Conversation on Worship
The following is a transcription of an e-mail conversation that a number of people participated in after our first “10:50” worship service on September 11th. This conversation was both productive and encouraging, and I wanted to allow others to ‘overhear’ it (and comment if they desire). I have ‘anonymized’ all the comments, though you may recognize one or two by their ‘voice.’ It is rather long and just a little bit repetitious, but I think it’s worth reading, even as heart prep for Sunday!
Here’s my conversation starter:
I just wanted to write to solicit any feedback or observations that you might have concerning the change of service times and modifications to worship.
I’ve had a couple of questions. One is, should we do the prelude at 10:45, or 10:50. Hannah requested that we wait and do the prelude at 10:50 in order to give a little more substance to the fellowship time. That’s pretty good idea, but it does contribute to a later end time than I would really like. Any thoughts as to which way we should go on this?
I also received a couple of thoughts about the prelude time itself. One person felt that the heart prep nature of that time would be better served if we gave a little direction at the beginning of those few minutes. I was also asked if we are going to have words up every week, which, in one person’s experience, limits the heart prep to just the words being shown. Any thoughts on these two points?
A couple of other things that we didn’t quite accomplish Sunday I think would be good. One is to put the signs on the two doors. On the door at the kitchen end of the sanctuary I would like to put a sign that says ‘After worship begins please enter through the front doors.’ On the doors inside the foyer leading to the sanctuary (the inside set of double doors) I’d like to put a sign that says ‘After worship begins, please enter quietly and reverently.’
Finally, how did you feel about the partition in front of the coffee? Enough or not enough?
Here are the responses (separated by ****** and in more or less chronological order)
I thought overall this past Sunday was the best in a long time. I think by having Sunday school first really helps to get more focused on God before we come to the worship service. I think starting at 10:50 is good. We may run a little late, but I think we need that extra time in-between Sunday school and worship. Most likely Sunday school will go a few minutes past 10:30, and people need those extra few minutes to transition. Also, we want them to have time to get coffee and visit. I think the 5 minute quiet time should be just that, quiet time. I would lean towards the side of having nothing on the screen, this should be a time of focusing on God, confessing sin, and just spending time talking to our God. Signs on the doors I think would help. And also, this should send the message that this time of meeting together on Sundays is important and should be treated as so. And, it seems like closing the coffee area went well. I am all for closing it off at 10:45, and it seems like everyone else is on board with it. Again, I thought from the beginning of Sunday school to the end of the worship service was really good. Just a few changes, but I think already they have made a big difference.
Heart prep time to me seems to be between God and myself. I need to shut down the brain that is running everywhere and focus on God. I don’t want anyone giving me more input. If I want to read the words on the screen I can do that or I can close my eyes and pray. By direction do we mean, “Now get your hearts ready for worship?” Okay, as long as it doesn’t become more.
Prelude Words: I agree that we should keep the words brief, but some words are definitely necessary
– as a short concise reminder to all and
– even more-so as a heads-up to visitors
Screen: A scripture as a first worship thought can ignored or embraced by each person, as serves them best.
Timing/Transitions: It is very important for Sunday School teachers to be establishing a mindset of compliance to the set Sunday School times. It went well this week (punctual starting and ending & no drifting), and we will need continuing punctuality & placement as the semester progresses… especially for the sake of those of us who are using the main sanctuary for Sunday School (prayer class).
Partition: Okay, until such time as it gets worked-around.
Signs: Absolutely needed…
I’m good with the 10:50 start. We need sufficient time between SS and church to actually interact with one another. It didn’t feel like the service ran long because of the later start, but I’m not very time aware – I have no deadlines after church on Sundays. I am, however, wondering how “visitor friendly” the time of quiet and music are without some sort of introduction – perhaps after the first piece of music. I’m thinking a few words of explanation and direction might be helpful – not much, just a sentence or two. A little “shove” toward heart prep would be helpful for me too.
I also have a question about the coffee: Is the intent for coffee only to be available before SS and church? – what about after church when the goal is continued fellowship? Wouldn’t that be more hospitable? It might it also keep large amounts of left-over coffee from being dumped – perhaps that was not a problem…
I completely agree with the 10:50 start time and think the service went very well on Sunday with the prelude at the beginning. It was very helpful to me spiritually and helped me focus my distractable mind.
As for what should be said regarding the prelude, I tend to think that no one should say anything, but I feel that having a nicely worded slide on the screen that explains what the prelude is for would solve the issue of visitors not knowing what to do, but would keep the silence and reverence preserved and allow people’s thoughts and prayers to go in whatever direction God leads. The slide could read something like this: “As the music plays, please use these moments to quietly prepare your heart for worship” or something like that. It might be best to have some weeks with nothing but the directive slide and a pretty picture, and other weeks to have a Scripture along with the instructions, and other weeks have lyrics to the song being played. This allows people who do best with visuals to have a week and those who do best with nothing to have a week.
I very much agree that the coffee bar should be open again after the service to allow for greater hospitality. A sign reading what times the coffee will be available would also help visitors plan when to get their coffee. Something like: “Help yourself to coffee between 9:30 and 10:45 a.m. and again following the close of the worship service.”
I enjoyed the flow of the service and the respect the congregation automatically seemed to give it. I know God will honor our increased efforts to worship Him with greater focus and delight.
I think that the majority of the time should be shaved off of announcements. 5-7 minutes I think is reasonable for announcements, but sometimes it has been 15 minutes and so it seems like the service has gone longer than it should, but it is just announcements.
I like the idea of using the screen as just described. I think it would communicate without detracting from quiet preparation for worship.
I liked the 10:50 start time for the prelude, though communion Sundays will be even longer. I’m a visually sensitive person, so the powerpoint is distracting to me when I’m trying to focus my thoughts; though I could close my eyes! I agree that as long as it is kept to a few words, some direction is appropriate, but think it should be before the prelude starts. I was impressed with how having most people seated and quiet influenced the late comers to be more quiet as they entered the room.
We definitely should not waste the good coffee, so the partition should be removed at the end of the service, but I liked having the beverages unavailable right before the service starts. Signs, if they are carefully worded, might be helpful. We are all in such a habit of entering when and where we like, it will probably take large, bold lettering to catch our attention. But they should not be ugly. Some of us are spending a good bit of time & energy at making the building more warm and welcoming, so the signs should not detract from that. Overall, I very much liked the changes made to the Sunday morning services.
I’ve heard this issue of worship and distractions voiced before … I’ve encountered it myself. So at the risk of sounding hard, people need to take their minds captive, un-focus from things that distract, and refocus on what matters. If something is distracting, then maybe people ought to close their eyes or find another seat? If the words are helpful, then look up and read … if not, ignore them! As for directions, that would be good for people new or for those arriving on time. For late arrivals, perhaps something could be displayed overheard to briefly describe the purpose of that time? But then, that would bring us back full-circle to potential distractions. Hmmmm….
The partition seemed a good idea. It made it obvious that coffee time was over. Why not bring it towards the front of the sanctuary a bit to block off those double doors just in case someone ignores the sign asking them to use the front doors? Or would that create a hiding place with the potential for more distractions?
Since announcements happen after church still, could Todd add a gentle reminder for folks to look under chairs etc, and pick up things maybe even they didn’t put there, so cleanup is easier! It is a question of respect. It seems confusing to kids probably that the room that is used as a gym is also the sanctuary and banquet hall, but we need to have reminders or we slide towards the sloppy side. I think the kitchen falls victim to this even worse than the main hall. Nancy
Our family enjoyed the worship time on Sunday. Loved the quiet time before the start of the service. It definitely felt more worshipful. There was a really nice mix in the music. (Liked the hymns as well as the contemporary. The more upbeat and joyful along with slower and more meditative.) Having the coffee bar closed did make a big difference… however…some cookies showed up! As a result, teens and kids were racing to get to the bar during our short break in the middle of the service. I felt this disrupted things a bit. I understand that kids get hungry during our time at church. But if there is food to be served, I think it should be available between Sunday School and the Worship Service and then after the service, but not during the service.
One thing we have been trying to instill in our kids is that when you go somewhere and use a room or things that other people use…you should leave it as nice as you found it or BETTER than you found it. Often when we leave the church service it reminds us more of leaving an Astro’s game than a church service. Have you noticed the stands when leaving a ballpark…cups everywhere, drinks spilled, left over food and crumbs, food wrappers, papers everywhere. Sometimes the floor of our church resembles that. Even with the coffee bar closed a myriad of cups and bulletins were left on the floor. As a result spills happen and other people have to take responsibility for cleaning things up. We believe in being servants and helping to care for our church but we also believe that others should take responsibility for their messes. As Christians we feel we are to be different. We are to be good stewards of our facility. When we walk away from a space we have used – we should have blessed that space not trashed it.
Since announcements happen after church still, could Todd add a gentle reminder for folks to look under chairs etc, and pick up things maybe even they didn’t put there, so cleanup is easier! It is a question of respect. It seems confusing to kids probably that the room that is used as a gym is also the sanctuary and banquet hall, but we need to have reminders or we slide towards the sloppy side. I think the kitchen falls victim to this even worse than the main hall.
I agree with most all of the comments posted about this topic. I like the 10:50 start time for the prelude. I doubt that every SS class will end exactly on time every week; so, we need the extra few minutes. I also really like the simple phrase suggested to be put on the screen at the beginning. If there is something up there to read, I probably won’t want to miss it and will have a more difficult time trying to focus on prayer and how God is leading me to pray. I may even catch myself glancing up to make sure I didn’t miss a new slide. (I know. Sad, very sad.) If there is one Scripture up there when I come in along with the “instruction” slide, I can probably just read that and be done with it, but I don’t think I would want the words to the songs on the screen – just my opinion. However, I’ll live if there ends up being something else up there. =)
Signs would be good if they are nicely done.
One more thing I want to say: I had such joy in my heart Sunday morning with everyone being on board with what we were doing. To me, it showed that we corporately want to deepen the worship of our Savior on Sunday mornings. That it was so easy to make these changes shows where our hearts are. Beautiful!
Amen and Amen. :0)
And amen from me as well. It appears the feedback we’ve received reflects an overall unity and Spirit-led direction.