Many churches have a Sunday morning or two throughout the year when the congregation hosts both a worship service and a special event. Maybe your church hosts a Christmas fair, an Easter brunch, a breakfast fundraiser for a mission you support or something else. In our church, the last Sunday in September is always reserved for day two of our annual Old Fashioned Harvest Market which draws thousands from all over our region.
I know from experience that on this particular Sunday our congregation’s attention and energy is divided between worship and Harvest Market. At the same time, on this busiest of Sundays we need to be re-centered and re-connected through worship as much as we ever do. Below are some ideas that have helped us and just might help your congregation to balance worship and a special event.
- We give ourselves permission to shorten worship – Rather than plan a 60 to 75 minute service, we plan for 20 to 30 minutes. No one has ever complained that the service is too short!
- We give ourselves permission to worship at a different time – To give us more time to prepare for the day ahead, we worship 1 hour earlier. Make sure to advertise well ahead of time!
- We give ourselves permission to worship simply – Everyone, including the pastor, dresses in jeans, flannel and similar informal work wear. We give our musicians the day off, hymns and service music are all well known by our congregation, and we sing without accompaniment. Duties, like ushering and lighting candles are not set ahead of time but are performed by volunteers who happen to be there and stand up when it becomes obvious that help is needed. Whatever doesn’t get done is fine…really…it’s fine.
- There is no sermon – the Pastor will speak for a few minutes, tell a story, reflect on a Scripture verse, etc. but it is short (5 minutes) and does not overstay its welcome. When I speak on these days, I try to give one bite-sized point…that’s it.
- Pray – People are busy. There may be some anxiety about the day ahead. There will likely be joy and excitement. Start and end with pray and pray throughout the service. Give the congregation a chance to raise up their own prayer concerns as well. Basically, if you do nothing else, pray…pray…pray.
- Take the opportunity to do some different things – I often write a harvest themed poem as a call to worship. We collect the offering in hats rather than collection plates (usually because we can’t find the collection plates!). Since our sanctuary is completely rearranged anyway, our worship leaders ignore the raised chancel, the altar, pulpit and lectern and do everything from the floor. Embrace the difference and have fun!
- Make sure to orient visitors and well as regular attendees – Since just about everything will be different for everyone, take a few seconds at the beginning of the service to acknowledge that fact. Celebrate the special nature of the day and give everyone permission to just enjoy it. Consider giving a special invitation for visitors to join you next week.
© Rev. Kevin Goldenbogen, 2016