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Turning Swords to Plowshares in the Worship Wars
By Jose Bourget

The weekly worship service is the heart that brings together believers forming a faith community. It shouldn't be a surprise that "spirited" conversations often surround the topic about what to do or not do during this time. Tough conversations can strengthen the community and its mission when we can have them well. This is not always the case when it comes to worship "programming" and "strategies." Here are a few steps to take to have fruitful, not frightening, conversations about worship.

1. Seek to understand the broader context.


Worship may be the heart of a church’s journey but it is not the entire journey. Before addressing the specifics of a worship service, seek to understand what part it plays in the larger vision and mission of your church. This weekly time has strategic significance to the community. Do you know what it is?


2a. Start with Who


Be clear that the object of worship is God. Anything we do in service to the Kingdom of God should be done with excellence.


2b. Start with who...part 2


This is about understanding what is the strategic role of the worship service. There are two clear ways to go: 1) the worship service meant to attract a particular demographic that isn’t connected to a faith community, or 2) the worship service is meant to nurture the discipleship journey of those already committed to Christian journey. Choosing one as a greater priority isn't averse to developing the other, but when it comes to difficult choices further down in the planning, being clear about this can help the conversation to move forward based on strategic significance.

3. Exercise simplicity


Simplicity isn't about doing the least amount or easiest thing. It is primarily about making sure you have clear aims that are the same each week. Your worship leaders and participants will appreciate an experience that fosters a sense of belonging to God and each other. It takes intentionally to accomplish this. The temptation is to fill the service with a lot of things. A circus can be fun and celebrates creativity and ingenuity. But there is a reason why the circus comes to town and then leaves. A worship service driven by novelty and special effects will burn everyone out.


4. Strive for excellence


There are a number of factors to consider when we think about excellence. All too often we place a lot of pressure on the praise team to not mess up or the whole thing is ruined. Here are a few better areas to keep in mind.

  1. Volunteer care - from the greeter to the AV crew to the pastor. Make sure they know what their role entails, affirm them often, solicit their feedback systematically, and help them to grow in their role.

  2. Do what you can - if you don't have the people to lead a praise band, then don't have one. Achieving what you have the means to do really well is better than doing something beyond your ability or resources poorly.

  3. Review your worship objectives regularly. Are you meeting them? Have you outgrown them? How can you do it better?


5. Why and how you do it is more important than what you do.

Too often we work backwards in the “worship wars” conversation. There is a war going on, but it's not meant to be with each other. Getting your worship team invested and engaged in the strategic planning will encourage healthy outcomes. Being clear about the mission of the weekly worship service makes the vision that much easier to realize. Following a clear mission and vision can make future talks about worship joyful and edifying for the whole community.