We all want to see more millennials active in the church. A simple observation most Sunday mornings bares the statistical truth that this demographic is much smaller than other generations in worship. Although this reality can be explained by several cultural and sociological obstacles, it is discouraging that more emerging adults (ages eighteen to thirty) are not active in the life and work of the church. The gifts and experiences of emerging adults are vital to the church’s flourishing, and the church has much to offer them in community, support, and spiritual formation.
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Worship leaders and planners are well aware of the pervasive use of projection media for songs, prayers, litanies, art, and advertisements in worship services. Googling “worship backgrounds” returns about six million options. While examples of digital worship visuals are plentiful, there are miscues everywhere, including slides that are cliché, distracting, or poorly designed.
Post-game handshakes are a time-honored tradition. Little League baseball players, traveling soccer teams, and NCAA athletes never miss this ritual of sportsmanship. During the game they “fight,” engage in “battle,” “conquer,” or suffer “defeat.” But at the end of the day athletes are not at war. By a simple hand gesture, athletes declare that they are at peace.
Psalm 150 declares, “Praise [God] for his mighty acts; praise him according to his excellent greatness!” (KJV). God requires our very best, and we dishonor God if we offer anything less (see Malachi 1:8).
Most of the worship leaders I know strive for excellence, and most of the conferences I attend encourage excellence too. But what does excellence in worship mean to you? How do we know when excellence is achieved? What standards do we look to?
How often do we equate an experience of God with good feelings? I regularly hear my students make this association. From time to time I ask them how God is at work in their lives. Their answers are telling: “My relationships with friends are really good” or “I did really well on my mid-term exam” or “My spring break trip was awesome!”
Today we have immense control over our music. With the advent of MP3 players we can skip, shuffle, delete, and mix genres. We can listen alone or with others, listen on or off the phone, listen in the car or on a walk outside. While we listen we can view photographs, videos, play computer games, or check the location of the nearest Starbucks. Music is available to us where we want it, when we want it, and how we want it.
It’s no secret that students are attracted to visual media. Images from television, video games, mobile phones, and the Internet saturate their days and nights. They use images to communicate with their friends. They learn with visuals in the classroom. They entertain themselves with pictures and animation.
A shy female student stepped to the microphone and prayed: “Bring peace to regions of conflict, especially Sudan, Israel, and Gaza.” A tall male student bent over the same microphone: “Bring consolation and companionship to widows and orphans.” Another student, standing on tiptoes, adjusted the microphone to her mouth: “Renew our nation in the ways of justice and peace.”
One ordinary Sunday morning, I sat in my pew praying customary words of confession and hearing familiar words of assurance. My pastor announced, as he did every Sunday, “God assures us with these words of pardon . . .” But at that moment, the words surprised me. Immediately, I turned to my wife and whispered excitedly, “Pardon! That’s an image of the atonement!”
"Why are there no good Christmas songs?” one of my college students asked last December. He was frustrated in his search for contemporary songs to use in our Sunday evening worship service. Though he found several good hymns and carols to use, he wasn’t coming up with anything new.
Each time we gather as a congregation there are those among us who are struggling with sexual temptation. As worship leaders we are called to help God’s people present our struggles—even the ones we’d rather ignore—before God and receive God’s care. We need to come before God honestly.
This article is culled from a series of workshops in several locations sponsored by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship during the fall of 2005.
- ByDecember 1, 2005
Pete Ward. Paternoster Press, 2005. 235 pages. $15.00.