I was listening to a podcast recently and the gentleman being interviewed made a point that made me pause. He remarked that our pastors and worship leaders need to remember that the people they are leading and teaching do not necessarily experience God the same way they do. This is such an obvious point but really made me consider if as leaders we think through this when we plan out our services and worship experiences.
I experience God through the worship, and this draws me into a place of openness and willingness to receive. However, some people are not moved by music. Some people receive through connection and community, others through silence and contemplation, and others through service. This is part of the challenge of leading a large group of people well.
As shepherds, we need to consider the needs of all of our flock. Not every need can be met equally during each service but we don’t want to get stuck in communicating the same way all the time. While most congregations have the same service order for months and even years, we might lead the way in trying new ways to communicate and experience worship.
A great starting point in this pursuit would be to ask your staff when they feel closest to God.
Is it when they are in nature?
Listening to worship music?
Helping in the nursery?
Studying His Word?
Kneeling in prayer?
Identifying the differences even among your staff will also help you gain a more balanced perspective when planning worship experiences. If you find that most of your staff happens to be very similar, then you might want to consider asking some of your lay leaders who experience intimacy with God differently to become part of the discussion.
You can begin to add small components to your worship service that engage your congregation in new ways. You will certainly receive mixed reviews. You will find that individuals who already felt your church’s worship experience met their needs may not love the changes. However, if you give people the opportunity to experience these small changes several times, there will certainly be some who find they enjoy the changes.
Most people struggle with change. We know this as leaders. However, that doesn’t mean change is bad or that experiencing new things should be looked at negatively. We grow when we allow ourselves the room to experience God in new and different ways. We have to lead in this. If we as the staff and leadership have a reticent attitude toward doing things differently, then this gives our congregation the green light to quickly reject anything new that might seem different or uncomfortable to them. We don’t want our personal hang ups to stunt the spiritual growth of our congregation.
So the challenge we have is to evaluate ourselves and push ourselves to personally try new things. So some questions to get you started:
When do you feel closest to God?
What makes you feel uncomfortable in worship and why?
What is one element you could add to a worship service this month that would allow someone to experience God in a way that would be new to your congregation?