Update: Our First Preview Service

Last Sunday was our first sneak preview of “day one at southside church.”

Our Sunday morning service is based on the mindset that worship is what people should be doing with their lives throughout the week. As a result, we aren’t calling our Sunday gatherings a “worship service.” Instead, we call our Sunday Morning gatherings, “day one.” The purpose of our Sunday gatherings, then, is to motivate people toward living a life of worship, putting God first in all things, for another seven days.

There are three things we are doing to keep things unique and motivating, and each is an answer to a specific problem we have seen in a number of churches today.

How do children and adults relate?

We have seen three different ways churches handle the issue of children’s ministries on Sunday morning during the primary “worship” service:

  1. Parents and children are separated the moment they walk in. Children are taken to a special area for kids programming while the parents go to a “big church.”

    The downsides of this are that Sunday becomes a time for families to be divided, and parents can get the impression that the church is responsible for the spiritual education of their children.

  2. Parents keep their kids with them throughout the morning service and opportunities for the children are provided at another time through club ministries, Sunday School or something else.

    The downside of this is that children don’t grow up learning how to worship as the proponents claim. Rather, children grow up with the impression that worship is boring. Additionally, the parents never get any time for real spiritual reflection during the morning service because they are constantly concerned with managing their children.

  3. Kids stay with their parents through the first part of the service (the “worship”) and then are dismissed to their own program.

    If the music is excellent, and the dismissal is well done, this can actually work well, but it has significant drawbacks for people who are visiting the church for the first time. The biggest drawback is that with a mid-service dismissal, there is rarely an opportunity to register kids. This puts a huge hole in the security policies of a church. Another large drawback is that visiting parents will have no idea where their children are going, who is going to be with them, and how they will get them back unless they leave the service with their children and face the embarrassment of returning during the message.

We’ve got an idea that we are trying on an experimental basis. When I was part of a home church during college, we had a morning gathering that started with food, fellowship, and interaction among all family members. The kids were involved to the level they could be involved and then were dismissed. It sounds like a mid-service dismissal, but when the kids left, the adults took a break too.

Our Plan… re:CONNECT

Our plan is to start our morning gatherings with re:CONNECT, a “family time” where families and friends gather around tables with food, coffee, and chocolate milk. We will have something really interesting happen up front followed with some discussion questions at the tables.

We hope that we will eventually get some “table mentors” who will be able to “host” a table for both kids and adults, inviting visitors to join them. That way, the adults will learn not only how to have spiritual conversations with kids but also how to be spiritual friends with each other.

How do we motivate people to become worshippers?

This question has been asked and answered innumerably many times, and we don’t intend on giving the definitive answer. However, we are making a decision that goes against the complexity of many worship services.

Our Plan… re:FOCUS

We call the main portion of our morning gathering re:FOCUS because our primary intent is to give people a place where they can simply focus on God. We feel that if people can get a glimpse of God for who he really is, they will want to put him first in their lives for another week. Toward this end, we will employ Expositional and Topical teaching, creative arts, and sacred moments of communion and offerings.

How does learning go home?

Another issue that we are trying to address is how the themes of the morning will get into a person’s life after the morning is over. Conference organizers have known for years that a key way to get learning to go home with people is to have some interaction between the attenders at what has been called “break-out” sessions. We are going to attempt to do the same thing.

Our Plan… re:THINK

I don’t really like the name for this segment of our morning, but I haven’t thought of a better one (rehash? relive? reexamine?). The main idea is that we will give people a strategic time during the morning for them to reflect personally on the teaching of the day and to interact with others who might have a different point of view.

Our Plan… re:ENGAGE

The last thing we do during our morning is to dismiss people intentionally. We have given a name to our dismissal. People don’t leave “day one,” they don’t leave southside church, instead they reengage their world. They take what they’ve learned and apply it to real life outside the walls. All churches hope this happens to their people, we are trying to make it part of our culture from the beginning.

So, how’d it go?

Our first preview service went well. Here’s a run-down of what we did:

Set-up

Since we are so small, I told everyone that they were all on the set-up team!

  • We met at our house at 8:15, and everyone was there by 8:25. We prayed together, ate muffins, assembled signs, loaded up the cars, and were out the doors by 9 am.
  • The school is only 2 minutes away, so we got there by 9, and had everything unpacked and set up by 9:45. The only thing we didn’t accomplish by then is getting a sound check done.
  • Jen handled the children’s rooms.
  • Pam and Laura handled the information tables.
  • Greg, Brent, Ryan, Kelsey, Kyle, Josh, and I set up the A/V equipment and the chairs.

re:CONNECT

Our “family time” started at 9:45 and ran for about 20 minutes.

  • The theme of the morning was WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT GOD?: God Is in Charge! and we carried that theme through everything the whole day.
  • I played a video clip from Disney’s The Tigger Movie where Rabbit is trying to organize the others to move a rock off of Eeyore’s house, but Tigger actually solves the problem.
  • The discussion questions were all about who is really in charge in the movie and who was just being bossy. Here they are:

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Discuss:

In the movie clip, who was in charge?
Why was that person in charge?
What was the problem Rabbit was trying to solve?
Did it get solved?
Did it get solved Rabbit’s way?

Say:

In the movie clip, Rabbit seemed to be in charge because he had all the ideas, but mostly because he was the loudest. He just bossed people around trying to get his way. But Tigger was the real problem solver. In fact, Rabbit wasn’t in charge at all, he was just being bossy.

Ask:

Have you ever seen someone act bossy like Rabbit?
Have you ever been a little bossy and tried to get someone else to do something for you? Did they do it?

Let’s see what the Bible says:

Isaiah 46:9-10 NLT — And do not forget the things I have done throughout history. For I am God—I alone! I am God, and there is no one else like me. Only I can tell you what is going to happen even before it happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish

Say:

The Bible teaches us that God is always in charge no matter who or what is making the loudest noise.

Ask

Why is God in charge?
What if someone is being bossy? Is God still in charge?
What if you are being bossy? Is God still in charge?

Say:

It’s important for us to always make sure we are following God and not worry about who is following us. Life isn’t about what we want. It’s about what God wants. We’re going to pray now, and it’s a simple little prayer. It goes like this,
“Dear God, Please help me to live for you and not for me.”

Pray:

It’s important to let everyone have an opportunity to pray, so encourage everyone in the circle to pray the prayer out loud, but only if they mean it from the heart. Go around the circle and ask each person one at a time, “Do you want to live more for God and less for yourself?” If the answer is yes, then have that person pray the prayer out loud before going on to the next person. If the answer is no, then encourage them to say this prayer instead:
“Dear God, thank you for this day.”

re:FOCUS

  • I thought our music went really well, but then again, I led half of it. Kyle ran the slides for us, and he did a good job. Greg vocally led the first song, and did a really good job also.
  • Rich Wollard, my coach, came late because he forgot that Lafayette is in the Eastern Time Zone! 🙂 However, he made it there in enough time to speak for a few minutes on the importance of following God’s leading.
  • I introduced “day one” at southside church and spoke briefly of our core values as a church.
  • My message/sermon/lesson made the claim that because God is in charge, we never will be, but we don’t have to be.

    You can listen to it by podcast, by clicking here, or you can watch the video.

    Low Bandwidth | Broadband

re:THINK

  • Our reflection / discussion time afterward went ok as the first time ever doing that. I was pleased that at least two people actually got out of their seats to relocate and have a discussion with someone else.
  • The last thing we did was to collect an offering. I asked Greg to lead the offering/closing song, and he did a really good job.

Concluding thoughts

All in all, things went well for our first preview service. I was a little disappointed once again at the number of people who told me they would be there but didn’t come. Maybe I just need to expect that and not get my hopes up so much, but that seems so pessimistic and defeatist. I want to believe people when they tell me they will come.

Nevertheless, we had two brand new families come, and both of them were very positive about the experience. They said they would be back next month, and I hope they meant it.

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One thought on “Update: Our First Preview Service

  1. EMAILED TO ME BY JUSTIN HUTTS.

    Hey Jeff,

    It was really great to read your blog on the DAY ONE. I am discouraged
    you did not have the crowd that you anticipated, but I am encouraged
    you did have a crowd. You are one of God’s visionaries and I am excited
    about what God is going to do in and through you in the Southside. Saw
    you 3 second blip during the Channel 18 news today.

    Your insights on child care are precious. Thanks. They have fueled me
    to think about our own child care and what messages we are sending to
    visitors.

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