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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
9 thoughts on “Five Elements of a Great Worship Experience”
Travis, may I commend to you the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. One of the most fabulous experiences of my life.
You must have had success with the elements you’ve described above, but the only one specific to a worship experience (as opposed to, say, a movie) is the last one. I was particularly sorry that your “Creativity” section put the focus on the performance of the leaders as opposed to putting the focus on God. Also, the element of “Outsider Focused” tears at me. There is no reason an outsider should feel at home in a church service aside from the welcoming atmosphere that you correctly emphasized in “Energy.” Of course, the message(s) should be clear, with definitions, but church services are a reminder to the congregants of what Jesus did for us — each element should point to that heavenly gift more than to anything earthly.
Keep up the good work!
Thank you so much for the comment Caroline. I would respectfully disagree with you about there being no reason an outsider should feel at home in a church service. To me a church service should reflect Jesus, and I believe Jesus had an incredible way of connecting with outsiders. I believe our churches should do the same.
I serve in a small church in southern Indiana. “Mayberry revisited”, truly. I’ve been here 21+ years and have seen great strides taken. We went from dial telephones to VOIP systems, mimeograph machines and electric typewriters to computers and beyond, we triple our campus, double our building space, expanded ministry in many ways to reach the local and regional community. We went from about 120 to 200 in a quick hurry and created a lot of excitement. But we constantly bounce off of the 200 ceiling. 230, 240 for a while, then back to 180, and right now, 160. Arggggggh…anyway. There are LOTS of other points to make and tons of other stories along the way, but to the point, we started a second service about 15 years ago, and slowly progressed to it being in a new building, and it becoming a more progressive service, mindful of the needs of an ever expanding community. It took off like a rocket. Something new every week–change up the seating all the time, rearrange the order, add in various elements–I even had them do a blind trust walk one week–out one door, and back in another with one person blindfolded and another leading them! (Yea, I’m a lawsuit waiting to happen SO much of the time. Yikes!) But over the last two years this service is withering and dying on the vine. The worship is decent, the sermons I THINK are engaging, the folks are friendly and share often in service. But as I read your article it struck me–creativity. We don’t change anything anymore, we don’t add anything anymore. The worship leader and myself are so stretched that we don’t “have time” to change it up any longer. Creativity, though it looks spontaneous takes a great deal of work and time and effort to look so spontaneous. When I used to travel and sing we always had “planned spontaneity”. These days, I rush out of Sunday School, usually late, and 2 minutes later the service starts. There is no practice during the week, because most of the worship band is out of town for work. There is no discussion of what’s next and what we are planning, we are just flinging a bunch of mud on the wall and hoping some of it sticks. But this has to change. Well, maybe I should say, its GOING to change, whether we make it happen or not. Because it is either going to change for the good because we woke up and made it change, or it is going to fade and die. I realize if we don’t take the time, we soon won’t need to, because there won’t be anyone left to change it up for. Thanks for your encouragement. God’s blessings on your ministry.
Thank you so much for your comment Tom. Creativity is something we struggle with from time to time also. For very similar reasons. Try not to get discouraged. All churches have their difficulties, and it sounds like yours has a lot of things going right. Please shoot me an email if I can ever be of help to you.
I love this list! Regarding creativity, I would add that creativity also keeps things fresh, and shakes up the “week in week out” routine. Creativity done well can also help bring the timeless truths of the gospel to life, just like Jesus’ parables and the OT prophet’s dramatic acts. It can sneak around people’s defenses and impact even guarded hearts.
Thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much for the comment Alexander. I completely agree.
joey dela pena
thank you for giving me an information,God bless you. please mark my request,thank you!
joey dela pena
thank you for allowing me to know more about some ideas in worship and praising to God,,thanks for more tips about improving and to be effective in praising and worshiping God., be blessed!
You’re welcome Joey. Glad they’re helping you. Give me a shout if you ever need anything.