I belong to a Baptist church that has a great deal of history. It was a hospital for the north and the south in the Civil War. It integrated PRE-Civil War, which makes it sort of unique for the south. We have many people of note in our cemetary, which dates to the early 1800’s.
While all of this is fine and dandy, I feel it has little to do with worshipping Christ or moving forward in any of our ministries. We are somewhat progressive (as far as Baptists go) and we are currently creating a worship service that would be more appealing to seekers and non-Christians. You know, the music is more contemporary and the format is more flexible and dynamic than the regular service. We are a rather large church with substantial resources, and we feel called to reach out to the community in ways that are not traditional.
Currently we are having the service once a month at night while we work out the bugs and the format. We have conducted extensive surveys among non-church-goers in our community and the results indicate that they are most likely to attend a worship service on Sunday morning. We were suprised by this.
Of course with a church as old as ours, with as much history as ours has, we have people who have been attending all of there lives…in some cases 70, 80 years. They have been supportive or non-committed to our new service, as long as we do not mess with their very traditional 11AM Sunday service. This service is basically the same every week, you just plug in different hymns, a different sermon and maybe some new special music. We have been very intentional to make the older folks feel secure that the church they know will not be changed.
As a result of adding the new service to the Sunday morning schedule, we are proposing changing the 11AM service from 11AM to noon to 11:15 to 12:15. A fifteen minute shift. This would allow all other Sunday ministries to continue and accomodate the new service.
You would think we were trying out Buddhism. “We have had church at 11AM for 150 years, we aren’t changing now!” A number of the vocal older folks are really opposed to this 15 minute shift.
This Wednesday we are having an open forum on the change. I would like your help. How would you address this debate? I feel the new service will reach many unchurched people. I feel we are are doing God’s will as well as it can be ascertained by reaching out to the community in this way. How can we motivate these folks to accept the change without them feeling threatened? I have some ideas, but I want your thoughts before I post them.
A couple of up-sides: 1. Avoid a potential conflict that would scare away new folks and alienate the established group; 2. Most “seekers” appreciate that they can go to a worship service and not have it eat up their entire valuable day off. In & out with time to still do something with the day. I’ve seen popular “seeker” services as early as 8:00am. Also, there are those seekers who appreciate the whole history angle, even if they don’t participate directly in it.
At any rate, avoid framing the situation as a “debate”. Debates have winners and losers, and generate more heat than light. What you want to have is an “exploration” of an expanding ministry.
Most church-growth / cell-group theory says its a bad idea to “take away” in order to “add”.
So, will the organist accept the added responsibility of the contemporary service?
If they insist that all the other ministries suffer just because they refuse to budge even a tiny bit from their tradition, then maybe pose them the question, “Do you nullify the word of God for the sake of tradition?”
Jesus said that here, btw.
Our church has undergone some changes ithe last couple of years as well. It has less history than yours, certainly, but it’s been around.
The new priest has made some change to the way the church is arranged, for instance, moving the choir to the front of the church rather than the traditional choir loft, changing the way people enter and exit the church, lots of little things.
Unfortunately his skills as a homilist are sorely lacking. Insiders feel he is masking that by making so many other changes to the mass.
The previous priest, who died last fall, was an inspired homilist. Had he told me I would have to attend mass wearing a chicken suit, I would have. I would do a great deal for the pleasure oof one of his sermons. God rest his soul.
My only advice is this: IMHO, the core purpose of a catholic mass, or a baptist service, or any Christian service for that matter, is as follows: to establish and maintain a sense of community among it’s members, and to bring to life a 2000 year old text, and make it live in people’s lives today. Do that, do a good job of it, and people will deal with whatever other changes come along.
Please forgive me this sentiment, and I don’t know if the dynamics of your church merit this, but if you do decide to change the 11 AM service to 11:15 AM, have you considered security issues for those who have been major proponents of changing the service time? Would there be any risk of violence against those involved in the change?
What do they say “the seven last words of the Church” are?
We never did it that way before.
As an Episcopalian raised as a Lutheran, I appreciate tradition. I prefer a formal, liturgical style of worship myself. But that doesn’t mean that a more contemporary style isn’t just as valid, just that it’s not to my taste. I’m rather conservative. But for crying out loud, changing a service time by fifteen minutes is not the same thing as changing doctrine, or adding/subtracting a commandment or two. It sounds to me like the opponents to the schedule change want to pretend to themselves that nothing has ever changed since they started attending. Ask them, do they want their church to be a comfortable cocoon, or do they want it to expand and become a butterfly?
Another Episcopal type checking in here. We added a “contemporary” i.e. more informal worship service two months ago. It’s at 8:30 AM and has apparently proven to be successful, with an average attendance of around 50. We moved our “traditional” service from 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM with Christian Education at 9:30 AM, where as before it was after the main, i.e. “traditional” service. Interesting enough, attendance for Christian Ed. and the “traditional” service has increased.
So, if 15 minutes means more people show up, then go for it. I have no idea how your morning functions go, as in, has there been an earlier service followed by Christian Education? Is this “contemporary” service being added as an option? Could it be something like, the new service at 8:30 or 9:00 AM, followed by Christian Ed., followed by the “traditional” 11:00 AM?
If a lot of your church members are really that married to the “traditional” 11:00 AM service, then work in the “contemporary” service a little earlier. You’d be surprised at the number of people who wouldn’t mind an earlier service on Sunday and then having the rest of the day to do other stuff.
Now we have C.Ed. from 9:45 until 10:45 and the traditional service 11:00 till noon.
We are suggesting having the Contemporary service, then C.Ed., then the Traditional service. Everyone could go to all of them if they choose, or not. the best way to accomodate this is to move the 11am service back 15 minutes.
Hopefully it will be better received than I anticipate.
Oy. Good luck! A Baptist church near where I live did a similar thing: went to 2 services, one with contemporary music and the other one remained the same-ole-same-ole. (The contemporary service was earlier, the regular service remained at the regular time.)
The music director got fired. The old people threw a temper tantrum and started withholding their tithes. It was not pretty.
Unfortunately I think Howard Juneau is right. Growing up in a small Baptist church myself, people were not happy if the preacher preached over his allotted time. That meant that the Methodists would beat them to the restaurants. (And no, before anyone accuses me of this, I do not believe that all Baptist churches think like that!)
Newcrasher, I’d just ignore 'em. I know that sounds cold but which is more important? The opinions of a handful of people who would rather people end up in hell than move the service 15 minutes, or the hoardes of people in your community who are looking for God and for a church that will be there for them?
Where is the Pastor on this? Does he have balls? Or does he do whatever the Committee tells him to? He really should have the final say in this, and the congregation should listen. Is he the type that will tell the church “This is what God is directing me to do, and we’re gonna do it, and if you have a problem with it you need to take it to God,” or will he back down and do what the old people want?
Incidentally, if he’s the latter type, RUN!!! Show me a church where the Pastor isn’t in control (and I know you know what I mean when I say “control”) and I’ll show you a dead church
No, you’re not kidding. I actually dated a Presbyterian once who used to get really fidgety if the service went past 12pm, because that meant the Baptists and Methodists would get in line at the local restaurants ahead of him/them. He was not alone in that sentiment, apparently.