Book Sneak-a-Peak: Worshiping with Conversation

Excerpt from The Small Church Advantage: Seven Powerful Worship Practices that Work Best in Small Settings (Chapter 11)

Fear often gets in the way of worshiping with conversation: What if I don’t know how to respond? What if worshipers say too much? Or too little? Or interrupt with something wildly inappropriate?

These fears are not new. Reread Corinthians 11-14 for a reminder that Christian gatherings have long struggled with imperfect worshipers. Accept that there isn’t another kind of worshiper. Then try these ideas.

  • First, as usual, craft the weekly Worship Guide from the Stone Soup chapter. It will coordinate and focus the worship work. Identify the scripture, theme, and an anchoring image, sign, symbol, or question.
  • Then start small. Conversation in worship is not an anything-goes pursuit. It should serve and deepen the worship. Begin by curating worship in one element
    of your usual order, like the call to worship or call to prayer. Or as the preparation to hear the scripture. Later you can experiment with its gifts elsewhere in your order of worship.
  • Working within the Worship Guide, craft worship questions in advance. Write them down word for word. Practice them to see what responses they invite. Revise.
  • If worshipers are quiet, invite them to write responses. Or, you might start with a transactional question: Where do you go when you need a break? Or a positional question: Who was right—the prodigal son or the brother?
  • Pay attention to how the three kinds of conversations (transactional, positional, and transformational) work in your community. Learn the local signals and etiquette for them.
  • Don’t try to include a transformational question in more than one place each week. Too many can create a sense of whiplash or mere noise. These kinds of questions come with great vulnerability and require significant time, patience, and listening.
  • Seek out resources that teach group facilitation skills. Not just presentation skills.
  • Increase the quality of silence in your worship—one minute at a time. Conversation requires listening, and listening requires space and stillness. Be honest about your anxiety with filling the silence.
  • Create a safe place for conversation. Watch for how people are excluded, corrected, or filtered. Then prayerfully respond and adjust. Work to treat outsiders like precious insiders—like God does.
  • Make room for honest words about pain. Don’t insist on cheap cheer. Our psalms assure us that there are no topics that can’t be brought before God! Practice that assurance.
  • Include children. Generally, if something works for them, it works better for everyone. Remember that for Jesus, they were not an interruption. Children were the very expression of the good news! They show up on the honored guest list for the kingdom of God! Practice adding them to your celebrations.