…here’s the input I’d give.

(keep in mind, I’m really recognizing more and more how criticizing about elements of a worship service in church is a very, very slippery slope.  More often that not, this practice generally puts us in a selfish state of mind (kind of defeating the whole reason we’re even AT church); as a result, anytime I’m in a service and find my thoughts going in that direction, it’s a chore to refocus myself on the experience of giving thanks to God, and learning how to know Him better.  Just the same, this is my blog, and I feel like venting some thoughts!  Which I hope aren’t fueled by judgementalism)

**Also, keep in mind, if you’re not a Bible-believing Christian, and don’t really have personal experience in these type of venues, my “complaints” are very minor ones.  By and large, most churches I’ve been to are totally legit (not hiding little secret agendas or anything, much as the entertainment world would love us to think).  Still, just like any family has its quirks, our church families often drive us nuts, but not so nuts that we’re going to turn our backs on them.

Things that drive me nuts (that just need to go):

Offertories  – (offertory = a little music performance, usually by someone in the congregation, during the giving of thanks to God by way of imparting just a few of the resources we’ve been given back to the church, so that they can continue to do their ministry)  As much as I’d love to see the different performance talents of my fellow churchgoers, this venue just isn’t the right one: rather than honoring God by way of our talents, it generally comes off as an effort to gain others’ approval (my brief research in writing this post convinces me even more of how the modern church has distorted what this practice was meant to be).

Really Casual Communion – Communion was a practice initiated by Christ himself, in which we can “commune,” or re-unite, with the person of Christ (by way of the Holy Spirit).  Now, while different faith traditions have very different interpretations of what this ritual actually represents, for all it is intended to be a sacred, holy act of repentence and prayer, with a taking part in Christ’s ministry represented by taking the wine/juice and bread (a symbolic act of reconnecting with His body).  While some churches I’ve attended use this time for meditative contemplation, prayer, confessing of sins, and so forth, all too many rush through it like it’s just another song.  Very few actually involve people leaving their seats, and, if they do, even fewer allow a venue for self-paced prayer at any kind of alter/prayer station.  One church (to remain nameless) invited congregants to come to the “Table” (a Scriptural term for Christ’s welcoming us in); but, in reality, it was more of a “Drive-Thru.”  All of this turns what could be a powerful worship practice into a really lame snack time.

Really, Really Loud Worship Songs – I’m becoming less convinced that our traditional “worship” (have the band play a few songs) actually benefits our growth in faith.  It just comes off like a participatory performance (think “Rocky Horror Picture Show”) that get our emotions all hyped up, and leaves us feeling good until the next time we get to rock out for Jesus. 

*as for the volume part, specifically: something I’ve learned in years of church planning is that senior citizens and little kids have very different noise sensitivity than those in between.  At my old age-diverse congregation, when we thought they were just complaining about the new songs, they were trying to say, “No, the drum noise HURTS.”  Now, having gone through my own neurological adventure this past year, I’ve experienced much of this, and can vouch for how miserable it is to have to leave a worship service because praising God is causing you physical pain.

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Things that drive me nuts (but that I still recognize are probably good things):

Sermon-Driven Worship Services – A sermon is a verbal teaching session, occasionally accompanied by guided notes, and usually in the neighborhood of 20-40 min. long (unless you’re overseas, in which case the sky’s the limit).  Pastors love giving sermons; it’s their one chance to have the uninterrupted attention of their congregation, during which actual good old-fashioned Biblical teaching can occur.  The Biblical teaching part I love; we don’t take enough time in our lives to just learn from God’s Word, and soak in the wisdom & guidance contained therein.  The part that irks me, however, is the delivery method: those of us in education spend our entire careers working hard to cater to the learning styles & attention spans of our constituents, whereas the average North American pastor takes the stance of “Sit down, be quiet, cuz I’m gonna talk now.”  Just a little pride-swallowing would help them see that learning really only occurs when it involves active engagement with the topic, not just hearing stuff about it.

“Youth Pastors”/”Youth Group” – Oh boy.  I could go for weeks on this one, as a former (maybe future) church-based youth minister, who’s been burned a few times by the stereotype-driven expectations that churches have for its youth pastors (ie: young, über-hip, athletic, married, little kids either in tow or on the way).  Anytime I’ve had the rare opportunity to talk with a church about directing it’s ministry programs for it’s youth (middle-high school), I made sure people knew two things:

1) Any ministry we’d have here won’t be my ministry; it’d be me assisting the congregation in it’s ministry to it’s own youth.  I’d be more of a guide and spiritual leader.

2) I abhor the term “youth group,” as it reeks of inclusion, and a need to qualify for membership (an assumption too many of them do little to defer).  Rather than a “group,” let’s try just having a “youth ministry,” where everyone has a place, we specifically abolish any social hierarchy, and make no bones about why this thing even exists.

Just the same, a church that cares enough about its kids to give someone a salary (and thus free up their time) to take care of their spiritual needs, much less give them a ministry budget to work with, should be commended.  This church will be one that produces growing men & women of faith who will be ready to serve God while taking on the world’s challenges.  This happens best with Christ-centered mentors, and accompanied by a body of like-minded peers who are collectively putting action behind their faiths. 

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Things that I miss seeing in church:

Testimonies (people getting “mike time” to share what God’s done in their lives)

Hymns (traditional, poem-like songs of the past couple hundred years; usually considered too slow for worship services)

Church Potlucks (a huge part of my growing-up church community memories.  We set aside time to eat, talk, & share life together)

Guest Preachers (having the main sermon delivered by someone besides the regular guy, be they from inside or outside of the congregation.  A refreshingly diverse voice brought to how we learn God’s word)

Prayer Groups at Reasonable Hours (most happen before the average family/career guy goes to work, which usually equates to 6-7AM prayer groups, breakfasts, and such.  Even on weekends!  Those of us not restrained by kids’ schedules much prefer evening gatherings, but that’s just us…

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Thank you for your ear, and your time.  I feel better now…

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