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How to learn from very different church expressions.

I love visiting churches, and the holidays give me the chance to do just that as most ministries have multiple services throughout the month. I can check out different worship services in the community I wouldn’t normally have the chance to experience.

Two services I enjoyed stood out because of their stark contrast.

Church A’s Christmas service was a rip-roaring rock-fest. Out of about 10 songs, eight were full-throttle. If I felt worn out by the music, I can imagine how the poor praise team felt (they probably had to crash in the green room for an hour to regain enough strength to straggle home).

Church B’s Christmas service was a psychedelic snore-fest. With the exception of one semi-upbeat opening Christmas carol, the rest of the songs were sleeper ballads. Supporting the lyrics were the oddest assortment of hallucinogenic worship backgrounds ever, with nary a snowflake, Christmas ornament or any other semblance of anything Christmasy.

Observations:

Try zigging if you like to zag. Many worship leaders select their music based mostly on personal taste, and that’s great—your music choices give your church a unique flavor and style. However, most musicians tend to gravitate toward either a love of ballads or a love of uptempo songs (we’re either hyper or laid back.) Variety makes for a quality praise set. And try not to fall into the trap of confining your music choices mostly to your favorite worship writers and arrangers.

If you love upbeat songs, please throw in a few more ballads. If you love ballads, please throw in a few more uptempo songs. If you’re obsessed with Chris Tomlin, try using four of his songs instead of six in your service.

Use appropriate backgrounds. I’m all for creativity, but a worship service isn’t a good time to dabble in odd abstract art that does nothing to support the song. Work a little harder to find backgrounds that support the lyrics. We’re ministering to normal people in our churches—farmers, doctors, teachers, lawyers and housewives. It won’t hurt you to use traditional Christmas-colored backgrounds during the Christmas season. If singing “Joy to the World,” use nativity images or a crown. If singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem,use images of a star or Bethlehem. If you love the avant garde, scratch that itch by forming your own worship band that can make a career of playing coffee houses.

End with a bang. Church B concluded their sleeper service with the most mellow, slow and worshipy rendition of “O Holy Night I’ve ever heard. As the song ended, with barely a whisper, the worship leader thanked everyone for coming and dismissed the service. A man ahead of me had fallen asleep (as I’m sure had half the congregation) and was awoken by his wife so they could get up to leave.

Do you really want your congregation to need to be woken up to leave your service? End a special service with an upbeat song that everyone knows.

Bottom Line: Variety is the spice of your praise set—don’t fall into song selection ruts.  

Don Chapman Arranger/composer Don Chapman is the creative energy behind several websites devoted to contemporary worship: HymnCharts, WorshipFlow, and WorshipIdeas.com. He's the editor of the weekly WorshipIdeas newsletter that is read by over 50,000 worship leaders across the world.

More from Don Chapman or visit Don at http://WorshipIdeas.com

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