Question: I play acoustic guitar in our church's Praise Band and serve as a backup worship leader. Our director is a remarkably sensitive and accomplished musician. We do material from all over the world, with a bias towards R&B and gospel versus softer early-Marantha-type material. Herein lies a conflict between those who like this softer/warmer sound and the younger set who like the "market" rock influence.

At our last Team gathering, several expressed the opinion that our service was becoming too predictable, to the point of knowing who sings and leads certain songs. My question is: How do you work more diversity into the service and avoid the criticism of predictability?

My feeling is to use variety in the arrangements, like have a male or female vocal on verses followed by collaborative choruses. One effective technique we've used has been to cut instruments and finish the last verse or chorus a cappella.

Our director is very adept at weaving a musical thread through the service. He starts with a blank sheet of paper and 10 empty bullets. After having reviewed the main speaker's message, he picks the musical material. We start with one up-tempo song followed by a Greeting/Welcome/Announcement component and another up-tempo song, leading the congregation toward Scripture, prayer, and the weekly message. Our director deftly weaves music around this quiet time by having the band play a verse of a quieter/reflective song, then cut to a musical bed during Scripture/prayer, and then finish with the last verse of the same song. We usually have another song with lyrical relevance to the message, then the message, and build to an up-tempo finish. This is our M.O. but it doesn't satisfy or feed all. I'd be grateful for any suggestions you might have.

Answer: Since Scripture has no specific guidelines for the order of a Sunday meeting, I think we're free to pursue different arrangements that serve two functions-creating an order that is familiar enough for people to grasp easily, yet creative enough to allow people to hear truth in new ways. The order you describe seems quite structured to me. Why not start sometimes with a medium-tempo song? Why not mix up the order? Why 10 bullets? Do you ever veer far from that number? Seems to me there's a lot you can do to keep the basic elements, but re-order them in a way that spurs greater interaction with and expectation in the congregation. I'd suggest a brainstorming session with your entire team and just come up with 20-30 new ways you could do things on Sunday. They don't have to be radically different from one another, but if you set 20-30 as your goal you'll force yourself to think creatively.

Also, we've found it to be more effective to build the songs around last week's message, rather than this week's. At some point in the corporate worship I'll usually refer to a specific point from the preceding week's message. This reminds people of what they heard, communicates the importance of the preached Word, and gives them extended time to respond. Building the songs around a message that's yet to come can be less effective, for two reasons. First, it may reduce the impact of the coming message. Second, not having heard the message yet, the people don't have as much truth in their minds to respond to.

In all these things, it's wise to let the congregation know what you're doing, and to give a theological basis for the change-not necessarily chapter and verse, but people need to know that you're thinking through changes from a biblical foundation, and not simply to "keep everyone happy."

For instance, we tell the congregation why we do different kinds of music: because God is too big to be contained or expressed in any one style or culture. That way no one should come back saying we're not doing enough of "their" music. It's not an attempt to be inclusive. Rather, we want to display the many facets of God's glory.

 

Recommended Resource From Bob:

Bob presented a seminar at the 2002 A Passion for the Glory of God worship conference titled "Leading Your Church Through Change." He spoke on how to look at proper motives for changing aspects of a worship service, what we can change and what we shouldn't, and how to lead people graciously into new and unfamiliar styles, forms, and sounds. This is a good resource for both pastors and worship leaders. You can order it from the Sovereign Grace Store (it's the last item listed for this conference).


Bob Kauflin is Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries