Many congregations in the Wesleyan tradition today are fully committed to offering different types of worship experiences within the same congregation. For example, the congregation where I serve offers a very traditional service (robes, Gloria, and responsive Psalms), an informal traditional service (hymns, no robes, less formal liturgy), and a band driven worship service that is focused on more current music and a very informal setting. On top of that, we also offer occasional worship in a more contemplative or modified Taize style.
For many congregations, the same preacher will be presenting the same sermon in all of the various venues. I actually think it is great fun to be a part of all of the service styles, but it is no easy task to shift gears from service to service and sometimes from setting to setting.
A few years ago, I was preaching four services on Sunday mornings in three different locations. We had a very traditional early morning worship in our chapel, an informal band driven worship in our sanctuary, a young adult service at the High School auditorium across the street, and then back for a second band/praise team worship in our main sanctuary. I actually changed clothes three times on any given Sunday.
I really don’t recommend that kind of schedule but most of us can do what we need to do for a certain period of time. The key is getting internally (spiritually, physically, and emotionally) ready for the journey.
Since most pastors who are doing a variety of services are preaching the same sermon, it is helpful to think about how the various components fit together. For example, I always felt more comfortable preaching from the pulpit at the services that were framed around liturgy and tradition. At the same time, the band driven worship services did not even have a pulpit on the platform so preaching was always on the move with plenty of freedom. The message was the same, but the tone was different and the energy was modified.
Here are some key points to consider if you are providing a variety of worship styles on the same weekend.
- Consider what you wear and how you appear to the congregation. Do you need to be relaxed, robed, or wear sweater or a tie?
- Think about the tone of voice that you will use in the different settings. Will you be filled with energy with a high volume level or will you be more sedate and settled at the pulpit?
- Are there particular illustrations that would support the same message with a different kind of understanding depending on the congregational setting?
Since our non-verbal communications speak louder than words, be sure that you are highly aware of your audience and that you are using your voice, your body, and especially your heart to communicate the message of the Gospel. The message of faith stays the same but the method of delivery is always up for modification. In the end, our goal is communication and inspiration that will send people out with a word of hope that is connected to the heart of God.