One of the traps I find myself falling into as a worship leader who has the task of planning weekly worship services is that the outline and content of what I’m planning can become stale and routine. There is certainly a place for familiarity in our worship services but within the form and familiarity there is definitely room for creativity and expression.
One particular part of our worship services that we’ve tried to develop is the response of our people after hearing the message. Typically our services run about 80 minutes – about 30 minutes at the top of the service for singing, news/announcements, offering, etc then about 40 minutes for our pastor to preach and then 5-10 minutes of response and closing. Those minutes right at the end of the service are often the sweetest and most Spirit-filled but they can also become an afterthought and routine.
So what are some things you can do as a worship leader to invite response from your congregation to the word they’ve just heard preached?
Let me give you FIVE ideas for the response time in your worship service.
This is probably already your most common option for the response and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. Scripture is very clear that the people of God are called to sing in response to what they know to be true about Him:
Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
Singing can be a great way for the core of what your pastor has preached to be affirmed and celebrated. It can also be a powerful moment of reflection on the truth of God’s word. The right song combined with the right message at the right time can help to create significant moments for your church to experience the presence of God. Don’t underestimate the power of your church singing a great song as a response to the word in your worship service.
Songs can be described as sung prayer but in this case I’m talking about passionate, from the gut, take us to the throne prayer. You probably have someone in your church who can pray the sun up in the morning. There is something about their relationship with the Lord, the conviction of their prayer life, the urgency of their requests that leads people. Ask them if they would lead your congregation in prayer at the end of a worship service as a response to what people will have heard. Equip them well, prepare them well, set them up to succeed and then unleash them.
You may also want to give people time to pray on their own. Of course we believe that God is incredibly present in our worship gatherings by His Spirit and we should definitely be giving Him time and space to speak to His people. Lead them in prayer, give them time to pray on their own. Prayers of worship and thanksgiving for what they’ve heard can be an incredibly powerful way to close a worship service.
This is where people start to freak out. Silence has become one of the most precious commodities in our world today. Think back over the last 24 hours of your life and try to think of how many waking minutes have been spent in silence. In the last day, what place has silence had in your life? Without becoming too spiritual about the power of silence, we can at least say that it seemed to be something Jesus pursued fairly passionately:
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
As people who are responsible with planning corporate worship gatherings, you have the incredible opportunity to present the gift of silence to your people. Encouraging them to sit quietly in the presence of God, acknowledging what has just been spoken over their lives, allowing the Spirit of God to press in the reality of who He is – these are holy moments.
There are times when our words are unnecessary, irrelevant and meaningless. In times like these we might just need to shut our mouths, sit quietly before the Lord and listen.
Be silent before the Sovereign Lord
In contrast to silence, you may want to give your people the opportunity to speak as worship in response to what they’ve heard.
This might be a time of testimony in line with the theme or direction of the message. For example, if your pastor were preaching a message on the healing miracles of Jesus and the healing power of God you may want to ask people in your congregation to give testimony to how God has healed them in the past.
Or maybe you want to give people a time where they can just speak or read words of praise to God from the Bible. Use God’s word as your worship response and let the words of Scripture fill the ears and hearts of your congregation as they listen, respond and worship.
So far all of the worship response ideas we’ve talked about have to do with our voices, either using or not using them. What about writing? One way to allow people to respond in worship to the message in your service is to give them a time where they can mentally process what they’ve heard by writing.
We’ve done this a few different ways in our church. Several years ago we did a sermon series on the Psalms and encouraged people to write their own psalm based on the message preached that week. During a Christmas series we gave people tags where they could write how they were thankful to have received the gifts of God. (Note: As I write that it sounds totally cheeseball but it was actually really powerful and we used some of those gift tags as a major illustration in our big community Christmas Eve service that year.) Other times we’ve give people cards where they could write out a prayer of commitment to the Lord. Think about using this idea during your first service of the new year when people’s minds are already focused on the idea of resolutions!
So allow this to be an encouragement to you to spend time thinking through those final minutes of your worship service and how you can create opportunities for your congregation to respond in worship. These are some, there are lots more – I’d love to hear your ideas or what has worked really well in your church! Hit me with a reply on twitter @chrisfromcanada or comment below. Thanks for reading!