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  • multiple styles to one style

    I'm in a fairly large (2500 worshipers) SBC church with multiple styles/venues set in the suburb of a large city. We have 2 contemporary, 2 "edge" modern, and 1 traditional. The contemporary and traditional share the same venue and the 'edge' services are in a separate space on the same campus. We've been in a multi-style format for about 15 years with good success, but we're now faced with the following issues (some have been evident since the beginning, but the larger our church gets, the more exacerbated the issues become):

    (1) dispersion and sometimes competition for resources (people, money, physical space, etc.).

    (2) a separation of generations

    (3) a sense of disunity in the church as a whole (people that are traditionally minded about other areas of "doing church"...governance, discipleship, missions, etc. tend to be drawn to the traditional worship service; the same is true for more progressive thinkers and how they "do church"...they tend to go to the contemporary or 'edge' services.)

    (4) inconsistent worship discipleship/teaching across the services (i.e. teaching of the importance of expressive worship...clapping, raising hands, etc. in one service, but not the others; teaching hymns in one service, but not the other.)

    We are looking at moving from these multiple styles into one "unified" style. I say "unified" because there will continue to be multiple services (due to space restrictions), but only one style. We're staying away from using the term "blended" because stylistically the unified services would be much more contemporary the average "blended" services in our community. Also, we don't think that by moving toward a "unified" worship service we will solve the issues above, but we do think that by remaining in multiple styles, we continue to contribute toward the problems.

    Is anyone faced with similar issues? Has anyone attempted this kind of transition? I know, usually it's the other way around...i.e. a traditional church starting a contemporary service. We feel like an island! Even if you haven't experienced our scenario, I would appreciate any advice or feedback you can offer.

  • #2
    Do you think that changing your worhip style is going to get people more interested in missions or leadership? You've said "no" and I suspect you are right.

    If someone goes to the "edge" service, and you make it more mainstream, they are probably going to do one of two things: stay in the service time slot they are in, with the same like-minded people; or leave the church to find a worship service they like.

    I would suggest the issue has less to do with worship styles than how these people feel plugged in as a whole. How does your church select it's leadership, committee heads, teams, etc? Do you actively recruit from these other services? Does the senior pastor attend these services regularly? Has anyone asked the folks who go to these services why? Is it just the music? Do they feel the same disconnect? Do they like that?

    What is the plan for making sure that the teachings are the same across the board, that the same vision and message is out there? Why are you trying to teach hymns at a modern service? That's might be one reason they go to that service.

    Perhaps getting some small groups together - people from each service. Like a focus group. Get them talking, find out what they have in common and build on that. Find out where the disconnects are and focus on that.

    I worry that by changing all the services wholesale, especially when you admit it won't solve your problems, you risk alienating more people than you embrace.

    Comment


    • #3
      Excellent feedback, Mikeymo! I'll clarify some of your questions for you:

      "How does your church select it's leadership, committee heads, teams, etc?" We have a nominating committee that selects potential leaders. Our staff makes suggestions as well.

      "Do you actively recruit from these other services?" To some extent. I'm not sure that the recruiter uses the potential leader's worship preference as a qualifier.

      "Does the senior pastor attend these services regularly?" He preaches live in three of the services. We broadcast his message into the other two. He does make an occasional live appearance in those two.

      "Has anyone asked the folks who go to these services why? Is it just the music? Do they feel the same disconnect? Do they like that?" Some do feel a disconnect, some do not. We do ask people often, but there is not an intentional system of doing this.

      "What is the plan for making sure that the teachings are the same across the board, that the same vision and message is out there?" We meet regularly with the leadership of each service to try to communicate consistent worship teaching, it's just that each service has different values. The pastor's message is the same in all services.

      "Why are you trying to teach hymns at a modern service? That's might be one reason they go to that service." We're not necessarily trying to teach hymns exclusively in a modern service. But, our senior worship leadership feel that hymns can be taught in all services because we value old as well as new music...they just don't all have to sound the same. Tomlin's version of "All Hail the Power of Jesus" name can be used in one venue, while a traditional version can be used in another.

      "Perhaps getting some small groups together - people from each service. Like a focus group. Get them talking, find out what they have in common and build on that. Find out where the disconnects are and focus on that." We started a "processing group" this past Sunday. It is made up of 12 people from all of our services.

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      • #4
        I would suggest taking a month to cast this vision.

        In all services.

        What is the BIG driving idea behind the move. Think it through. Wrestle with it wit leadership and then come together as one, and show all of your different services that leadership is on the same page.

        What a lot of larger churches that serve up buffet style worship are seeing a generation later is that segregating the church based on worship preference is successful in 2 things:

        1) Dividing the church.
        2) De-emphasizing the family.

        If you can make it a point to let people know that you are moving forward to become one body, one family and you cast that vision with great passion people will follow.

        Some will leave. Especially if they've been catered too for the majority of their believer journey. I'm all for presenting diverse options for worship, but at the same time, it's becoming painfully clear (especially in youth ministry) that creating "bubbles" for people to worship how they prefer creates inward focused believers, preference driven worshipers, and in a lot of ways immature Christians.

        If there was a way to challenge your people to unify around a common vision. If there was a way to create a diverse worship experience in one primary gathering (that might be duplicated several times during the weekend)...instead of trying to create several different gatherings.

        You're hitting the nail on the head with the reasons you've listed. One thing's for sure: we CAN challenge our people to be more God and others focused...but it is really tough when we create a food-court-type atmosphere with our worship gatherings.

        I applaud you and your leadership for approaching this and I pray your transition goes smoothly.
        Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church .He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community.

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        • #5
          Move SLOW!

          Nate
          Practical Worship

          Please Pray For My Wife

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by russhutto View Post

            Some will leave. Especially if they've been catered too for the majority of their believer journey. I'm all for presenting diverse options for worship, but at the same time, it's becoming painfully clear (especially in youth ministry) that creating "bubbles" for people to worship how they prefer creates inward focused believers, preference driven worshipers, and in a lot of ways immature Christians.


            One thing's for sure: we CAN challenge our people to be more God and others focused...but it is really tough when we create a food-court-type atmosphere with our worship gatherings.

            amen brother!

            The way I read this bible is that we are prefer one another over ourselves. It's sad that this isn't taught and lived in every church.
            8-)



            what? me worry?

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            • #7
              I hope your mind is not made up on merging the services, because, I wouldn't recommend it. The problem is not the different venues, the problem is a lack of clear and decisive vision. Who cares if different perspectives are represented in your leadership and services as long as they all are working together for the common good of the church? If there is an issue of sharing resources, good! I learned to share in kindergarten and I think that a move to get rid of diversity will just cause people to leave.

              If different groups have different teaching emphasis, what is wrong with that? Isn't it obvious that a younger crowd is going to emphasize participation in worship more than an older? How about allowing them their preference in music, but teaching them respect for each other? When children won't play with each other in the sandbox you don't force them, you just make them wait their turn.

              I have heard it said once that what gets a person to church is what keeps them there. If you take away your diversity, you might reach fewer people and cause more problems then you had in the first place. The reasons that you mentioned for the merge I don't think will be fixed...or, they could cause bigger problems.

              I would get on the phone with some leaders from Saddleback and ask them how they have 8 different styled services but yet a unity of vision and purpose!!!

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree with Russ on alot of this.

                I lead worship in a community that varies from 22yo's to at least one person in their 90's, and around 30 nationalities are represented. Our demographic spread peaks in the late 20's and in the early 50's. We have to CONSTANTLY be aware of how we are leading worship in regard to music preference, but we have found out by explaining everything really well that we don't have any worship wars. But I do lead worship in a unique setting (in a seminary).

                I think that the idea of continuing to segment services in regard to worship styles is starting to backfire. My dad is the pastor of a large SBC church that has been doing this for around 10-12 years and they are now seeing that it has created more problems than solutions.

                The root of this problem seems to be in how we define our church, increasingly this has been in worship styles. The only solution is to be really deliberate with congregations as to what and why the problem and solution is.

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                • #9
                  Chad/Russ, do you know of churches that are writing about problems they've had in separating by different worship styles? Or third party research that describes that sort of thing? I'd be interested in that.

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                  • #10
                    I found this quote from J.I. Packer pertaining to multiple worship styles. I thought it'd be appropriate to post as a followup to my original post. This is an excerpt from Shane Rosenthal's "An Interview with J. I. Packer: The State of Evangelicalism" in Modern Reformation. J. I. Packer is the author of the Christian classic, "Knowing God".

                    Shane Rosenthal: "What do you think about a niche marketing approach that has by virtue of the different worship styles - teen pop, alternative, and adult boomer - created generational segregation?"

                    J. I. Packer: "We have separated the ages, very much to the loss of each age. In the New Testament, the Christian church is an all-age community, and in real life the experience of the family to look no further should convince us that the interaction of the ages is enriching. The principle is that generations should be mixed up in the church for the glory of God. That doesn't mean we shouldn't disciple groups of people of the same age or the same sex separately from time to time. That's a good thing to do. But for the most part, the right thing is the mixed community in which everybody is making the effort to understand and empathize with all the other people in the other age groups. Make the effort is the key phrase here. Older people tend not to make the effort to understand younger people, and younger people are actually encouraged not to make the effort to understand older people. That's a loss of a crucial Christian value in my judgment. If worship styles are so fixed that what's being offered fits the expectations, the hopes, even the prejudices, of any one of these groups as opposed to the others, I don't believe the worship style glorifies God, and some change, some reformation, some adjustment, and some enlargement of spiritual vision is really called for."

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                    • #11
                      I saw this in my RSS reader but by the time I could get here to comment, Russ had pretty much said everything I was going to say. Kudos to Russ.

                      Also, great Packer quote.

                      Although we have four services at Sojourn, this is due to space limitations. Our format is the same. Also, the majority of our 1200 members/attenders are under the age of 30, and many come from unchurched backgrounds. They love hymns -- and in fact, it seems here in Louisville that the age group that wants the least to do with hymns are those in their late 30s through early 50s. And yet, when you ask them, their main reason is often "we can't reach younger people if we sing hymns."

                      Now of course, we often do hymns with new melodies and musical settings. We don't have a choir or an organ. We do present an eclectic range of styles though, varying from week to week. Some indie rock, some bluegrass, some folk. People have different preferences, of course, but we expect everyone to defer in love to their brothers and sisters when it comes to styles that are less pleasing to them. It is a good thing to broaden one's musical tastes.

                      Of course, we also recognize that this kind of service isn't for everyone, which is perfectly fine. This is why it is so great to live in a country where there are so many Bible believing churches, presenting many different kinds of music to the glory of God.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        @Jaytea, I don't know of anything specific to point you to, but I do know that I've heard several well-known worship leaders and church leaders talk about this issue. Off the top of my head, I've personally heard Linclon Brewster and Ross Parsley talk about this directly. Both are at large churches that are seeing and feeling a disconnect across generations.

                        They are both pushing to bridge those divides within the framework of their church family.

                        I'm in a smallish medium size church (300+). We primarily attract young familes (20s-30s) but do have college, middle age, and seniors represented fairly well too. What we're wrestling with now is the idea that we should present a buffet venue style approach. A separate youth service, a separate college service, a seperate adult service (ALL AT THE SAME TIME).

                        Personally, I'm fighting AGAINST that concept. I feel like within the parameters of church worship, we should do any and everything we can to promote worship together as a family. I'm pushing for a regular "family day" which might happen on the 5th Sunday of those months that have 5 Sundays. On that day we would shut down everything except for the primary worship gathering and have everyone worship together. Unfortunately, I'm in the minority and most of the leadership feels like we'd miss out on keeping some guests if we don't have our children's ministry running every Sunday.

                        I think if we clearly explained that we place high priority on the family worshipping together 4 TIMES A YEAR, on that day guests would get it. Ugh.

                        I also think that bridging the gap in generations ON STAGE is a key to making this happen. If you have a seperate youth and college band where members don't play with the adults, I have one question: WHY?

                        It makes more sense to rotate members from those other bands into the adult worship band so that the generations represented by those members had at least that in common with the adult service. It's a common thread. I can see a teenager coming into the adult service and seeing one of their peers on stage and being like, "Cool, that's one of US up there!" And you've got a built in connect right there.

                        I have 2 youth that sing regularly with us. They love it.

                        The original question is about multiple styles, which like Stephen said is probably not the core issue, but at the same time, more and more churches are seeing that being segmented like that ultimately doesn't work. Sometimes it just takes years for that to surface.
                        Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church .He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Hey Everyone,
                          I'm gonna "sticky" this thread and make it featured.

                          I have to "amen" what Bobby said - I think Russ has pretty much expressed my sentiments exactly.

                          Obviously, with only 1-1/2 pages of replies thus far, we'll have differing views here.

                          We're in a church with approx 1300-1500 adults on Sunday, and hundreds of youth and children, pushing 2,000+ total attendance each Sunday. I am working VERY HARD to lessen the gap between the stage and the people ... and the generations.

                          I would strongly recommend investing a whopping $5.00 and buying Gordon MacDonald's teaching from the National Worship Leader Conference here.

                          He's also written a book - I've not read it yet, but it's "on order" - Julie Reid (Editor at WLMag) and I were talking on the phone the other day and she said "you've GOT to read this book". It's called "Who Stole My Church".

                          Another incredible teaching is called "Multi-Generational Worship" by Ross Parsley out at New Life in Colorado Springs. They are known for several things, some good and some bad (ie. Ted Haggard's fall) ... but hey, any church that is surviving the public moral failure of one of the nation's biggest leaders, a shoot out murder in their sunday AM services, yet still thrives, and still cranks out things like Desperation Band ... I listen to them.

                          Ross's teaching is huge, and very practical.

                          From Lincoln Brester, Ross Parsley, Gordon MacDonald, Leonard Sweet, Joseph Garlington, Israel Houghton, to Tommy Walker ... ALL of them had the same thing to say ...

                          "please, please, let's find a way where we can all worship together".
                          Last edited by fmckinnon; 09-18-2008, 09:14 AM.
                          Fred McKinnon, Pianist/Composer/Worship Leader
                          blog: www.fredmckinnon.com

                          Please check out my piano/instrumental music at:
                          www.soundcloud.com/FredMcKinnonMusic
                          www.youtube.com/c/FredMcKinnonMusic

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                          • #14
                            I am in intenerant worship leader who travels constantly. 90% of the places I go are 200 people or less.

                            In these places they don't have all the bells and whistles of the mega churches but they do have one thing that is usually missing from the mega-churches I've been in and that is a real sense of community between everyone. Young and old....black and white...pre and post trib....whatever.

                            They also don't usually have the luxury of a large music team (sometimes they don't even have talent but that's another thread). So they have to tolerate each other in ways that make them iron sharpening iron.

                            They worship together because they have no other choice...and, in most places, it seems to make them more mature disciples in the end. The older folks learn to consider the youth and the youth learn to respect the adults.

                            They prefer one another over themselves as we are instructed by the Word to do. Catering to "desires" over needs only seems to divide us by preferences, imo.

                            If someone wants to leave because you injected a couple of hymns one day then they really need to get an after-life by expanding their vision of worship tremendously. If the old folks get upset over the youth being exhuberant with a Sonic Flood tune, then they are being selfish.

                            Let these kinds of people go because they aren't here for community anyway... and would be gone over some other superficial reason eventually

                            As long as a song or style isn't inappropriate to the community, then I say mix it up and let the chips fall where they may
                            8-)



                            what? me worry?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Worship is not music. If you'd like to find ways for the generations to worship together, think outside the musical box. Worship is about how you live your life, so find ways for the generations to do life together; serving, mentoring, whatever.

                              What you may also want to consider is that, depending on your definition of the word, you actually have 5 congregations, not just 5 services. I would imagine that for the most part there isn't much movement of people between the venues. People have "their" service and its the one they (almost always) go to. Your church needs to decide if that bothers you or not. I don't think it should. Even if you only had one service that everyone went to its just not possible for 2500 people to feel close to one another. They can have a shared vision for the future based on the church's direction, but if you want people to feel close, you need to think much smaller groups. Almost certainly less than 20.

                              Our church has about 800-1000 people meeting in 2 venues in 4 congregations. We actually call them that, because we assume that people won't necessarily identify with the other groups that they never see. People will identify with our church and our mission, but we expect them to find their community in a small group.

                              Nathan

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