What Worship Style Is Right For Your Church?
By: Vanderbloemen February 28, 2018
The people sitting in your church pews each weekend are crying out to be moved, inspired, challenged, touched, convicted, stretched, and surprised. So how do you plan your weekend experience to reach the broadest audience? How do you stay relevant and relatable to multiple generations? This is an age-old question that demands constant re-examination.
As you look ahead to the future of your church, build your weekend experience with the specific objective of engaging the core of your congregation. When it comes to worship style specifically, it’s important to note there is no clear-cut answer. There are different worship styles that match different churches perfectly, so it’s important to find what works best for your church.
In this post, we will examine various worship styles. Every church culture is unique, so the right mix will look slightly different for everyone. We all desire to respond to the greatness of God in our lives in our unique way. However, the ultimate goal of engaging the congregation to worship Christ is the same across all platforms. Below are some of these platforms and some things to consider for each.
By definition, liturgy means “the work of the people.” Liturgical services generally follow a predictable weekly format led by the people of the church. This includes Holy Communion (or the Lord’s Supper), prayers, praises, readings, and responses. This style of worship is often seen in the Anglican Church, Episcopal Church, Catholic Church, and some Lutheran Churches.
A resurgence of liturgy has also been seen recently in the Ancient–Future movement made popular by theologian Robert Webber. Some have called this movement “neo-liturgical.” This style varies from a true liturgical church in that various other forms of artistic expression can be seen, including: silence, confession, story, art, and other creative expressions of classical liturgical traditions. Neo-liturgical services follow a four-fold pattern of Gather-Word-Table-Send.
The elements of traditional services have stood the test of time with the main expression of music being rooted in hymns. Hymns are more lyrically complex and were originally written to communicate deep theological truths. Traditional services feature choirs, orchestras, organs, and piano. Traditional services can be experienced in almost every denomination and faith around the globe.
The blended worship style incorporates two or more different styles. Typically, we see the traditional and contemporary styles blended to reach a broader audience. Depending on the church, blended styles may or may not include traditional platform support like praise choirs or orchestras. Historically these types of services have been created by leadership as a reaction to critics of contemporary services or as a way to take a step out of the traditional model. The blended service has been fraught with discussion of its effectiveness over the years; oftentimes the attempt to make everyone happy ends up making no one happy.
The contemporary style is by far the most popular and most misunderstood style in the church world today. Contemporary worship emerged during the GenX time period (1980-2005+) and many people associate this style with the beginning of their relationship with Christ. Chris Tomlin, Passion, Darlene Zschech, and Hillsong all put this music on the map and its content tends to be highly vertical in nature focusing on the “who” of God.
Contemporary worship can mean many things depending on the type of church or denomination you are in. Experience shows that whatever is presently resonating with your congregation is considered contemporary for your church.
The modern style of worship is generally seen in churches looking to be the most relevant to the culture. Generally these songs focus more on people’s brokenness, compassion and justice issues, and those who desire internal transformation. Some modern churches can be especially seeker-focused by programming secular music into their services to help create familiarity and lower anxiety for new attendees. Bethel, Elevation, Hillsong, Jesus Culture, All Sons and Daughters, and Passion, are just a few of the more popular modern worship bands writing new music for this style.
As we like to say, “If you’ve seen one church, you’ve seen one church.” No one style is right for every church because every church is unique.
What styles resonate most with your church, your congregation and your community? How can you lead the way in creating unity around a topic decisively subjective in nature?