Are you shocking your congregation just to shock them? I have a not-so-secret desire to work Meatloaf’s song “I’d Do Anything for Love, But I Won’t Do That” into a service. I have tried every angle possible, but still can’t quite find the right fit. See, I believe anything we put into the service needs to have a viable reason for being there. The reason could simply be “palette cleansing” or a way to turn the corner, but it needs to have a point for the greater good of the service. A disjointed mess of “good ideas” is still a mess when they pastor says, “Amen, you’re dismissed.” The congregation shouldn’t leave confused and not knowing what they just experienced.
Get someone else’s opinion: I like to wander the halls (that’s for a future post on my productivity) and pop in on co-workers in other departments. Catch them off guard and bounce an idea off them. See how they react, it may surprise you. Now just gather input, I don’t want to see you change your art by mob rule, or because the *accounting ladies didn’t get it. (*This is in no way a reflection on all accounting ladies or men for that matter. I just picked the most literal demographic I could think of). You just need the input from those outside your closest circle sometimes… That way you can fight off creative group think.
Creative Group Think happens when the team starts brainstorming an idea and it continues to snowball into either a giant inside joke that would take 20 minutes to setup or ends in showing tap dancing cats. These sessions can produce great ideas, but need to be bounced off others to make sure it’s not only funny to you or understood by “creative types.”
Don’t waste your congregation’s time: I have seen so many great pieces used in Christmas services – the problem was, they could have been half as long. Once you have your givens established, like the sermon and offering, begin to fill in the holes. It’s safe to assume you’ll do some kind of “opener” for the service followed by worship/carols. Many churches end their services with a candle lighting / singing of Silent Night. With that, there’s 15 minutes or so left for programming something special. You don’t want to give your audience whiplash changing from topic to topic, but in a society that is conditioned to zone out quickly, you do want to keep their interest.
Christmas is a Time for Traditions: I’m not a big fan of doing things because “that’s how they’ve always been done” – Christmas being the exception. I feel most people picture that Norman Rockwell, Burl Ives, 1950’s perfect Christmas dream. They could sing all 18 verses of “O Holy Night” and be perfectly content. This is a time to play into that picture. While Christmas may not be a happy place for everyone, most people want it to be. Joy can come from what is familiar. I don’t think you need to do carbon copy services every year, but if something works for your congregation, don’t be afraid to keep bringing it back. At Northview, it’s snow machines. Year after year the service ends the same way, and it’s endearing to people. Embrace traditions when it doesn’t hurt anything to do so.
I wrote this in a post a while back and wanted to share it here:
[When Planning your services] take risks, be creative. The key is not to “wing it,” but to be intentional about each and every element that is put into a service. Ultimately, we aren’t in ministry to give the church a great show, but to provide an atmosphere of worship that helps the congregation connect with Christ.