Using Creativity in Worship
Creative worship might sometimes seem like an oxymoron for many congregations. Either that, or the cheese factor gets so intense that people get turned off. Apply these 9 tips to your worship practice and hit on a perfect solution.
It can be hard to find time in ministry to sit down and pore through the texts for the next year, but the easiest way to get off track in worship is not having a clear theme for the day.
It’s so easy to pull in themes from every direction, but it can lead to confusion and zoning out. Give yourself time to plan ahead, and bring a team of lay leaders along to help read texts and talk about what comes up for them to help guide a theme for each week of worship as well as for the season.
Once a theme is established, coming up with creative ideas will be easier to rein in, keeping worship clear and engaging. Materials you'll find with Narrative Lectionary worship resource providers like Clergy Stuff (or RCL Worship Resources for those congregations using the RCL) are a great place to find help when brainstorming!
The purpose of creativity is to keep people on their toes—when we get too comfortable in a pattern, worship can become rote rather than remarkable—but people can get a little squirmy when big changes are brought in too quickly. If you want to mix it up, try changing small things such as the response to the prayers, or mixing up sending blessings and offering prayers. Sometimes even fresh wording in a familiar pattern is enough to ring in the hearts of worshipers.
Visual arts can be tricky – making a beautiful vision come to life can be tough when you aren’t a professional artist, but fear not! The first place to check is with your congregation – you’d be surprised how many people are able to make a beautiful visual piece to focus on during worship, and they might not even know they can until they try!
Don’t have those artistic folks? Don’t be discouraged—there are beautiful collaborative coloring pages based on Biblical texts that turn into magnificent art when they are finished! (Here is one resource I appreciate.) If you are artistic, or have bona fide artists in your midst, perhaps you could arrange for a piece to be completed as the sermon.
Some of us absorb worship well by sitting and listening, but a lot of people absorb things better while they’re on the move. It's all about adding a kinetic learning component or aesthetic to worship.
Find ways to have people out of their seats in worship—and by that I don't just mean standing and sitting for songs or for the Gospel reading. Placing prayer stations around the sanctuary with note cards for prayers, inviting people to light candles for a loved one, even creating a winter tree craft activity or a collaborative art project are all excellent ways to get people moving. Set the tone with reflective music and give people space to work in silence while moving.
You'd be surprised at what might come alive in their hearts!
Give people something to take with them to bring the message into their week after worship. Let the text guide you—when Jesus talks about sowing seeds, you can hand out a seed and invite people to try out the paper towel-sprout-a-seed-elementary-science-project.
Similarly, you can hand out nails during the Ash Wednesday service for people to carry as a reminder of their sin—and have them bring them back to church on Good Friday. Then, drop the nails in a metal bucket instead of a slammed book for your strepitus. You can even use a beautiful stone for a reminder to pray through a physical connection.
The possibilities are endless.
Perhaps the scariest thing is trying something different–you can probably already hear the chorus of we’ve-never-done-it-that-way-before ringing in your ears.
Don’t be afraid to play! Use a children’s illustration for the adults. Sometimes the simplest explanation can have the deepest impact. This one is trickier without kids in worship, but it can be done.
Remember: kids aren't props, but whole members of the body of Christ. Often they have more to teach us than we realize.
Communion wafers and wine are a staple. Simple. Shelf stable. Are they the tastiest? Not always. Try new breads, such as sweet Hawaiian bread or a beautiful Challah loaf (remembering of course to find a good gluten free option for our celiac friends).
You can enlist congregants to bake fresh communion flat bread, and find sweet wines to bring a sweet taste to that already sweet meal of grace (and switch up your non-alcoholic juices for those in recovery).
The Bible is filled with drama. So often we read the stories from a text and let the story settle intellectually in the brain, rather than bringing it to life and connecting it with our emotions.
If you have talented folks in your congregation, you can arrange dramatic readings of the Bible texts, or you can try doing the entire worship service as a dramatic interpretation.
Walt Wangerin has a fabulous piece called, “The Cry of the Whole Congregation” that takes worship from Palm Sunday to the passion in one hour with singing and congregational participation and liturgical dance. It is described as moving and lovely by those who experience it.
Another outstanding resource for grace-centered, progressive congregations is Arches 'n Bells, which offers fully downloadable drama resources for Lent and other seasons!
Perhaps the scariest thing is trying something different–you can probably already hear the chorus of we’ve-never-done-it-that-way-before ringing in your ears. But fear not! Jesus was a bold leader, unafraid of new situations; let his leadership inspire you to find ways to get people out of their set ways and into a deeper relationship with God through creative worship.
The point is to try things, and to repeat the things that work!
Check out what we have to offer your congregation. I guarantee it'll make your job as a leader easier.
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Stefanie Fauth is the Creative Content and Production Associate at Clergy Stuff and a regular contributor to RCL Worship Resources.