start my car.

Some of you are trying to lead a church with a dead battery, and in this post I want to be that friend that helps give you a jump.

These four ideas by themselves aren’t enough to keep the engine running, but I’ve seen them create the spark necessary to get things started.

  1. Ignite passion in people. It’s impossible to grow a church without passionate people. If passion is lacking in your church, I want to encourage you to do three things. First, make sure you’re seeking Jesus in your personal life. Second, make sure you are constantly celebrating stories of life change within the church. And third, make sure you’re having fun. If you do these three things, you’ll start igniting some passion in people.
  2. Place people into the story. Whether you’re just starting out or your church has been around for hundreds of years, your church has a story. Make sure you take some time to learn it. Once you know what the story is, then I want you to invite other people into the story. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. You just need to help them identify what part they should play.
  3. Find your focus. Too many churches try to be all things to all people. When you try to reach everyone, you actually hurt your chances of growing. Find what makes your church unique, what you can do better than anyone else, and make that your focus. Then cut everything else that doesn’t make sense. Find out how to make a playbook for your church here.
  4. Deal with the hard stuff. Pastors tend to be people pleasers, which is great if you want people to like you but isn’t great if you want to grow a church. Right now, almost all of you reading this know of situations in your church that need to be dealt with. Quit pretending they are going to go away on their own, and start leading your church. Have the tough conversations with staff, board members, and volunteers who are hurting the church. Yes, they may leave the church, but I’ve learned sometimes addition happens best through subtraction. For more on this topic check out this post.

Thanks so much for reading. What would you add to this list? Which of these four is the biggest struggle in your church? I’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment below. And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Two Secrets of a Healthy Ministry

I’m probably the last person who needs to be giving health advice. It’s currently 10am, and I’ve skipped breakfast and opted for a glass of Mountain Dew served in a mason jar. It’s not exactly the breakfast of champions but more like the official breakfast of Nascar fans and rednecks. Git-R-Done!

Although my personal health may be in question, I’ve been fortunate to be part of a healthy church team for going on seven years now.

We’re far from perfecting this, but we’ve learned a couple of things that have been key to our success: the importance of healthy expectations and periodic check ups.

  1. Healthy Expectations
  • Stop Comparing. I am a comparison junkie, and it’s not healthy. The problem is we always compare up. We always compare ourselves to those who are doing better than us. And for me, it’s not just better. I want to compare against the best of the best. So, if my church isn’t growing as fast the Top 100, then I’m failing. If we don’t have at least 100% of our church involved in groups, I’m a loser because apparently it’s possible. I’m not satisfied with just being in the NBA, I have to be better than Michael Jordan. I realize how silly that sounds, and I’ll promise to do better if you’ll promise to do the same.
  • Lower Expectations. I just finished reading “Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done” by Jon Acuff. It’s a book all about reaching your goals. One of his main points is to cut your goal in half or double the time you plan on accomplishing it in. For example, if you want 50% of your church involved in groups this fall, Acuff would say, cut it to 25% this fall or 50% by next spring. His reasoning is that most of us set unrealistic expectations and quit once we don’t meet them. By cutting the goal in half or doubling the time, you’re more likely to accomplish the goal, and more likely to continue with it. It makes a lot of sense.
  1. Periodic Check-Ups
  • On Yourself. Your main concern and first priority has to be your own health. If you’re not healthy, you’re not going to be able to take care of anyone else. Make sure you’re spending enough time with God and your family. Make sure you’re getting enough rest. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to see a Christian counselor. It could be the best decision for you.
  • On Your Team. This could be paid staff or key volunteers. You should be meeting with them on a regular basis, not just to talk about the ministry but also to check on how they’re doing personally. How’s their marriage? Are there any family issues they’re dealing with? When’s the last time they took a vacation? Do they still enjoy what they do? If not, they may be dealing with burnout.
  • On Your Congregation. You’re going to want you team to be healthy so they can help you check up on your congregation. What are some of the needs in the church? Who’s in the hospital or funeral home? Who’s on the brink of a divorce? Who needs to be encouraged? Who’s drinking too much Tennessee moonshine?

Hopefully this post gave you a laugh or two and taught you a few things about church health. I’d love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.