How to Offer Worship for Those Within Your Reach

October 23rd, 2013

One of the biggest shifts in culture and religion today is that if people come to worship at all, it is with eagerness rather than curiosity. Those who do arrive at our church doors are yearning to be touched by the Holy. We offer that experience not by worrying about our worship style, but by focusing on mission. Our world is no longer predominately filled with Christian “insiders.” In fact, today we must recognize that nearly everyone is an outsider—even those who are inside the walls of the church. It is our task in worship to share blessing with others, with outsiders. Thus, worship is an act of mission. But who is in our mission field?

We now have access to detailed information about the people within our reach, and it enables us to understand those people so that we can truly serve them as we worship. Research has identified seventy-one different lifestyle segments, and all of us fall into one or more of these segments. Let’s examine two examples of how lifestyle segments can shape our mission-focused worship:

Example Number 1

Basic Demographics

The first example is a military community and command officers training center, whose residents have above-average income. There is a mixture of the highly mobile and long-time residents who are community business owners, educators in public schools and private colleges, and health care workers. There are three prisons with professional staffs, as well as inmates and hourly workers with below-average incomes.

Lifestyle Segments 

Two of the largest segments in the community are Sports Utility Families and Diapers and Debit Cards.(1) Sports Utility Families are upscale middle-aged couples with school-aged children living active family lifestyles in outlying suburbs. Diapers and Debit Cards describes young working-class families or single-parent households living in small, established city or town neighborhoods.

Relevant Worship

People with these lifestyles come seeking practical help to live a Christian lifestyle at home, work, and play and to shape healthy relationships. Out of seven distinct kinds of worship, this context combines Coaching and Transformation, blessing worshippers through the real presence of the Christ’s expression of grace through new beginnings, spiritual guidance, and fresh starts.(2) In this military community, technology (and music!) is often used to amplify and reinforce discipleship images such as putting on the whole armor of God. In addition to the use of sermon titles that begin with “How to…”, emotionally moving stories of personal change and hope are shared.

The Sunday Morning Experience

Experiencing the real presence of Christ begins with hospitality, and worshippers are greeted with several delicious food and drink choices. Insightful hosts engage newcomers, discern their yearnings (called “triage”—another military and healthcare reference), and then find just the right seat where they can receive the newcomers unconditionally. The transition into worship is a smooth one, with music, often secular, setting the theme of the day. After worship the hosts make contact again for a few moments of significant conversation and make a hand-off to others (small group leader, pastor) for next-step mentoring in the faith.

Success is measured by the twelve recent adult baptisms, the number of marriages “saved,” and the service awards won through community partnerships. Outcomes will differ with each missional context.


Basic Demographics

This community was once a stable, white-collar/blue-collar single family mix; it was slowly aging and solidly middle class. The community now finds itself with multi-generational households, a loose definition of “family,” and a growing segment of young working-class families and singles with multi-racial backgrounds.

Lifestyle Segments

In contrast to the Diapers and Debit Cards of the previous example, this congregation is made up of Aging in Place (middle-class seniors living solid, suburban lifestyles) and Blue Collar Comfort (middle-class families in smaller cities and towns with solid blue-collar jobs).

Relevant Worship

The pastor led this church’s laity in an effort to truly discover and understand the people in their neighborhood. The church council participated in exercises and conversation, learning that Inspirational and Healing worship would most deeply resonate with the people in the community, offering what they most yearned for—hope and healing for tomorrow. Worship designers discovered that people in their neighborhood’s lifestyle segments were heavy TV watchers, and accordingly they used resources such as video clips in worship. Music style varied from a choir and organ to a praise band, but it was always memorable and heartfelt, ending with many “Amens.”

The Sunday Morning Experience

Post-worship hospitality is a contrast of joy and laughter around the simple refreshment table with quiet, intimate conversation and prayer for those who remain in the sanctuary. Food served is a hot or cold drink choice and cookies to pick up on the way to work.

Success in this context is the number of people visibly moved and engaging in brief follow-up mentoring conversations with a prayer/care team member. It is also seen in those crowding around the Comfort and Care literature rack to pick up titles like “Dealing with the Addiction of a Family Member,” “Getting Beyond Abuse,” or “How Prayer Can Lift Your Spirits.” Regulars are beginning to bring their family members and friends. Strong family ties is the common thread in these community lifestyle segments.

These examples provide a glimpse of the powerful ways we can now see, know, and serve the people around us so that we may truly bless them in worship. As pastors we can offer worship that is faithful and a blessing for the particular people to whom God is calling us. We can raise up new leaders who respond to spiritual callings of their own, and we can have both mission impact and integrity throughout the worship design process.

(1) These names, and the 19 lifestyle groups and 71 lifestyle segments mentioned here, are defined by Experian Marketing Resources and described in their resource Mosaic USA.

(2) These worship distinctives are described in Thomas G. Bandy’s book See, Know, & Serve the People Within Your Reach (Abingdon Press 2013).

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