As culture changes and technology advances, the church is adapting to the needs of people in the community. Since roughly 24 percent of adults in 2016 have no personal interaction with a faith community, we need to think about what they are looking for in church.
Consider these five trends as your worship committee or staff work together to design culturally relevant worship experiences.
You don't have to strip the spirituality from your service to become "culturally relevant." It's quite the opposite. Constantly question the theology behind everything you do from song choices to the welcoming introduction to when the worshipers sit and where the leaders stand. As congregations become more seeker-friendly, they find it increasingly necessary to reflect on the questions: "What will make visitors feel most comfortable as they seek to encounter God in worship? How can we move those unfamiliar with Scripture and church teaching to begin exploring what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?"
Consider the importance of visuals for people who enter your place of worship; banners, projected images or items placed prominently to focus people toward a special theme or message. One emerging trend is to use lighting techniques to support the different elements of worship. Candles are a traditional form of lighting used by congregations for centuries. In addition, indirect lighting is popular in many congregations today. Some add disco balls and rock concert-type lighting. Also, consider branching out with banners, paraments, commissioned art, sculpture, flying processional doves, curtains, finely worked furniture, pottery and silverwork. As long as you are seeking after the elements that will bring worshipers closer to the experience of God's presence, you can use any of these elements or your own creativity to create the desired setting and mood. Today's culture almost expects a visual experience in worship. People like to be immersed in a multi-sensory environment.
In today's creative and fluid culture, the church cannot remain stagnant in its musical style. Consider using a variety of musical styles to keep people engaged. When a seeker hears music in church that they might listen to on the radio in their car, worship becomes a friendlier place. The challenge is balancing the tasks of attracting new people while making disciples and nurturing established believers. Many congregations find new music is widely accepted when it is introduced side-by-side with some that is more familiar.
Technology can be a blessing and a curse. Microphone feedback and out-of-sync PowerPoint slides are examples of the many ways things can go wrong. However, a powerful worship experience using audio-visuals does not negate the potential power of an "unplugged" service. If anything, it paves the way for a beautiful a capella or simple acoustic accompaniment. The climactic worship experience that segues into peaceful, quiet contemplation can be very powerful.
It may take awhile, but with present technology, you may someday broadcast your service to multiple sites or campuses. Worshippers may watch from a big screen, from home, on smart phones or tablets or via podcast. The possibilities are endless.
How does attendance affect current worship trends? In 2008 the Barna Group identified five types of churchgoers:
- Unattached – people who don't attend.
- Intermittents – people who attend church events once or twice a year.
- Homebodies – people who attend a house church.
- Blenders – people who attend house and conventional churches.
- Conventionals – people who attend a congregational-style, local church.
Conventionals make up 56 percent of the group. The unattached are next at 23 percent. After the welcome they receive, worship is often the dominant impression the unattached will remember if they visit a church. Many worship committees today are shaping their services to be more accessible to this group. How does your church minister to the unattached?