12 things I learned when our church started another worship service

6.  I learned that…A lot of people connect with Jesus Christ through the personal

Presbyterians in the past have prided themselves on the cerebral.  I am a child of this heritage in the sense that I studied for 10 years, Ph.D. included, before being ordained.  Our worship tends to rely on thinking, and for very good reasons (Google the etymology of hokus pocus!). 

12 Things I learned when our church started another worship service

12 Things I learned when our church started another worship service

One of the things we tried almost from the beginning of the service we started was once a month to have someone stand up and talk about God in their life.

I learned that as a pastor I could talk until I was blue in the face about how much Jesus loves you, but when someone else stands up and shares personally from their life, about where God has been, how they have experienced suffering and healing, mercy and grace, the listening in the room goes to a whole new level.  And rightly so.

Over the years, the stories I’ve heard from people now in the congregation continue to astound me.  People from Europe, Africa, Asia, the U.S., Canada, the Maritimes, out West, Montreal, all over, have shared.  A living testimony.  It puts exegesis and careful sermon writing in a whole new light.

You want to see the resurrection?  Ask some people to stand up and talk about the risen Christ’s presence with them in their lives.  Wow.

 

12 things I learned when our church started another worship service

5.  I learned that…Like any change at your church, not everyone will adopt it.

12 Things I learned when our church started another service

12 Things I learned when our church started another worship service

I don’t think anyone has left our church because we started another service.  But like any change, I’ve learned that not everyone accepts it when a church becomes one congregation, with two worship services.

Like the newcomer who once explained to a pastor how someone apologized to them for the ‘other people’ (eyes rolling) who were coming and jamming up the church parking Sunday mornings!

Any transition in a church can be tricky.

But by God’s grace, and a credit to the founding service, 99% who were there when the other service started see themselves, I think and hope, as positive, faith-filled, pioneers.

For the first two years of the service, a husband and wife who had been part of the founding service in the 1960’s and were now in their late 80’s, would be there every Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. and sit in the pew.  And no matter how bumpy the service, or limited the attendance, or bad the weather, they could come and say ‘great service, I think this is wonderful.’

Risking change, though most but not everyone will embrace it, is part of the church.

In our case no one, me the pastor included, knew where it would lead.  But it has been a wonderful journey of change and transition with God.  And it’s never been boring!

12 things I learned when our church started another worship service

4.  I learned that…It’s easy lose track why you start another service

Before we started another service at our church, we had speakers and congregational planning nights to discuss the whole topic of where God was calling us and what God’s future might be for our church.

12 Things I learned when our church started another worship service

12 Things I learned when our church started another worship service

One speaker challenged us by saying – ‘ok, why do you want to start another service’.  It was easy, he reminded, for the mindset to flip from ‘we want to start another service to be a blessing to the community and invite others in’, to ‘we want to start another service to fill our pews’.

The flip, which is so easy to make, is from doing something to fulfill our needs instead of doing it with other people’s needs in mind.

Even today, 5 years after starting the service, which has had a top attendance of 82 children and adults, with tonnes of new households now part of the church, I still hear comments along the lines of, ‘I’m glad we started that service – where would we be without it’!

Well, it doesn’t matter.  We started it as a mission, as a blessing, as a way to welcome people into community and God’s kingdom.  It wasn’t ever for us.

Strangely though, in a God-way, the whole thing has actually flipped around.  And not by our doing or thinking.  We started it to be a blessing to families in the region, but now that’s it’s going, it’s a blessing back to us and has become the church itself.

12 things I learned when our church started another worship service

3.  I learned that…Another service is a way into your church for people who aren’t attending

12 Things I learned when our church started another worship service

12 Things I learned when our church started another worship service

There’s something about the new that really works.  In our lives we see new things all the time, and we’ve come to expect them.  Tim Horton’s has a new sandwich every month.  We like this.  New stores open, and we go.  A new fitness class starts at the gym, and we join it.  New things are naturally shared and discussed.  It’s news.

I learned that by starting another service, people who were in the community and looking for a connect or a re-connect to church felt very happy to come.

Picture walking into an established group or society in your town.  Full of people.  All seated.  Some people can do that easily and comfortably.   Most people can’t.  It’s harder to walk into something established.  To feel ownership in it.  That’s it a place for you.

I learned that with the new service, people just freely came and took ownership of it very quickly.   And still do.

12 things I learned when our church started another worship service

2.  I learned that…Starting another worship service generates the unexpected.

The unexpected, while against some Presbyterian sensibilities, can be a gift.

12 Things I learned when our church started another worship service

12 Things I learned when our church started another worship service

I didn’t expect, for example, that there would be tonnes of musicians in and around the congregation who had so many gifts.  Guitarist.  Pianists.  And yes, drummers!  (One started at age 13, and is simply amazing.)

I didn’t expect there were people who wanted to and had gifts to organize, lead, learn and choose worship songs and hymns.

I didn’t expect two senior women from the other service to agree to lead a kids’ program during the one we started.

I didn’t expect someone who had started attending to come into the church one Tuesday morning and say, Greg,  ‘I’d like to organize a lunch once a month after the new service this year, and I’ll provide it.’  Wow.  Not expected.

I didn’t expect how much I would enjoy having two totally different kinds of music at the same church.  One of the (now 4) worship band leaders asked me to play bass guitar in their band.  Now I get to do it once a month.  And I look forward to it.  When I shipped my black Geneva gown from Ottawa to this church, I didn’t expect that!

I didn’t expect how many new leaders in the church would come from the new worship service.  Elders, board members, children’s faith program leaders, prayer group members, committee workers, ministry partners, youth, children who invite their friends into the church.

I also didn’t expect how many people would come, and stay, and want to grow together.

12 things I learned when our church started another worship service

1.   I learned that…It’s more work than you think.  

You might be kicking around the idea of starting another service at your church.  All the gurus say ‘it’s the quickest way to grow attendance’.  You might think, sure, update the church sign, get the ushers there a little earlier, bump up the musician’s hours.  No sweat.

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12 Things I learned when our church started another worship service

Well the conversation we had at our church went on a bit longer.  We actually had flow charts, personnel plans, updated worship assistant schedules, details on how to count the offering, even discussion on whether or not to separate it from the other service’s offering (we didn’t), timetables for who will open the church and when, notes to contact the coffee coordinator, how Communion might look, a whole page of notes on a new order of service.

We planned.  Presbyterian style. I’s dotted.  T’s crossed.

But nowhere did I plan for the extra energy required for the brand new service.

Oh another worship service.  Just another 60 minutes out of the week.

Far from it.  Faaar.

In the wonderful and amazing God-moments I’ve witnessed now that it’s up and running, it’s been a lot more work than we planned.  For church administrator, elders, board, ushers, musicians, for me the pastor, everyone.

And worth every, single ounce of it!

Surprisingly, it didn’t take long before the energy poured out has come back, by Grace, and ten times more.