categories: church, creativity, innovation
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January 31st, 2007

by Bobby Gruenewald

9 comments (+ Add)

Add a little more random to your church

Kathy Sierra has another great post entitled Add a little more random to your product.

As I think about it…I should probably change the title of my post to “Add a little more random to OUR church” since we are certainly guilty of being predictable.

Her post can be applied to so many aspects of what many of us do:

  • Message series (topics, series length, should we actually put things in series at all?, do we basically do the same thing every year at the same time?)
  • Teaching preparation (are your predictable prep patterns causing predictable teaching?)
  • Experience/service programming (stand-sit-stand, sing-clap-greet-watch-pray-sing)
  • Worship - the music part (fast-fast-slow-fast, are the songs the same songs or style each week?)
  • Small groups (go to the same place with the same people each week?)
  • Serving (Repeat the same mantra..”we need xx people to sign-up to serve in ________”)

What is important to note is that she is not saying that complete randomness is the solution…just a little more (as she illustrates in one of her classic diagrams below). When is the last time you surprised your church or randomized your day?

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  1. 1Michael McLemore
    Jan 31, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    As someone who runs my business and my life through a matrix, I like the theory of randomness but the reality of it creates some frustration for me.

    I think the question I ask is does this particular change or randomness create value; so in LC terms, does it win souls for Christ. If it does then I say shock our souls but if it does not then it is a waste of time.

    I will say that I force myself to change the make-up (elements) of my quiet time and how I commune with God as not to turn a habit that promotes spiritual growth into a task list. So why not the same with corporate worship/service.

  2. Jan 31, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    If you study the sciences of complexity, you’ll find out that the optimal point is precisely at the edge of chaos. I dare say that most churches haven’t ventured that far out, although certainly seems to be heading in that direction.

    The blog is really coming along! I love the added content. Keep up the great work!

    ps: Waldrop’s “Complexity” is the book to check out if you are interested in this topic.

  3. 3Steve Kirkeby
    Jan 31, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    This last Sunday our church was faced with the issue of having enough people to have a worship team. We decided to do all of our worship singing along with worship DVD’s that were displayed on our projection screen. We did have 4 vocalists on stage to give some direction in the worship. People did not react at all well to the change (including the worship leaders).

    It made me think that we need to be more careful in the changes or randomoness that we inflict on people that we lead. As the pastor of the church I am used to dealing with change but many of the people that attend here are not. About 75% of the church are above 50 and they can be very threatned by new things that come at them very suddenly. In a world that is rapidly changing sometimes it can be very reasurring that there are places they can count on to be unchanging or a least changing at a slower pace.

    I am not saying that we should not change or be more random in the things that we do, I believe that we should be open to the Holy Spirits leading and take the time to see how change does or could effect the people we are leading.

  4. Jan 31, 2007 at 9:34 pm

    At what point does change bring traction or slippage?

  5. 5Kendra
    Feb 1, 2007 at 10:11 am

    I can remember a few standout weekends at LC that were especially memorable because of their randomness–when Craig started the message from the back of the room and wasn’t on stage on time (he’s ALWAYS on time), when he had a couple in wedding attire on stage to exchange wedding vows which digressed to “cohabitation vows” (one of only two times I’ve seen Craig sporting a suit and tie!), when a new campus pastor spoke for the first time supported by videos from a different producer (Sprad’s speaking style and Nick’s editing style complemented each other perfectly), and more recently my campus worship pastor started with a quietly moving song compelling everyone to follow him on a journey of slowly accelerating worship (Cole taking a break from the 2 fast, 1 slow, 1 fast pattern).

    At those times the randomness was effective because it grabbed everyone’s full attention and became a catalyst for personal change. However, in each case, everything else about the experience was still comfortable and predictable.

    I’ve asked people I know who faithfully attend ultra-traditional churches what appeals to them. They almost always say the tradition itself. Now is that effectively instigating spiritual renewal? Likely not. It comes back to the “comfortable confrontation” paradox that we strive for.

    Fortunately, from my perspective on the LifeKIDS team, I’m afforded a much longer leash on the degree of randomness that will be accepted. Kids can ingest pretty much any amount of hoopla and surprise. That being said, I’ve had kids tell me their favorite part of Toon Town is Safety Sam–the rules segment which runs exactly the same week after week.

    It’s definitely a fine line. Randomness and routine need each other to be effective.

  6. Feb 1, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    Randomness works best when it is prepared and tested first.

    Our beta Neighborhood groups team tested a concept using great worship DVDs as the main tool for a worship experience . We first tested the concept with several beta test groups.

    The results.
    It was a flop. What we found was people responded better with a live person playing a guitar even if the music was lousy and sounded horrible. People would just sing along quite enjoying themselves. Were we surprised.
    So we threw out the worship DVD concept.

    No one in the beta groups were uncomfortable because they were informed them ahead of time what we were planning and we asked for thier input. People like to have a say. It gives them a sense of ownership in the vision process.

    Prepare and test it first. Sometimes you only get one chance to get it right.

  7. 7Anna
    Feb 1, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    I guess for me it comes down to the question of: who is our audience? If is only after newcomers, the newcomers are not going to know if we spice up the experience with a little randomness… However, I don’t think that’s the only audience we’re after so a little randomness is not going to hinder what we want to accomplish.

    I was faced with this delimma this past weekend. We ran a re-run video promoting Urban Ledgends and while I’ll always love watching Nick and Grant try and fly with un umbrella my first reaction was, “I’ve already seen this! Couldn’t they do something new?!”

    But then I took a step back and realized that our true audience (the newcomers, the ones the church truely exist for) probably hadn’t seen the video before and really enjoyed it. It really all goes back to the argument of who the church, the programming, the worship set, and the doughnuts, is really here for. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”–Jesus

  8. 9Chris Hightower
    Sep 25, 2007 at 11:24 am

    Interesting topic and one that all churches struggle with. We have just started a new church in a country suburb of Dallas. So we have an interesting mix of people - some who grew up and still work on a farm, others who work in high-tech jobs in the city, lots in between.

    I function as the worship leader/director, a role that I reluctantly accepted, but try to do with the best of my ability. In planning services, I constantly ride that line between what will help people to experience authentic worship vs. what will just freak people out. I don’t necessarily try to cater to the crowd, but I understand that my role as a worship leader is to usher them into worshiping God. If the songs we sing or the videos we show don’t point people to God, then I have failed. It is my firm believe that doing the same things in the same way every week does not point people to God, but rather to traditions and rituals.

    It seems that as humans we always want to move toward an equilibrium where we feel comfortable (a pattern that can be seen throughout nature). We like things that are familiar that we can rely on. However, when it comes to our walk with God, this presents a problem. When we tend toward the familiar, we stop trusting God and start trusting ourselves, our abilities, and the familiar things we’ve created.

    It seems that a large part of Jesus’ earthly ministry was to combat the status quo of religion. There was nothing particularly wrong with the Jewish religion (in fact God himself set most of it in place). The problem was that it had become religion for religion’s sake. It no longer pointed people toward God.

    I believe that our role as church leaders is to point people to Christ, whether they be visitors or members, new Christians or mature disciples. But to do this, we must continually question why we do what we do. Are we trying to please the congregation? Are we just trying to shake things up? Are we choosing things because it’s what we like ad what we’re comfortable with? Are we being random for random’s sake or traditional for tradition’s sake? Are we listening to the squeaky wheel or the people threatening to leave? Are we doing things because that’s the way it’s always been done?