Your perspective, voice, and leadership in your church matter.
Prairie Lakes Church in Iowa is unique. Across the state, they have six campuses, a mix of suburban and rural congregations they’ve launched as a part of a strategy to put a Prairie Lakes campus within 30 minutes of every Iowan. For them, embarking on a multisite strategy has been the right answer for reaching more people while staying true to the local culture. A 3,000-seat auditorium? That just didn’t feel like the natural fit to address their expansion needs.
I was recently asked how church leaders can communicate to their congregation the significance and importance of inviting people to their church.
Maybe you can think of ways your church has done this well in the past, or maybe you’ve been trying things, and they’re not working. I don’t know that there’s a one-size-fits-all answer to “inviting,” but I can tell you from experience that sometimes going back to the basics is a good place to start.
Starting a Creative Arts team means different things to different churches.
The term “arts” covers music, print, web, media, dance, drama, etc. So, if you are just starting to build an arts ministry, here are four tips to make it successful:
1) Define the primary purpose of the arts team.
Is it creative message support? Is it music support? Is it graphics and video? Is it creative support for the weekend or is it for all of the ministries? Having a defined focus for the team’s deliverables will provide clarity and allows the team to prioritize and get the most important things accomplished.
2) Choose the right leader.
The leader of the arts team needs to be fully aligned with the mission and vision of the church and with the lead pastor. The right leader can provide an environment where the artists can dream, create, concept and design, but also provide leadership and structure so that projects get accomplished on time, and meet the expectations of leadership. This doesn’t have to be a full-time staff member, but if it is a volunteer, they need to have a contact on the lead team who helps provide accountability and a pipeline to the information a creative team will inherently need to get.
3) Choose excellence.
Focus the scope of what the arts team will spend their time working on. This will allow them to be great with a few things. This links back to tip #1 – defining the primary purpose of the team. Too many arts teams get too many projects piled on them with too little time, and in the end, everything a becomes mediocre. And nobody wants mediocre.
4) Tell stories.
Just as Jesus used parables to communicate truth, use your arts team to tell stories! This includes telling God’s story, telling the stories in your church, telling the stories of your church, and bringing stories/illustrations to life within your lead pastor’s teachings. Nothing is more compelling than to hear the stories of how God is at work in the lives of your people.
Here at The Unstuck Group, almost every church we work with has questions about reaching millennials. The research, and our personal experience, suggests music in the church is important to them, but do most churches really know what millennials are after? We took time this week to ask some young adults for their thoughts on this topic.
Here are two truths and a lie about millennials and music, in their own words:
Truth: It’s got to be authentic.
One of the most important things to millennials is the need for authenticity. This is never more evident than it is in worship. They want real, messy, imperfect worship teams that model a genuine love and need for God. They need a leader who can establish a connection with them that is genuine and whose faith is believable. They need a team whose hearts are prepared to lead worship, not a team whose minds are set on perfect execution…and perfect outfits.
They choose passion with imperfection over polished excellence. One millennial we spoke with said,
“Some churches try too hard. It’s like being around that person who’s always trying really hard to be cool and fit in. You just want to tell them, ‘Be who you are!'”
“My husband and I were ‘church shopping’ last year after our church went through a split. We visited so many churches with quality music but zero evident passion. We wanted to be invited into the presence of God, not just stand in a room with strangers singing wordy, well-practiced songs. The church we landed at had quality and authenticity. The leader was more genuinely concerned with leading people to Jesus than perfection. It was a major reason why we came back after the first week, and then again, and ultimately a major reason we stayed.”
Truth: Don’t overproduce it.
While many worship centers need to be equipped with sound, lighting and video so that worship teams/pastors can be seen and heard, almost every millennial we spoke with gave examples of how their churches had crossed a line in at least one of these areas – becoming more of a form of entertainment than an invitation to worship and connect with God.
The biggest violator was lighting (bright lights in the face, moving lights), followed by extreme volumes. While these things are accepted and enjoyed at worship concerts, they were not okay in worship services. One millennial said,
“It’s hard to connect (with God) with so much going on.”
“I can’t invite my friends to church. It’s too overwhelming.”
Lie: To connect with millennials it needs to be organic (unplanned), acoustic (unplugged), and intimate (unbig).
Millennials still enjoy excellent, planned and well-executed music. They still love a full sound where they can sing and not stand out. They still love a leader who has been thoughtful about what he or she is going to say. They still love a high-energy experience and they still love a crowd.
But they still love it quiet. And they still love it a little raw. They want some risk, challenge and vulnerability in the experience. And they still need a little personal space. And, really, don’t we all?
One millennial summed it up this way,
“I want real and relatable. I want permission to praise my Maker and be challenged to engage. I want leaders who aren’t afraid of being seen as “weird” to newcomers, rather embrace this important piece of our faith and take a couple minutes to explain WHY we lift our hands and sing together.”
When it comes to millennials and music, the key is to lead it and design it in a way that points people to God, not to people. If you use that filter, you may reach more millennials, and a few others, too.
As churches grow, so does the need to add services outside of the traditional Sunday morning optimal times. Growing churches are trying new service times on Saturday and Sunday nights with great success. However, with the addition of more services, comes the temptation to add not just another service, but another venue. In other words, instead of just adding a service at a new time, or in a new space, churches are creating a new type of service, often differentiated by a different music style (think “edgier,” “softer,” or “acoustic café”). And while venues with different music styles can be strategic, having one style of music – at all services – is also strategic. Maybe more. Why?
1) More choices. For the attenders of your church and the friends they want to invite, every weekend schedule can look a little different. Schedules are often clogged with kid’s sporting activities, family commitments, work schedules, etc. No weekend looks the same from week to week. With one style of music at all of your services, you actually give your attenders more choices. They can attend any of your weekend services – giving them multiple options.
Contrast that with a multi-venue weekend offering. Multiple venues actually create less choice for people. For example, let’s say we offer three different music styles:
- 9am: Traditional worship
- 11am: Contemporary worship
- 6pm: Acoustic worship
…then they really only have one choice – the time their preferred music style is offered.
2) Excellence. Another benefit of offering one music style at all services is an increase in the overall service quality. With limited time and resources, it’s hard to implement 2-3 music venues with excellence. More leaders, more musicians, more management and more leadership is needed to pull it off. But, having one style allows you to pool your hiring, recruiting, training and rehearsal efforts. This results in a stronger, higher quality experience because you are maximizing and focusing your resources.
3) Consistency. Lastly, by implementing one music style, you will have clarity around your church’s brand. No matter what service someone attends, they will find an experience that is consistent across all of your services. It also makes for an easier invite. Instead of having to explain what is offered when, and which service you think someone should try, you can just invite someone to come anytime it fits their schedule.
Offering one style provides more choices, increased quality, and a more consistent weekend experience.