In our local congregation, we’re about to change the format and order of our worship. Our Shepards are implementing this change for precise reasons and with a comprehensive range of intended effects. I am incredibly hopeful that we can accomplish the intended purposes, and I am incredibly proud of the willingness of the Shepards to lead and the congregation to follow.
Specifically, we are implementing three significant changes; Our Sunday morning worship will begin with a shorter “time of focus,” our regular corporate worship on Sunday mornings is being modified to add emphasis to individual pieces, and our church is embracing regularly scheduled fellowship and in-home bible study. These very deliberately choices have been calculated and directed at enriching the flock’s spiritual health. With a little bit of buy-in, I’m confident in the outcomes.
In this first article, I am addressing the new way in which we will start our Sunday morning worship, the Time of Focus.
“Time of Focus”
The Time of Focus is a short, devotional-type mini-service. The ambiguity of the name is a hurdle no doubt (what will potential visitors think is going on?), but the purpose and value of the change are exciting.
For about 15-20 minutes, the entire church will gather in the auditorium to sing, pray, and read scripture before we begin our Bible classes. Well, that sounds like more of the same, you say? You’re not wrong, but the intention is to provide a slope or buffer between the ever-pressing thoughts of the world and our commitment to spending time in study and worship.
This short gathering will be organized by a church leader every week, and that person has a fair bit of freedom to execute their vision, including the format, theme, participants, and participation from those present. One week might be very kid-focused with children seated front-and-center. The next week might focus on praise and adoration through song.
Another advantage of this change is that things that are not customarily done in corporate worship can be integrated. High school age kids leading songs and prayers, young children participating, and even just a heartfelt, thoughtful reading of a few Psalms are all inside the scope of possibilities, and beneficial.
In those first twenty minutes of gathering, we all will have partaken in a moment of connection with the God we came to worship, as well as a moment of contact with our brothers and sisters. The value of these minutes, if embraced with an open mind and heart, has the potential to change the texture of our worship. We are seeking change in the texture of the hearts of the flock, a softening of hearts and soaking in of more of God’s love.
Logistically, the main obstacle will be that our Sunday mornings will begin 30 minutes earlier. A new start of worship is no small challenge for many people, but the change is coming about as we simultaneously are removing the Sunday night service, which is transitioning to fellowship and small groups. (Which we’ll discuss in subsequent articles.)
I am glad that we have adopted it on its face value, but I also believe that it will help the Shepards identify the sheep who may be spiritually struggling. Too many of our past years of worship were missing the opportunity to recognize that a congregant may need spiritual encouragement. While there was some manner of encouragement towards attendance, people in pews is not the last measure of a healthy local church.
Although I am proud of the bold direction that the Shepards are taking in this regard, I am prouder still of the willingness of the local body to adhere to change. It is fair to consider that many may have approached this with a wait-and-see attitude or other mild forms of skepticism. Overall, however, I genuinely believe that the members are ready to get on board for positive change.
Next, we’ll discuss the changes to our corporate worship services, the reasonings for their implementation and what outcomes I hope to see.