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How would you respond to this?

On Sunday mornings we encourage people to use our "Welcome Pad" - basically a little black folder where visitors can include their info, regular attenders can give us change of address info or prayer needs can be communicated to our staff and elders. Naturally, the WP becomes the easiest way for anonymous "helpful input" to our worship team.

In my time here I've received a few doses of helpful input such as:
  • We really should do more of the traditional hymns.
  • Why do we repeat the verses so many times? I've talked to other people and they have the same concern.
  • Must someone always be playing while people are speaking or praying on stage? I'm hard of hearing!

Generally it is fairly harmless stuff but unless it's a significant issue that has already been recognized in our worship ministry, we don't really give it much thought. We put lots of work, thought and prayer (not necessarily in that order) into our content and presentation of Sunday morning and we don't expect it to make everyone happy.

This week was a little different. I did get some "helpful input" but this time it wasn't anonymous. The person (a first-time visitor from out of town) left us this comment in the WP:

Is this a concert or a church service?

To be clear, we pass the WP during our announcements, so this would have been
after our first two songs in the service which were fairly upbeat, good volume,
lots of energy.

So - how would you respond? Ignore it? Thank him for the input? Call or email
and explain the vision for the worship ministry and the Sunday service gathering
as a whole?

What would you do?

First of all, the Bible never specifies these details and in cultures all over the world, worship is expressed uniquely through indigenous language, music and speech. Sometimes our preferences get "spiritualized" and we argue over minutia. But, a couple points.

- Repetition is biblical and what "meditation" is all about. In heaven the phrase, Holy, Holy, Holy is repeated eternally...so a few lines about God or to Him really are in line.

- What is a concert? The word means that this is something we do together and "in concert" we are worshiping. The primary thing that differentiates a simple performance is really who the audience is. God is the audience of our worship. So, we perform a concert to Him, together. And, we are all in the choir and band!

There are too many other thoughts so for the moment this is enough...

My experience is generally that if a generation feels under-represented musically in service, older ones will complain (usually anonymously or to one another) and younger ones will simply drift off and disengage.

At our church we do not permit anonymous comments. If we receive a snippy note with no name, we simply throw it out. In fact I have said from the pulpit that unclaimed criticism are ignored in the office. I told them we call them "notes from the nuts."

If , however, someone puts their name to a complaint and we feel it's complaint with merit (i.e. not just bad-spirited grumbling), we will generally offer to visit face to face with the person. Engagement in relationship, I find, solves 95% of these things. If they know they can come to you and be heard, they'll generally go along with whatever.

At the same time, these complaints are a gut-check. "Am I really serving all the congregation and meeting them on their terms, and not just programming music I or the team really like?" Sometimes my honest answer is a bit uncomfortable.

Well, I think my reply would be:
"is this a concert or a church service ... I'd say that all depends on whether or not YOU WATCH OR YOU ENGAGE. :-)

Just my $.02
Fred McKinnon, Worship Leader.Blogger.Pianist.Producer

TheWorshipCommunity.Com - Discuss Everything Worship

wow... i'd probably crawl in a hole & cry for 3 days, then pull myself out & find out exactly what he's referring to... maybe email him (bc he sounds a little harsh and i wouldn't wanna take a direct hit on the chin via phone) and ask him to elaborate on his comment, specifically what elements of the service resembled a concert more than a worship service.
then i'd carefully weigh his answers against scripture and against the thoughts/perspectives of the pastor and elders of the church.
it'll all depend on his elaboration. i find visitors' input to be helpful, bc their eyes are fresh and not blinded to things that we might become numb to.

enjoyed your thoughts on blendingworship... especially asking about "freedom" in worship. i've experienced some of the same needs/requests by worship attendees... its definitely a fine balance!
adding you to the blogroll over there.

First, I'm glad I happened upon your blog. I've enjoyed reading what I have so far, & the layout is so good to the eyes (especially after such a long day)!

I would agree with what others have stated about this as well & I love the take by Rich on 'in concert' we are worshiping! I also take Fred's stance on whether or not a person who views things this way is engaging themselves in worshiping God as they should be. Worship music isn't there for the congregation's enjoyment, it is used by us to worship God wholly & truthfully from our hearts!

I think it is easy for some, especially those who don't 'get it' when it comes to what worship is truly about, to think that we're 'performing' rather than worshiping when the musicians, singers, etc. sound great. But in the Bible, when the trumpets & voices, for example, were said to be 'as one voice' who wouldn't say it sounded absolutely amazing. & we want to 'play skillfully' as the Psalmist expresses, for our Almighty Lord & Saviour! After what He's done for us & how He continues to love & bless us & be with us, who wouldn't?!

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