Two weeks ago we dove into that revealing word: Aesthetics. You recognized it easily. It’s the study of how humans perceive things. How we decide what is beautiful or fitting or meaningful. And behave accordingly.
You grasped quickly the difference between a Participation Aesthetic and a Performance Aesthetic. Here’s a basic summary.
|Performance Aesthetic||Participation Aesthetic|
|Works well in large congregations||Works well in small congregations|
|Worshipers observe the event||Worshipers co-create the event|
|Predictable, repeatable without regard to the presence of particular people||Adjustable to the presence of particular people|
|Relies on expert leadership||Relies on lay leadership|
|Highlights performative excellence||Highlights hands-on inclusion of non-experts|
|Similar to patterns of a large formal event with a speaker and music||Similar to patterns of a graciously-hosted potluck|
|Dependent on production excellence||Dependent on curating with local gifts|
|Work of worshipers is generally uniform||Work of worshipers can be variable|
It’s important to note that this comparison is a rough work-in-progress. Our worship resources have largely been developed by-with-for big settings. So they’ve left these differences unexplored. The Participation Aesthetic will need to be mapped by-with-for small congregations.
And that’s where you come in.
Your response to one or more of these 3 observations would be a gift. To all of us.
1. The Performance Aesthetic is the excellent gift of large congregations. But it often does not fit the challenges and strengths of small settings.
When have you noticed that something didn’t fit your small setting? Do your worshipers have Performance Aesthetic expectations or behaviors? What happens?
2. Most current Hybrid-Both-And resources trigger a Performance Aesthetic. How could we offer online worship with a Participation Aesthetic instead?
Where have you seen it? What have you noticed? How do you invite participation and intimate community online?
3. The Spirit’s creativity is often unleashed when we don’t have everything we think we need.
How have you worked or wondered differently through this enormous Covid transition? What have you learned about small congregation possibilities?
The Church needs your insight. And I’m pleading for your help–to lavishly celebrate the good news in all of those 177,000 small congregations in the United States.
So share your answers. Even if they’re in-process or typically ignored. This is part of your call–to bear witness to the endless ways God is willing to show up by-with-for us.
I’ll share what I learn from you.
Thank you for your ministry,