By Barbara Sadler, Path 1 Associate
A few years ago when our church was working with church consultant, Ken Callahan, I remember him explaining the concepts of comfortably full, comfortably empty, uncomfortably full and uncomfortably empty. It all has to do with the number of bodies in a given space that allows people enough connection and enough anonymity to feel comfortable as they experience worship. That came to mind when I was thinking about those plants I’m familiar with and how and when they worship.
If you define worship broadly enough, you can worship all by yourself. I’ve done that on occasion. God can be experienced, praised, and glorified while sitting on a beach watching the sunrise.
However, if we’re thinking in terms of “corporate” worship, numbers and space clearly make a difference in setting the atmosphere for people to experience God. That is particularly true for the un-churched who are “trying out” what we offer for the first time. That’s one reason church plant boot camps teach the need to gather a consistent group of 75 or more before launching worship.
Within our Alabama/West Florida Conference a recent church planter was sharing what he has learned in his first six months. His new church has not had a formal worship service yet (contrary to his original strategic plan). They meet informally in small groups in a coffee shop purchased specifically for that purpose. The numbers of groups are growing and people are experiencing the love of God interacting informally with the leaders there in the coffee shop. Lives are being touched, but worship is at present reserved for the few faithful leaders who meet and pray and seek to align with God’s plan for their church.
On the other hand, I contrast that with my home church’s experience in starting up second and third campuses. Because we had a strong worship base, we were able to “seed” the new congregations by asking enough of our faithful people to commit several months to worship in the new plant. That allowed us from opening day to hold corporate worship in a space that was comfortably full.
Both the second and the third new church campuses were able to hold worship weekly from the beginning. This method of worship worked so well that within a couple of years, additional services of worship were added. The second campus now holds three worship services weekly. The third campus is at capacity space-wise (approaching uncomfortably full). Soon they will need to either add an additional service or launch another site.
What are some of the creative ways your church has done worship in the past?