Just Because it Worked at Their Church, Doesn’t Mean It Will Work for Yours
There is a flavor church for just about any style you could ask for: big production or small production, big attendance or small attendance, mega church or intimate. For those of us working in churches, it can be easy to try to fit our church into the mold another church has created- comparing the victories we see online with the realities we experience on the day to day.
I recently had coffee with a young worship leader who is trying to figure out God’s vision for his ministry. He loves watching videos from places like Elevation Worship and Bethel Worship. He works with students and there isn’t much of an option right now for large-scale production. His musicians are students that are still learning, and the youth group right now consists of about thirty people. They are planning for a winter retreat and he would love to create a really cool production feel for the retreat, with lighting and a good sound system, and wanted to know my opinion.
I gave him this advice, “More doesn’t always mean better, and less doesn’t always mean simpler.”
More doesn’t always mean better, and less doesn’t always mean simpler. @jhwilliams Click To Tweet
When I was learning the worship production realm- I frequently thought that if I just had more lights, or more musicians, then obviously the overall product would be better. Or vice versa, if I wanted to create an intimate moment, all I needed was an acoustic guitar and no production. And then, magically, I would have those same amazing intimate moments you see at worship conferences.
I believe there are several ways you can find the right fit for your congregation.
1. What does your pastor want?
Finding out your pastor’s vision is essential in creating a worship experience that fits your church. I worked at a church that told me they wanted modern worship once, and I was shocked when I was told several months later that I was too modern in playing “Forever Reign” and “Here For You”. Turned out, the pastor’s vision of what modern was and what my vision were not lining up. I needed to merge and align my vision with what God has imparted on him.
2. What does your congregation want?
This probably sounds super simplistic, but there’s no point in creating a large scale production for a church that doesn’t feel comfortable with it. That doesn’t mean you throw away all production if they show concern of big production, but scale it down. Do simpler lighting scenes to emphasize the worship. Or a church that says “I love the lights- its like a rock show!”- you probably don’t need to just walk out with a guitar and a completely blacked out set.
3. What are your limitations?
Knowing your limitations is key. The friend I mentioned earlier would love to have lighting each week, but the room they are in, along with their budget, simply doesn’t lend itself to lots of lighting other than some wash on the back wall. I told him to embrace that limitation, and find a creative solution to make that part of their identity. A big element in making something look good is making it look like it has purpose.
4. Don’t compare yourself to others.
I have several friends who are worship leaders in megachurches nearby. The church I am at is around 200. I love hearing what they are doing and are trying, and I love dreaming about how I could implement that into our services. But I have to be careful that I don’t compare. Nothing good comes from comparing. It doesn’t matter if you are comparing size, budget, quality, or experience- comparing yourself or what you have to another church will only lead to Satan bringing bitterness into your life and you lose the vision of teamwork.
5. Remember quality and tons of resources aren’t mutually exclusive
I mentioned earlier that “more doesn’t always mean better, and less doesn’t always mean simpler.” Apple is a prime example of this- their graphics are classified as “minimalistic”, yet the work that goes into making it look so simple is far from it. Sometimes a simple set up for a worship service will be more work than a full scale production. Just because you don’t have 40 movers at your disposal, that doesn’t mean you can’t create a really cool, exciting production. And just because you feel your church needs small scale doesn’t mean you can’t add in some cool key lighting. My favorite things to do with acoustic sets is get some haze going and use some great back lighting from above. It creates this really cool, intimate feel.
At the end of the day, what works best for your church is what works best for your church.
What works best for me won’t necessarily be best for you. The story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears focuses a lot on the fact that she was searching for her fit. But remember that the bears had chosen the style bed they had because it worked for them. Momma Bear probably wouldn’t like Baby Bears bed.
Try stuff out, see what works, see what doesn’t. Learn from the bigger churches, but don’t simply try to replicate what they are doing and be shocked when it doesn’t work for you.
Josh is a native of Greenville, SC, where he lives with his wife, Dorothy, and daughter, Juliette. With just about 10 years of some sort of creative ministry experience, he serves at Velocity Church leading the worship, production, and stage design teams. Starting in music, he began to become interested in the technical side of making worship services happen. While serving at Lowcountry Community Church in Bluffton, SC- he began to learn and experiment with stage design and lighting. Since then, he has created many stage designs and consulted to help churches think creatively despite their size or budget. Josh’s goal in his ministry is to point people to Jesus, and believes that all the pieces of a service, from booth to stage and everywhere in between, need to work together to point to a singular goal of Christ.