Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Worship Wednesdays - 7 Ways to Create an Invitation To Worship...

Today, we're posting from Halifax, Nova Scotia! We just wrapped up the New Brunswick leg of the tour with a concert and workshop in Hampton, which was the inspiration for today's post.

How do we bring our congregation into worship?

As worship leaders, we've rehearsed the songs, studied the lyrics, and we come to church with an enthusiasm and a readiness to worship. But so often, we meet a congregation who is not in the same place as us. They seem reluctant to join in the Sunday celebration.

Here are 7 thoughts on creating an Invitation to Worship:

#1. Where Are They?

When we're leading worship on a Sunday morning, our early hours are filled with preparation - vocal warm ups, Bible devotional, prayer, set up and rehearsal. But our congregation hasn't had the same kind of morning. We can't know what they've all experienced, but we know for some of them, it was probably a challenge to get to church that day. Perhaps their littlest one had a temper tantrum, and the breakfast table became a battle ground. Maybe they had a fight with their spouse on the drive over. Perhaps they haven't slept because they know they might lose their job this week, or maybe they're coming in hungover from a later Saturday night. Or maybe they don't even believe in "this stuff" and someone is dragging them to church today.

That's our congregation. That's who we need to lead into worship. Our first step is to recognize this.

#2. Pray.

We always encourage both individuals and teams to pray before worship. In your prayers, lift up your congregation. Remember that they're struggling. You may not know each person's challenge, but God does. Pray that you may be used to lead them into God's presence, and that they may feel God's love and grace today.

#3. How Do We Set The Mood?

Each church handles those pre-service moments differently. Some prefer silence, and other use that time for announcements. Some play instrumental music, while others lead a sing along of favourite hymns and worship songs. Brian Doerkson talks about "stirring the waters" - a gentle improvisation of all the instruments in the band. It's not a song, but simply sounds that start to tune the congregation's ear to the music.

Find the right pre-service moments for your congregation that will meet them where they are, but will also prepare them for a time of worship.

#4. Issue An Invitation.

This sounds obvious, but it can't be underestimated. Find some way - through words, images, music, or movement - to shift the mood and actually invite them into worship. I'm a big fan of using the Psalms to bring our focus into praising and glorifying God. Sometimes, I may issue an invitational prayer while Gerald underscores with gentle guitar. Other times, we've had slides showing different images of the majesty of creation, with accompanying prayers or music.

Don't be afraid to be direct. There are times when I'll pray something like, "I know many of us have come here today with burdens, things that are filling our minds with worries and concerns. Let's lay them aside for the next hour, and allow ourselves to experience the love and grace of God." 

In each case, we want people to recognize that this isn't the rest of the week - this is sacred time, and they are invited into that holiness.

#5. Now, We Get Them Singing

We've chosen different kinds of songs for our opening worship song - sometimes we start gently, other times we get them off to a rocking start. In either situation, we always choose a well known song. As musicians, we forget that most people don't sing on a daily basis, and now we're going to ask them to spend the next hour singing! Allow them to start with vocal confidence on a familiar song or hymn.

#6. Don't Hit Them With The Wall Of Sound

Often times, worship teams can get so excited to play together that they knock their congregation over with the 'wall of sound'. This is our term for when everyone plays every note of every song and it's LOUD! It can come from enthusiasm, but it can be fixed with some good arranging. Allow your songs to build. Start with one instrument, add another on the chorus. Sing unison in the verses, build into harmony. Give your congregation a way to enter the song, and then take them on a journey.

#7. It Starts With Love

Bringing people into worship is an act of trust. Love your congregation. Get to know them. Attend coffee hour and start conversations. Join a small group or outreach project. Build relationships both within and outside of your worship team. Encourage your band and choir to do the same. Break down the us-them walls. Let people know your love of God and your passion for worship. Because when that trust has been built, we can help bring people into the presence of God, and experience all that is waiting for them.

How do you invite your congregation into worship?
Please let your thoughts in the Comments section

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How The Light Gets In and Tonight, Everywhere Is Bethlehem
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Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!

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