We love grooves. Following patterns is easy. The same-old becomes the good-old. In fact, little habits may become die-hard traditions. Some of this is good and appropriate. But sometimes, we may need a breath of fresh air or some new life, especially when it comes to our church habits. Here are five areas to think about.
The Order of the Church Service
If you follow a strict liturgy, you’re off the hook on this one. However, some churches have to come up with their own order of service. Take a look at your order of service. Does it flow naturally, or is it disjunctive? Is there a logical order of events, or does it seem to hop around? The order of service may be an ossified structure of church existence, but it could also use some improvement. And if you change it, people might actually pay attention again rather than going through the motions.
Your Music Selection
Often, churches slip into the habit of singing the same songs over and over and over again. Why? Well, one reason might be because they’re really good songs. Fair enough. But are there other really good songs? Probably so. If you’re hymnbook has 500 songs, you may want to try out some unfamiliar (and good) ones. If there are some new songs or songwriters putting out good worship music, find out what they are producing and see about using it. Some churches love the really old songs. Some churches really love the brand new songs. Some churches just sing all the choruses from a decade or two ago. By adding fresh music selections, you can help to better engage worship and more intentionally glorify God in your singing. Maybe we can introduce variety…without igniting The Worship Wars.
Your Preaching Style
Here is one that is a bit harder to change—your style of preaching. Preachers tend to fall into predictable patterns of public speaking. It may be a really good pattern, but it is a pattern nonetheless. Sometimes, breaking from the pattern, and preaching in a way that is different can have a profound affect upon listeners. For example, if you are a three-points-and-a-poem kind of preacher, maybe you can try trying a narrative approach. If you are an hour-and-a-half-and-no-less kind of preacher, maybe you can try for a twenty-minute sermon. If you’re a twenty-minute sermonizer, maybe you can try an hour-long message. (Okay, maybe not.) Change has a way of heightening the level attention that people have.
Your Missionaries and Ministries
Now we’re treading on thin ice. When missions committees and pastors start meddling with the support list, things can get a bit shaky. However, it’s something that needs to be done. Carefully review the list of ministries and missionaries you support. You may be in for some surprises, “What? That missionary left the field five years ago.” “That ministry no longer preaches the gospel.” “These people haven’t sent us a prayer letter in seventeen years!” What you do (or don’t do) with church funds is important, so take a second look. The money that the church receives is to be used wisely. Exercise sensitivity here. Dropping funding without warning is absolutely unethical. This is one area of change that will take some time.
Your Outreach Model
Many churches utilize an outreach model that is attractional — that is, the point is to get non-Christians to come into the church and thereby hear the good news. Perhaps, your church could consider approaches to ministry that don’t require people to come to the church building. Frankly, a lot of people really don’t want to come to the church. There are other effective ways to reach people with the gospel that don’t use the attractional model. What other outreach opportunities could your church start?
It’s not necessary to pursue change for change’s sake. Instead, pursue change with intentionality and purpose. Often, change is necessary in order to more effectively reach people, to better develop people, or to more wisely our resources. Changing a few habits isn’t going to guarantee church revival. At the same time, true revival is going to mean change. Only the Holy Spirit can revive a church and awaken hearts. We as church leaders can do our part by having the courage to change, the graciousness to do so kindly, and the humility to give all the glory to God.