I've been a worship leader for five decades, in a wide variety of settings.  But I've been puzzled by the term "worship experience", which I've been seeing a lot, especially since the 90's.  I tend to associate "experience" with something that happens to you - "I wanted a wilderness experience, so I went on a hike in Canada."  I go to church and do things that are intended to invite worship, and sometimes emerge feeling like i have "really" worshipped God; I have long been familiar with Romans 12:1,2 and its operational definition of worship.  But why do we use this term "worship experience"?  It's so commercial sounding -- or is it the closest single word that describes a person worship God?

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Not only people, but if you're going to promote you need a handsome platform.  A plain platform is as dull as a business suit, friend.  You need a flotilla of colored lights and some of those stonehengey colored-cloth columns hiding your monitor speakers. 

Actually, I do think an attractive environment is a good thing; I myself spend hours creating worship slides with beautiful or meaningful backgrounds and clear text  that doesn't contain things like



The flipover to "casually dressed" is curious, isn't it?  I think the tenor of it comes from years of exposure to Romantic literature (from Jane Eyre to Columbo) in which an ordinary person succeeds not on wealth or appearance, but on the qualities of character within themselves -- casual dress represents the abandoning of the need to put on a fancy front (and this is in line with Biblical heroes, most of whom were from common heritage, brought to their positions through providence and their trust in God).  But when we think like advertising people, the abandonment of the suit for plain clothes means that the only thing left to make 'attractive' in a picture is the body inside the clothes!  Thus the body must be young and attractive.

Yet another of my harebrained theories!:)

Now you've done it!  You've inspired me to gently step out on this thing. One of my facebook friends made a similar post, and I replied in much the same spirit as you've seen here -- only the "audience" will be family, church people, miscellaneous acquaintances, and pastors.  It will be interesting to see if and how some will comment.


Man, I'm having trouble getting these replies to stick.  I tried to edit the first one and fifteen minutes later it gave me the first version.  So here goes again (I hope all three don't pop up on this thread!)

SUPPOSE we look at this as the economists do.  After all, look at the vigorous prosperity they have bought with their theories they have sold us!

Assuming a maturity age of 80 (the point at which church attendance transfers to the Sunday broadcast to the living room, the vacation cottage or the care home), a 60-year-old parishioner will have 20 good years left of potential attendance.  We will call those years of attendance church-years.  Twenty years thus yields a PA Church-Year Factor of 20.0.  A teenager, by contrast, boasts a factor of up to 67.0 - almost three and a half times greater!  Thus it would take 335 seniors to counterbalance just 100 teens in church-year potential (CYP).  If their worship experience is positive, even though 90% may leave by the age of twenty, many will return around 27 (less missionaries) -- with children in tow!  These ubertwenties and thirtysomethings yield impressive church-year factors of 42 to 53.  Plus -- their children carry potential for self-perpetuation.  In contrast, a much smaller number of seniors serve as guardians to their grandchildren.  The highest, and often untapped, PACY of any worshiping group, of course, belongs to Children's Church, where scores of 68 to 78 abound.  Unfortunately, the schoolteacher volunteering her time cannot possibly visit the parents, who have dropped their kids off at church a la daycare.  However, there is hope for enculturating them. Some of the better Hillsong kids worship videos have actually broken into the Lineup, in some reports even superseding Father Abraham as most-requested.  Hence, these youngsters are becoming directly infusible into the mainstream music of their parents - possibly even building a product loyalty that has escaped previous generations of churchgoers through the past half-century.  And with a vigorous program of senior-retention, including visitation to the care-home (in effect extending attendance by ten years), along with aggressive sponsoring of Estate Planning Seminars, we can boost tithe-year factors exponentially.  Using $1,000 as a factor of 1.0, a single summer cottage, valued at $200K, titled over to the church, yields a stunning 200.0.  But every little bit helps!  Add in tithe on the Social Security, and you bring to the table an impressive 232.6.  The senior has developed strong brand loyalty over the years.  He may complain, but generally does not leave over issues of worship style; but he needs to be visited and express his concerns.  Be careful about false doctrine, though -- that may cost you that summer cottage.

Makes you want to trot out "How Great Thou Art" a few more times, huh?

There!  I don't think you need to be worried about a perception of flippancy, Greg.  I have surely outflippanted and outsarcasted anything you have written in your gentle way.  But I'm not casting stones at anyone in particular -- more at the devil's methods, which always try to lure our hearts astray from our first priorities with God's church, and to divide us.  To build a local body that connects with such a very dispersed society as our own truly takes much prayer, much planning, much love.

Well, one could identify more factors, I suppose.  For example, we have a "Missions Team' that's made up almost entirely of seniors, because we go down to Mexico and help build and support churches, and for political reasons, we have to cross the border on a weekday so that we can get supplies, gifts, clothing, etc. across the border without being nailed by customs.  Plus we're the guys who own big SUVs and trailers and don't mind getting them beat up.  Yeah, some younger guys would be nice when we're putting up a drywall ceiling, but we get by.  And our church does have a pretty strong youth missions group, as well...

In terms of using music styles to attract different age groups, this is why many churches have a contemporary service and a traditional service... and you could almost make a case for having three or four different service styles (except that it'd wear the poor pastor out :-)  Our musical preferences (our "heart music," one speaker called it) are pretty much set when we're in high school, so in some ways, a 70 year old and a 90 year old are as different in their "heart music" as a 40 year old and a 20 year old.

I think the "worship experience(s)" we choose to present depend on our neighborhoods, on who we have available to plan and lead these services, on our church facilities... it certainly makes sense to consider and plan, but assigning numeric formulas may be taking it a little too far.

This will destroy my creds as a WL here, I suppose, but: theologically, I'm kinda with Joseph Campbell (the mythology guy); denominationally, I choose to associate with the Methodists and what we're doing as a denomination, but when I really need to get down and do business with God, there's nothing like a Grateful Dead concert.  So that falls into that "who we have available to lead" category.  If I'm running the worship band, the "worship experience" I try to provide isn't going to be the same as some other WLs.  Don't know if it will work or not, but that's my "heart music."

@Charles W, below - running out of indents!

Who's going to discred you as a Worship Leader for being a Campbell kid?  Kinda funny -- I and my wife also sojourn among the Methodists as music ministers in a mainline church where they wouldn't blink an eye at your statement.  In fact, most of the ministers and people in the Pentecostal denomination we served in for 35 years were quite different in their attitudes and undderstanding of what "literally true" means than what the traditional caricature paints.  In my present church, the constituency ranges from closet Pentecostals to a Sunday School teacher who is sure Matthew is written by two guys (one wrote about the nice Jesus, the other one inserted all the "hard sayings"); and I've learned to just nod when I hear the word "myth".  These are firmly Christian believers by any sensible standard. But whatever one makes of their conclusions, I find myself looking at other sides of the Word of God.  When I first read the Bible as a boy, I foolishly thought the stories were there to learn things from about life (I was innocent of analysis and proof-texts).  It's kind of fun to think that PhD-types like Campbell (and CS Lewis) read them as children again. -- AND, what does any of that have to do with one's credentials as a worship leader?  Worship songs, even those that are packed with doctrine, are all essentially in story form, and present salvation, resurrection, life, love, joy, peace and the life of Jesus Christ, not as data but as action-verb realities.  I do think, though, that Jesus, the Christ is real and was who he said he was, and that he was and is forever.  Once a young lady I was dating began to cry about the "fact" of Moses being in hell because he didn't know Jesus.  She went to a church that believed in Exceptionally Literal Interpretation, yet apparently had never read Hebrews, which plainly shows that Moses loved and followed Christ.

One thing I love about music:  Dry doctrine cannot stand being associated with beautiful music.  Plain truth is beautiful, and the fruit of the Spirit are beautiful, and Jesus is beautiful.  So the dry stuff quickly fades, but the glory of the Lord sits well in guitar strings and voices.


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