"Worship and Hope" (Chapter 6)

EPC pastors of small churches who were surveyed a year ago ranked worship as one of the ten most pressing issues facing them (number 9 to be exact).  Where this was an issue, survey participants described small churches lacking quality and consistency in music leadership and facing the challenge of finding a worship style that communicates to the cultures within and outside the church.  One pastor commented, "Music done badly is a huge hurdle to overcome."  Although we hate to think so, poor music is certainly a reason some visitors don't return.

Worship is as the core of why the church exists.  It's typically is the main activity of the week in small church life.  Callahan describes it as a gathering of the family.  The small church is organized around relationships, and relationships are a huge part of why the family gathers each week.  I would add that we shouldn't think of it as a closed, nuclear family, but in the broadest possible terms as an extended family, rich with diversity and always expecting the family to be expanding.  It's a time for the extended family to remember and give praise to the Father who has adopted them all as his children.

In an earlier chapter, Callahan wrote about not trying to be a "mini-mega" congregation.  Music in worship is where we find one of the biggest differences in the two kinds of churches.  The music is simply not going to be the same. I know my experience with small church worship is a little skewed,  I was a music teacher and worship leader before pastoring a small congregation.  Even if there were no musicians in the congregation, I could have led worship with a guitar.  I'm pleased that there were some musicians there - some younger in age - that spared the congregation and me from a one man band.  But, rightly or wrongly, I was heavily involved in planning and rehearsing the music for the "congregational choir."  Worship was the "main thing" we all did together each week and I put significant time into its preparation. 

Callahan's comments about a simple, few-step service took me back to the EPC's book of Worship (section 2-1 to be specific).  As it summarizes the Scripture's teaching on the acceptable way to worship God, there really are only a few "steps": reading the Scriptures, preaching and hearing the Word, singing psalms and hymns, sacraments, and prayer.  That means a simple, five- and sometimes six-step service of worship, woven together in a warm, simple and meaningful way to give expression to the praises of God's people.

Please add your comments

What have you done when musical resources for worship are scarce?

What have been some meaningful worship experiences for your small congregation?

Again in this chapter Callahan's pespective of focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses comes to the surface.  A well-known ball player claimed that his secret to success was practicing hard on his weaker skills. Natural Church Development's approach is to identify the weakest of the eight quality characteristics in a church and form a team to focus on improving it.  I'm still working through this one.  I'd rather go with Callahan, but then what happens to the weak areas?  Maybe it's not an either/or but a both/and.  I look forward to hearing your views. 


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Robert Buchanan on Sep 16, 2008 10:25am

I resonate with Callahan's explanation that the small, strong church is already accomplishing what small group ministries in larger churches are seeking to accomplish. Our church of around 150 is filled with small group connections, but we don't have a formal small group ministry - BUT, we do have a Choir, Sunday School classes (no, it's not dead), Praise Teams, Dinner Team, etc. PLUS, we've found that our folks already have so many life-long friends and extended family connections close by that their personal relationships are maxed out. For those not in these categories we do have a monthly small group ministry in the spring & summer when our mid-week dinner/studies don't meet. I lived in S'pore for a year when the cell church model was at it's peak. Small groups work well in S'pore because many of the host homes have maids and most families have one, or two kids - not so in America. What to do with kids is a big hurdle for small groups.

On Worship - good insights - simple, meaningful is best. I know I've tried to do too many things in a worship service and it just doesn't work. We include hymns and praise songs, and that works for us. Our young people don't know they aren't supposed to like the hymns - they sing and like both - for the most part. Warm & welcoming - pastors must do this - I've sat through too many services where the pastor wasn't warm & welcoming so no one else was. Services & sermons MUST be hopeful & helpful!

I vote for going with your strengths - seen it work here. We've seen the Lord bring people who have been attracted to our strengths have the gifts we've needed to improve our weaknesses. Also, week in and week out life is much more enjoyable!
Rob Buchanan
EPC, Elkton, VA