Critical Mass- But Not Too Much

Critical mass is one of those intangible things in worship that are vitally important to the environment that is created in worship.  To give you an example of how important critical mass is let’s say you went to a worship service where there were three persons present.  It came time to sign the first hymn.  Unless you or the other two people were great singers then the hymn would probably not turn out too well.  Contrast this to being in a large church or at the Annual Conference when a hymn is sung and the singing almost reverberates in your bones or gives you chills down your spine.  In one place there is no critical mass and in another critical mass has been met.  It makes a difference.

iStock_000025889219SmallIt is important for the church worship service to have critical mass.  This was brought home to me personally when we began a new church and we had 234 people the first Sunday.  What a great start, right?  The problem was we were in school auditorium that seated 1,000 people and though we roped off sections it seemed like there were 40 people instead of 234 people.  In our case, and in churches where there is fixed seating, it is hard to address this issue apart from just hoping more people attend worship.  But in churches where the seats are moveable a balance can be achieved.  (BTW, we ended up moving from the high school auditorium we were in to an elementary school cafetorium where we controlled the number of seats we put out and it made a difference).

There is no general rule of thumb when it comes to critical mass.  You will know it when you see it since much if it depends on the size of the room in the first place.  However The general rule I have always heard when it comes to space in general is that when you get to 80% capacity you need to start adding seats or adding an additional worship service.  This is true for other areas in the church such as parking and educational space.

If you have the opportunity to control the seating in your space then by all means do so that you can garner the elusive feeling of critical mass and people feel like something good is going on in your church and they are not waiting for you to go to the back and get out the rattle snakes and special kool-aid!

But don’t go too far like I have seen one church do recently.  In an effort to garner critical mass they took away chairs when attendance was down and they far exceeded the 80% rule.  People couldn’t find seats!  People’s personal space was invaded.  If this becomes the case for too long then regular attendees will not ever invite anybody because they will feel the church is already too full.  So get some critical mass, but not too much!

The Importance of Starting on Time

Starting on time is an important rule to live by in the life of the church.

iStock_000009931578SmallThis is especially true when it comes to beginning worship on time at the advertised time.  If you are going to start at 11AM then start at 11AM.

Starting worship on time signals to guests (and regular attendees) that their time is valuable and the church respects their time enough to start when you say you are going to start.

Starting worship on time signals to guests and regular attendees that you take the presentation of the Gospel seriously enough that it is important to your church to start on time.  After all, God is a god of order, not chaos.  Starting on time signals an attention to detail and a level of organization.

Not starting on time on a regular basis signals the exact opposite (your time is not valuable and we do not care enough about presenting the Gospel with excellence).

Hey!  Everybody runs late from time to time.  When it becomes a way of life for the church the church might want to ask what message it is sending.

Mastering the “So What” of Preaching

Preaching should always answer the question- so what?  When we were starting New Season Church we had the opportunity to visit various churches before we began regular Sunday morning worship.  One church we visited was the McLean Bible Church and Pastor Lon Solomon was preaching.  I do not remember a whole lot from the message that evening (sorry Lon!), but I do remember Pastor Lon stopping in the middle of his message after he got done expounding on the scripture to ask the question (actually the congregation asked the question at his prompt as they must have done many times in the past) “So what?”

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So what?  Who cares?  What difference does this make?  These are all questions that strike at the heart of making our preaching applicable to person’s lives.  In my preaching, I have sought to be mindful of that question so that in light of God’s holy word proclaimed there was some nugget of applicability to listeners. Whether I was talking about the 1st century food groups of food Jesus ate, the difference between the Hittites, Jebusites and Termites, what it means to forgive seventy times seventy or anything else, I always tried to answer the question “So what?”

I believe the Bible is always relevant and applicable to people’s lives.  Unfortunately, we preachers, myself included, sometimes make it irrelevant because we forget to ask “So what?”

So, in the end I hope that question “So what?” might haunt you as it haunts me every time I ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in crafting and delivering a message.

6 Tips for Creating and Utilizing Worship Slides

When technology is done well in a worship setting it can enhance a worshiper’s experience of God.  When technology is not done well it can distract. One way to enhance instead of distract is to ensure you have great worship slides  Here are six ways for making your worship slides great.

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  1. Make them bright and crisp. Ensure the slides created are appropriate colors with the text color easy to read on the background color. Think about font choice as well.  Now is probably not the time to be experimenting with new fonts with scripts. Equipment wise- make sure your projector is throwing off enough lumens that your picture is crisp. Make the investment in a good projector, it will be worth it.
  2. Make them visible. While churches are sometimes limited by the constraints of church architecture, do your best to make your slides visible. A center screen is best or two side screens. Make the screens large enough. Ensure when everyone stands up to sing the persons in the back can still see the screen.
  3. Limit the words. Less is more when it comes to the number of words on a screen. When less words are used the font can be bigger.  The rule of thumb I have tried to stick by is no more than four lines per slide.
  4. Limit the busyness.  Adding pictures to slides with text can be effective but be certain to not make it too busy. Again, less is more here. Think about how hard it is to read text on a slide when the background is a bustling city scape. If you must use such a background experiment with making it transparent.
  5. Ensure slides have meaning. Don’t just have slides to have slides but ensure they have a purpose and meaning. Too many slides and people stop paying attention.  Do you really need to tell people every part of the service they are experiencing?
  6. Preparation is key.  As the saying goes, “Proper planning prevents piss poor performance.” Whatever presentation software you utilize ensure your slides are in the correct order. Check the timings. Look them over for silly spelling errors. In short, when it comes to these slides give God your best not your rushed.

What might you add to the list above?