Ten Commandments of Worship Experiences

June 1st, 2011

As Experiences Pastor at Seacoast Church, it is my job to help create “spirit-filled, yet not creepy, but kind of mystical connections with God” in our weekend experiences. These are my “ten commandments” to ensure a great experience.

Commandment #1 – Thou shalt have no blank screen behind you.
The screen has one purpose and one purpose only, to have things projected to it. When we have a transition or element in the service that goes to a blank, black, or blue screen this is sometimes referred to as the “screen of death.” There should always be something on the screen. 

Commandment #2 – Thou shalt practice all transitions.
My estimation is that most churches do NOT practice the transitions on the weekend.
Transitions are the glue that holds the entire service together. Practicing these can make the difference between a good service and a great service. 

Commandment #3 – Thou shalt be in the light as he is in the light.
There are two parts to this commandment:

First, If you are on stage, make sure you are in the light. When you are on stage speaking it helps people see you and take you seriously. When you are out of the light it is a major distraction. 

Second, make sure that your auditorium has enough light in it that a 50-year-old can read the paper in his hands. During worship, light sets a mood and dark can be effective.  When our auditoriums are too dark during speaking, they feel like a movie theater. When people feel like they are in a movie theater, they become spectators and not participants. 

Commandment #4 – Thou shalt introduce yourself and assume no one knows who you are.
Each and every weekend there are people in your audience who have no idea who you are and why you would be on stage, so take some time to introduce yourself. 

Commandment #5 – Thou shalt start on time and end on time.
A great start to a great experience is to start on time and end on time. At Seacoast we control this by having a countdown clock on the screen, but you have to make sure your tech team starts this on time. At Seacoast we also have agreed that a 70 minute service is our goal…this will ensure that we have people in the foyers before the 75 minute mark hits. 

Commandment #6 – Thou shalt keep the welcome and announcements to 240 seconds or less.
At Seacoast we have decided that the welcome and announcements should be kept to 240 seconds at a maximum—that’s four minutes. Having an appropriate number of announcements (three or fewer) and obeying commandment #2 will set you up for success on this commandment. 

Commandment #7 – Thou shalt pray for the best, plan for the probable, and prepare for the worst.
This may be the only worship experience someone in the audience ever comes to.  I know it’s one of 52 (or 52 x the number of your weekly experiences) you will do this year, but it is the most important day of someone’s life. Start this by praying for God’s best over the service and giving him the right to change things. Then plan for what is probable.  A mic battery will probably go out—how often are you changing them?  A volunteer tech person will probably call in sick during January/February every week—who is the back up?  Then prepare for the worst.  A mic could go out completely—where is the back-up mic kept on stage?  Video playback could go down—do you have a backup in place?  We have to pray, plan, and prepare every weekend.  There are no off weekends!

Commandment #8 – Thou shalt communicate with your team before, during, and after each service.
Changes will happen.  We have to be flexible.  We have to communicate the changes.  Before each experience, have all team leaders and major stakeholders involved in the weekend service gather for a run-through so there are no surprises.  During each experience, have a method of communicating anything sudden that needs addressing.  After each experience, talk through what worked, what needs to change, and who will carry out that change.  Assume nothing and communicate everything.

Commandment #9 – Thou shalt break down all barriers for people to experience and respond to God.
This is a big bucket.  Is it too cold? Too hot?  Too bright? Too dark? Does it smell?  Is the projector bulb dim?  Is the sound too loud? Is the sound too low? Are the transitions great?  Is there enough room to respond?  Is the communion bread stale?  Is it appealing? Are commandments 1-8 being followed?  All of this is done to break down barriers that would hinder people from experiencing God and then responding to Him. 

Commandment #10 – Thou shalt have fun.
We have the privilege and the honor to be involved in creating environments where people can experience God.  That should be wheels-off fun.  If you notice that your team members are so focused that they are not having fun, it’s time to have some organized fun.  One church I know recently had an egg hunt with staff and volunteers in January to remind them that Easter is coming.  Bring cupcakes, have an impromptu party in between worship experiences. Take time to encourage and remind people what they are contributing to: the greatest single entity on the earth—the local church!

Read more from Shawn Wood at www.ShawnWoodWrites.com.

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