How to Make Everyone Happy on Sunday Morning
You can’t. Just accept it. It isn’t the role of the worship leader, worship coordinator, worship pastor or solo pastor to craft worship in such a way that makes everyone happy. This is impossible. When you try to make everyone happy, you end up making nobody happy. Yet, crafting inclusive worship is the most important thing that we can do for our churches.
The experience on Sunday morning may include a couple of moments in the service that don’t speak to you. This is ok. It’s natural. In fact, it is likely purposeful as you have a worship leader who is maintaining their finger on the pulse of the community of believers who gather in your context. Whenever I have someone from my church respond to a song or an element of worship (like a Call to Confession or Assurance of Pardon) in a negative way, my usual response is: ‘that part of the service was not for you, but for someone who was expected to join us for worship this morning.’
This includes the songs that we don’t know, whether old or new, as well as the elements that we weren’t expecting, like the drama after the message or the person painting while the sermon was being preached. I heard someone once say that ‘it is easier to throw rotten eggs than it is to do something with good eggs’. Often our churches find it is easier to grumble about the things we didn’t connect with than to accept that there were created opportunities for others to use their gifts or to experience worship in a meaningful, though different way.
We should embrace the reality that for worship to be inclusive we need it to be diverse. This will make some of you rejoice and some of you uncomfortable. This diversity of practice is not just a matter of singing a new (and popular) song for the sake of it being new, rather it is the chance to include some people who may be on the fringe. Consider Acts 2:
“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven… Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’ (vv5; 9-11- NIV).
When God builds a church in this text, it is inclusive, so why shouldn’t our worship reflect that diversity? This doesn’t mean a constant change to what the weekly liturgy reflects, but it should anticipate the needs of the church demographic. This is what make planning worship a difficult task and a task not just for one individual, but the church as a whole. There are times to offer advice and opinions about what worked and didn’t, but more often encouragement is what is lacking. Your pastors and worship leaders should be working to include worship elements in the liturgy that speak to the whole church not just those of any specific demographic. In this way, we include the visitor and seeker, the long-time attender and those who are considering leaving to find another house of worship. Worship is to be inclusive and yes, some parts of that will ‘not be planned for you’, but it may have been planned for someone else; someone else you could pray for and seek out to develop community as we find at the end of the ‘worship service’ we find in Acts 2:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”(Acts 2:42-47)
Let us encourage each other
This is how God built his church. These are practices to which we could return if we wish to see results in community and fellowship when we gather. Let us encourage each other while we gather in worship and enjoy those times when we may not know the song, may not appreciate the flow or may not understand the choice of expression, but may we do so with ‘glad and sincere hearts’. Not for the sake of happiness, or even in pursuit of happiness, but in the inevitable reality that making everyone happy only happens in careful and intentional worship planning. God bless you as you listen and respond to the needs of ALL of those who gather.