19 Signs of Vital Worship

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We serve a triune God who is alive and constantly active in mission in our world. Worship can be the vibrant overflow of our discipleship to Jesus Christ. How can you help your congregation offer worship that is fully vital?

Vital worship looks, sounds, and even feels different in different contexts because the people who offer it and the gifts they bring are different. But whatever the context or the style, when worship is vital, there is energy and authenticity in what happens. The power of God’s Word touches the hurts and awakens the hopes of real people. Visitors are glad they came. People participate because the singing, the hearing, the praying, the sharing at the Lord’s Table, and the sending forth are done in ways that say, “This is real. This matters. This is life!” In vital worship the people are addressed, touched, washed, fed, anointed, and strengthened in relationship to God and to one another.

Considering these more holistic aspects of worship and the congregation is the work of the worship planning team. Your church need not be large for your leaders in worship ministry to develop a more comprehensive approach to worship. What is important is to discover your own passion for helping your congregation offer worship that is authentic and vital and to sense that you are a leader gifted by God and supported by resources and people in your congregation and beyond.

Vital Worship

Many of these signs of vitality are present in worship. In what ways does your congregaton express vitality in worship?

  1. People are welcomed, honored, and cared for.
  2. God’s story, which is our story, is always told.
  3. Jesus is experienced as present in love and power.
  4. The people and the community are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  5. People are active in singing, praying, and responding.
  6. There is passion in the pastor’s presiding and preaching and the congregation’s singing, praying, and responding.
  7. Varied ages and cultures participate actively.
  8. Things (food, water, candles, furnishings, fabrics, vessels) are used generously to point to the presence of God.
  9. Actions (people being baptized, sharing bread and cup, offering the peace of Christ to each other) point to the presence of the risen Lord.
  10. People offer their whole bodies in worship in culturally appropriate ways (posture, hands raised in prayer, dance, movement, clapping, meditation).
  11. Worship space is arranged so the people can be together and see one another.
  12. There are calls and responses: people experience God calling, and they respond. Leaders work in concert to prompt the participation of all the people.
  13. Leaders are prepared and expect to hear God’s Word and experience God’s power.
  14. Leaders act with the people more than for the people.
  15. Everyone acts in ways that say, “Worship matters.”
  16. People who are experiencing hurt and isolation receive a healing touch.
  17. All the people have a sense of belonging and know how to participate.
  18. There is energy, and the way worship unfolds makes sense.
  19. The worship reveals the planning, gifts, and preparation of the people.

Consider what’s working well now and ways your congregation shows or has shown signs of vital worship. How might you and others on the worship planning team or committee help your congregation claim and build on its strengths and, over time, add more vital practices to its repertoire?

This article is excerpted from Worship: Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation, Copyright © 2008 Abingdon Press.

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