DRAWING PEOPLE TO WORSHIP WITH ALL 5 SENSES

Looking for creative ideas for your small church?

Build a creative team and wake up your worshipers with new twists for Sunday worship and special events.

We need the dramatic.

  • It stops us in our tracks
  • It demands our attention
  • It jerks us from the mundane.
  • It awakens us.

And God set the example.

God spoke through a Burning Bush. Appeared as a Pillar of Smoke and Fire. Sent a Plague of Frogs. Took Ezekiel for a chariot ride in the sky.

Gave prophetic visions of Beasts and Cherubim. Struck Paul blind. Raised Lazarus from the dead. Tore the Curtain in two.

God is anything but predictable.

God knows we need to be shaken. Our attention drifts. Our passions fade.

Autopilot is the norm of our society.

Without even thinking, we drive ourselves to keep up in this rushing world.

Notifications to check. Calls to Return. Lists to Complete. Our spirituality stalls and even stales.

Could the church be a place that awakens us?

For most, the church does the opposite.

Figuratively (and often literally) it puts us to sleep. People strain to keep their eyes open during a sermon. Struggling to focus on a message as their minds drift.

Apathetic on the Sunday morning drive to church. Secretly wishing for an excuse to skip. A football game or a family dinner might be enough to change their route.

Instead of a place that awakens our senses, the church becomes drudgery.

Instead of anticipating connection with an Almighty God, we settle for any 4 songs, a sermon, and an offering.

Instead of craving Sunday morning worship, we go to church out of obedience: “Do not give up the habit of meeting together…”

We need to be awakened. To the Almighty. To the All-Powerful. To the All-Knowing. To the All-Loving. To God.

A Creative Team can be part of the solution.

A CREATIVE TEAM DEFINED: CREATING 5-SENSE EXPERIENCES

A Creative Team helps people connect with God through 5-Sense Experiences.

Sight. Sound. Taste. Touch. Smell.

We create environments and applications that guide people to experience and remember God’s truth.

We aspire to help create a thirst for the Living God (Psalm 63).

I do not have this all figured out, but I invite you on the journey.

Four years ago I committed to a Creative Team at Summit Ridge Community Church. We are in process, learning all the time, getting better as we go, and digging as deeply as we can.

As a worship leader, I see many faces on a Sunday morning. Joyful faces. Blank faces. Stressed out faces. Worried faces.

No matter how great the songs go, I see some people drawn into the presence of God and some who are not.

Different learning styles means different worship styles.

This is not a new challenge. We know humans have different learning styles. And varying preferences in engagement.

Auditory. Kinesthetic. Visual. Tactile. Some of us are intellectuals. Some of us feelings-driven. The uniquenesses are limitless.

Some people may never worship through a song, but they may worship through a walk in the desert.

Some may never hear God in the words of a sermon, but they may experience Him in Lighting a Candle.

Writing a Prayer. Making a Craft. Throwing a Stone.

God knows this. The Bible is filled with examples of God drawing His people in creative ways. Through 5-Sense Experiences.

Building Altars. Setting Stones. Carrying Horns. Gathering Manna. Tasting Bitterness. Eating Scrolls. Seeing Visions.

In contrast, we have fitted our Modern Christianity into a tight schedule on a Sunday morning. Simplifying our spirituality so much that we have lost much.

Let’s go beyond the songs, the sermon, and an occasional video, and invite our spirits deeper.

Let’s follow God’s example and shake ourselves out of the unremarkable.

To Kick-Start Your Creative Team, Keep Reading!

  • Creative Worship: It’s about Truth not Tricks
  • Small Budget? Think Repurpose and Reuse
  • 5 Steps to Form Your Creative Team
  • Start Small & Start Seasonal
  • Why You Need to Start Your Creative Team Today

CREATIVE WORSHIP: IT’S ABOUT TRUTH, NOT TRICKS

Good things can be used for good purposes. Good things also can be twisted and used for less noble intentions.

  • Restaurateurs use the color red to encourage quick eating, turning tables to create more profit.
  • Retailers control the tempo of music played in their stores to affect how long customers shop.
  • And Realtors know the truth that “If it smells, it doesn’t sell!”

In our churches, we need to be aware of our motives and continually place our hearts before God.

Musical dynamics clearly affect us physiologically. Our heart rate slows or quickens. Blood pressure rises or falls.

Bright lights alert and agitate us. Dim lights quiet and calm us.

We need to keep in mind it’s about Truth not Tricks.

We can’t ignore the fact that God created our senses. He made Loud and Soft. Cold and Hot. Bitter and Sweet. Rough and Smooth.

And all these elements can draw our attention to Him.

Our stewardship of this knowledge is key. To be aware and use it for His glory.

We are not about manipulating people to make decisions or have experiences based on a fleeting feeling.

What we can do is create compelling environments that encourage focus. Limit distractions. And engage our senses.

With the intention of turning our minds and hearts to the Living God, let’s usher people out of autopilot and into His presence.

SMALL BUDGET? THINK RE-PURPOSE AND RE-USE

“I am amazed that a church of our size pulls off these elements that I would expect to see at a mega church.”

I received this comment after our Journey of the Cross event. Our Sunday attendance on a good day was 75. We are a small church. With a small budget. But we do big things!

Please do not limit your vision by your finances or your fears.

It is more than possible to have incredible 5-Sense Experiences with little or no funding.

We live in a society of excess, with storage units and filled garages. Useful things left by the roadside displaying “FREE” as their nametags.

Commit to finding creative avenues and resources to engage  your senses on the cheap!

I fully believe that even if you have a church budget of zero, you can still have a flourishing creative team. My advice is:

  • RE-PURPOSE FIRST
  • THINK MULTI-PURPOSE NOT ONE-TIME USE
  • COLLECT WISELY
  • STORE WITH INTENTION

Re-Purpose First

If you already have something you can use, don’t buy something new.

We Paint. Cover. Repair. And Rework.

We find resources hiding in storage rooms. Backyards. By the side of the road. Closets. And on the way to the Dumpster.

Hunt and ask before you shop.

Think Multi-Purpose

We do not make one-use-only purchases. Ask, How can this be used in the future?

Multiple events. Multiple seasons. Multiple use.

This mindset changes what you buy, how much, and even how you adapt it. For example, we hardly ever cut fabric.

We would rather fold, drape or tack. You never know when you need a bigger piece in the future.

Collect Resources Wisely

You can’t keep everything. And some things aren’t worth keeping.

We have only a few items we use just once a year. They take up precious and limited storage. We don’t have room for much more.

All other resources need to fit on one wall of shelves.

Store with Intention

Like many of you in small churches, storage is limisted. Learn from our mistakes!

Organize. Label. Store well.

After Year One, we were losing things. Finding things broken. Needing to replace.

After Year Two, we found some discarded shelving and claimed a “spot” in a storage room.

After Year Three, we invested in clear bins for those shelves. Now we can see our prized items with just a glance. And it has relieved so much stress.

5 STEPS TO FORM YOUR CREATIVE TEAM

1. Build Relationships

Relationships are the foundation of all ministry.

Work on growing your people skills. Invest in getting to know people with no agenda.

The more people you get to know in your church and your community, the stronger your local church will become. The richer your life. The broader your reach.

In the midst of this, and often accidentally, you will find people looking for a creative outlet. Keep your eyes open.

Building relationships grows you into the light that God created you to be.

2. Become a Lover of All People

Remember Patience and Love! A great Creative Team will be eclectic and will stretch your people skills.

We joke about “freak flags” on our team. They are often and everywhere. (myself included!)

Artsy people are wild and varied.

Look for the beauty. Expect diversity.

If you are blessed as we have been, you will end up with artists, builders, planners, creators, drafters, dumpster divers, thrifters…

And more opinions than you could have ever imagined!

3. Share your Vision and Watch whose Eyes Light Up

I once read about how Apple hired employees in their early days. At a certain point, they would sit a candidate in front of a covered mac computer.

As they uncovered the computer, they would watch to see if the candidate’s eyes lit up in excitement.

As you share your vision, watch their eyes!

You want people who are excited, not just willing. This team should sizzle.

When things are moving, we get goosebumps. We sit on the edge of our seats, trying not to interrupt each other as ideas pop like corn in a microwave!

Those are the people you want on your team!

4. Create a Safe Place for Idea Sharing

Negativity is one of the biggest deterrents of creativity. A negative word can crush the most excited heart.

You can’t allow it.

Negativity on your team will suck the life out of your projects.

Team members need to feel safe to share and not shut down. Listen. Encourage. Laugh. And Learn.

As leaders, somehow we need to walk the line between being a constant cheerleader and still being able to choosing only one path.

Our team is very familiar with “These are all great ideas. But we can’t do them all right now.”

5. When Building Your Team, phrase your communication like this…

Many creative people doubt their skills. They also have experienced negative naysayers.

If you approach this team with too much structure you may have less takers and not nearly as much fun.

Phrases to consider when growing your team:

  • Fun, creative environment
  • Looking for dreamers, creators, crafters, and more.
  • We paint stuff and build stuff.
  • Looking for a creative outlet?
  • Are you an amateur artist?
  • Newbies and Novices welcome!
  • Are you a poet in hiding?

Express developing. Express inclusive. Express flexible.

You are most likely starting a brand new thing that no one has ever heard of.

Use the church bulletin, email reminders, upfront announcements, special flyers, whatever you have to let people know about your Creative Team.

You will need to systematically smoke people out to find your team.

Three years ago my team was me plus 2. Today we are a core of 8 plus a dozen willing helpers.

My core team loves to talk about ideas and brainstorm. We get a little crazy-artsy-theoretical as well as theological.

I have others who choose to be included once the project is chosen.

These builders, creators, and crafters might not like sitting in meetings, but I still love and need them all!

START SMALL AND SEASONAL

It can be hard to choose a direction and a starting point. So I suggest a strategy of JUST JUMP!

Instead of coming up with a year plan or strategizing, just jump in with something small. Be fluid and flexible. This really is a learn-as-you-go type ministry.

If you start your journey with a few proven ideas, you’ll have some immediate wins. Your confidence will grow as well as your team.

Small and Seasonal has worked for us, so here are a few ready-to-go experiences to help you get started.

SMALL

When I say Start Small, I mean really Small. One element. No money required. Little effort. No team necessary.

Just a unique engagement of one of our 5 Senses. Something unexpected to trigger something new.

SEASONAL

Lent and Advent are sweet seasons for the Creative Team. First, because there are lots of ideas online. Second, people already expect something new as seasons turn.

Even if you are in a non-liturgical setting, Lent and Advent are powerful.

A few ideas to get you started:

IDEA #1: COME THOU FOUNT

(SMALL) All you need is a pile of rocks (one for each worshiper) and a person to lead the congregation in singing Come Thou Fount.

A few years ago, we put a pile of river rock on our worship stage. Before singing the hymn, Come Thou Fount, we talked about the meaning of the Ebenezer stone in Verse 2.

Many have sung these words for generations and never known the meaning.

So we created worship response to bring the meaning of these words to life.

After leading verse one, I invited people to come and a take a stone, reflecting on their own lives.

This was the first time we attempted anything like this, so I was unsure if anyone would move from their seats. One by one, nearly every worshiper came up and claimed a stone.

IDEA #2: PURPLE FOR LENT

(SMALL & SEASONAL) All you need is some torn up purple fabric and an explanation.

Our Creative Team always has great ideas for Lent!

One year, we placed a basket of purple fabric, ripped with ragged edges, at the entrance to our worship center.

In worship we talked about the color purple and the meaning.

We encouraged every worshiper to take a strip of purple and tie it somewhere as a reminder of this season of sacrifice.

Throughout the weeks leading up to Easter, we saw purple strips tied on rear-view mirrors, purse straps, belt loops, and more.

IDEA #3: JOURNEY TO THE CROSS

(SEASONAL) Journey to the Cross is Good Friday experience with stations or scenes. We based our format on readings from re:thinkworship. I’m ever grateful for their generous sharing. We poured our time into creating interactive scenes.

We transformed our worship center with scenes and stations. Dim lighting. Signs. Reflective Readings. Props.

People Knelt by the Rock of Gethsemane. Washed their hands as Pilate did. Listened to Arguing after Jesus’ Betrayal.

They Pounded a Nail into a beam of wood. Wrote an Offender’s Name in the sand. Lit a Candle as they walked into the Tomb. Felt the Heaviness of a Rock drop from their hand.

There were tears. There was silence. There was a thirst for more of the Living God.

ADDITIONAL CREATIVE TEAM IDEAS:

  • Compile a church-written devotional
  • Host a traditional hymn-sing
  • Offer a Blue Christmas service
  • Design a photo booth for a celebration
  • Paint scripture on re-purposed wood
  • Serve platters of olives & grape leaves from Jesus’ time
  • Burn frankincense at Christmastime

WHY YOU NEED TO START YOUR CREATIVE TEAM TODAY

Are you Overwhelmed? Excited? Both?

It can be hard to start rolling a huge heavy boulder, but once it starts turning, it’s so much easier to keep it going.

Start today and pick something. Start really small.

I highly recommend using the simple Worship Response Idea for Come Thou Fount. It’s easy. No cost. And Impactful.

Think about the 5 senses: Sight, Hearing, Touch, Taste, Smell.

Once you build a habit of intentionally thinking about engaging God’s 5 Senses with your spirituality, so many things start happening.

  1. Your personal passion awakens. Find yourself noticing things throughout your day. You are more aware. Aware of Color. Light. Sound. Scent. Temperature. Texture. Music. And more. Enjoy God speaking through it all.
  2. You open the door to other people sharing their creative gifts. Watch people light up as you invite them to re-engage with their former passions and loves. Writing. Painting. Building. Dreaming.
  3. Your church grows in depth. Whether it is for a moment, a day, or a season, watch God work through all 5 senses He created. Out of the Mundane. Into Transformation.

My hope is to travel this journey together. To create resources and share brainstorms across the miles. To build a community with you and others. Where ideas are welcome and creativity is contagious!

FOR MORE, BE SURE TO READ THESE:

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TRANSFORM YOUR SMALL CHURCH FOR MEMORABLE EVENTS. Decorating your small church for a wedding, VBS, or another event? Easy, Low-Cost DIY. These 3 Big-Impact Elements won’t break your budget or your back!