Sharing Your Insight: What Do You Notice About Performance and Participation?

Dear Ones:

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 AestheticParticipation Aesthetic
Works well in large congregationsWorks well in small congregations
Worshipers observe the eventWorshipers co-create the event
Predictable, repeatable without regard to the presence of particular people Adjustable to the presence of particular people
Relies on expert leadershipRelies on lay leadership
Highlights performative excellenceHighlights hands-on inclusion of non-experts
Similar to patterns of a large formal event with a speaker and musicSimilar to patterns of a graciously-hosted potluck
Dependent on production excellenceDependent on curating with local gifts
Work of worshipers is generally uniformWork 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,