Seven tips for starting to worship together
1. Don’t start a worship service!…
…start a New Worshipping Community. In other words don’t just start a worship event. If you do, the chances are that it will quickly take all of your time and energy to sustain and you won’t have any left over for the core priorities of reaching new people and building a community. So don’t begin with a worship event begin with prayer, listening, team building and reaching out as we’ve outlined in the other resources.
But the process isn’t complete until you do begin to worship together regularly. In fact we recommend aiming to gather to worship weekly…
2. Aim for weekly:
Monthly events can be exciting and fruitful but it’s difficult to build community when you meet monthly. We love the variety of fresh expressions of worship that are springing up which meet monthly or fortnightly. Some of us have been involved in them and we treasure that experience and still enjoy it. But having experienced weekly New Worshipping Communities we’re completely sold on them. It should have been obvious, but we’ve been amazed how much more readily community grows and deepens when they have a weekly gathering.
· People don’t need to remember or be reminded when we meet
· With complicated lives, many can only come to one out of every two or three gatherings, so with a monthly event we only saw them every few months.
· It forces us to keep growing the team with plenty of roles for people to step into.
· It forces us to stay simple.
3. Keep it simple
The temptation when starting is to make everything incredibly creative which is wonderful, but we’d encourage you to keep things simple. Doing so means:
a) It’s sustainable to meet every week. Our experience has been that committing from the startto a weekly gathering was essential. If we’d started monthly or fortnightly with a plan to meet more frequently at some point, we would have made things too complicated and soon come to the conclusion that it wasn’t possible every week.
b) People can take part easily. Do things well, but not so “professionally” that those who join think “I couldn’t do that”
c) It’s reproducible.
4. Consider meeting “intergenerationally” (all-age)
Many new worshipping communities reaching those in their 20s-40s will be gatherings of adults or will have groups for the children. That is often exactly right for their context. Nevertheless we’d encourage to ask the question of whether that is what will best make disciples among those you are reaching or whether you will be better aiming to plant a “intergenerational” (ie all-age) community. We don’t have any theological objections to children, youth and adults worshipping separately. In fact they seem to want and need that at times. But many new worshipping communities have found that it has been wonderful to work to build a congregation in which the “default” setting is all-age. And that means genuinely “all age”. Too often worship with that label ends up being centred on primary school children, or perhaps nuclear families.
Work hard to try to ensure there is something in the worship for teenagers, young adults, those who come alone, etc. It’s a challenge and you’ll sometimes get it wrong, but the core ethos is that this is church as “family” in the very broadest sense. It’s not easy but the rewards can be enormous: seeing children of different age groups relating together and learning together, seeing those who come without children feel that they are part of a big family, seeing those who are in some of the most difficult challenges of life relishing a chance to belong. “I learn so much more here than I used to learn in an adult service” was the comment from one grandmother, “because it’s always understandable and the activities we do together make the talk make sense and sink in”.
As the church faces the challenge of growth in a society that is incredibly busy, where families often only get Sundays to be together and where in many churches there simply aren’t the leaders to offer a full range of groups for children and youth, there must be merit in many groups embracing the challenge to build all age worship as their core Christian community. For lots of ideas to get started see here.
5. Agree the Essentials
What you would say are the essential elements in a worship service? Before reading on, take a moment to write your list.
George Pattison, regarded by some as the father of the modern church planting movement, travelled to Honduras to teach in a seminary. On arrival, he found that it had been closed because it wasn’t achieving its purpose of mobilizing village church leaders. ‘You’re promoted,’ he was told by his supervisor, pointing to a mule and a smelly old saddle. ‘Here is the Chair of Evangelism and Church Planting in the new Extension Evangelism Institute.’
Facing the challenge, George set about traveling through the villages of Honduras, discipling family leaders to plant their own churches. Citing our great commission to ‘Go and make disciples of all nations... teaching them to obey all I have commanded you,’ his principal emphasis was on the commands of Christ. As a result, over one hundred new churches were planted! Bearing in mind the simplicity of their circumstances, and his emphasis on Christ’s commands, George arrived at seven essential elements for a worship service.
· Confession and absolution
· Word (preaching and testimony)
What do you think of his seven in comparison to your own list? Are there any which surprised you?
6. Use outside help and ideas
There are dozens of websites offering specific help and ideas for different styles of worship. As a starter you may like to take a look at the following two. If you need more get in touch and we’ll see if we can point you in a helpful direction.
Common Worship “Service of the Word” structure is ideal for many New Worshipping Communities. Take a look at the range of advice and resources at.
The Joshua Centre website has hundreds of creative worship ideas from Zone2 a café-style intergenerational New Worshipping Community. Although they were created for the Zone2 format but most are very adaptable.
Josh Cockayne who planted G2 Central (read more here) has written here about his experience planting a new worshiping community has written about liturgy and ritual in worship from a more academic perspective in this free booklet.
7. Get Creative
Team Exercise: ‘Forced creativity’
Starting a New Worshipping Community is a perfect opportunity to explore new forms of worship. There are also many challenges to be faced connected with the building, musicians, leadership, sacraments, being outsider-friendly and so on. Try the following team exercise to get creativity flowing.
You are the lay leadership team of a New Worshipping Community which has been meeting weekly for public worship for six months. Some new Christians from completely unchurched backgrounds have joined. You are meeting on Saturday evening to pray for the regular service the next morning. Team members arrive at the meeting with a variety of tales of woe:
· The contractors working next to the building in which you meet have accidentally severed the power cables, making it impossible for you to use the projector, keyboard or PA system. For the purposes of this exercise the season is Summer, and it’s warm.
· Your only guitarist has sprained her wrist and won’t be able to play.
· The vicar was going to come to preside at communion but rings to apologise that he has come down with a very bad flu and can’t leave home.
It’s too late to cancel the service so your prayer meeting has therefore also become a planning meeting. Your task is to come up with a service plan to use tomorrow. Note down the different elements of the service fitting them into a time plan. Be as creative and flexible as you like. The chart divides the service into ten-minute blocks, adapt it to suit your plans.
The service runs from 10.30 - 11.30 a.m.
Time Activity Leaders