Traveling Communion Set: Replacing Efficient with Lavish

Sacrament is so big. And that rectangular box is so small and full of shortcuts.  

Perhaps preparing this basket is a little more effort. Maybe a little less convenient. But grace never worried about effort and convenience anyway. And remember that preparing this basket each week might be a treasured ministry for one of your lay leaders. They can pray and prepare for each one to be served lavishly.

Unexpected Indicator: The Church Refrigerator Door

And here’s the remarkable part. The part that may really surprise you. Despite all the chocolate and cheer, not one single person from the strip club ever set foot in the church. Not one grateful mother. Not one intrigued man.

But the church grew anyway. Against everyone’s expectations. Because somehow word got out that they were the kind of church that just anybody could go to.  The kind of place that accepted just anybody. And the number of just anybodies began to trickle in.

Biblically, it makes sense. The whole salvation story is chock-full of just anybodies. Unappealing outcasts. Undesirable outsiders. Untrustworthy scoundrels. Flawed, sin-full folks. So refrigerator mess-makers and parking-policy violators aren’t really a stretch.

This pastor just reinterpreted the indicator. They had a hospitality problem. And a love-the-neighborhood-now problem. And an oops-we-shrunk-the-good-news problem. And God can lead us through those.

This week, find the refrigerator notes for your congregation. They may be literal or metaphorical. But what do they indicate? And how might you post this kind of message instead:

Ministry is messy. And we are a work in progress. But we are so glad you’re here. Yes, you! Do you have ideas for more ways this refrigerator can serve our community? Let’s talk.

Q&A: “But We Don’t Have Any Children”—Five Anyway Ideas

Design worship so a child can participate fully. Then practice it every week. Really. Even if there are no children present:

  • Set out fabrics and objects for decorating the altar or chancel. During the gathering, invite worshipers to bring them forward and arrange them. 
  • Include a children’s worship time (recruit some child-like adults to help). 
  • Prepare a set of lavish art supplies so that a child could interpret the good news with markers, paper, clay and pipe cleaners. Let the adults practice, too, if they’d like. Invite the creations to be displayed with the offering.
  • Rethink lots of everybody-read-this-together worship. Remember that oral call and response works for every age and ability. 
  • Invite movement and comfortable seating for different body sizes. Not everyone can be still for an hour. Welcome pacing, sitting at a table, or lying on a soft rug.
  • For more ideas, interview some favorite teachers in your community.

One small setting pastor used this approach. He told his congregation he wanted to be ready—just in case God sent them a child. So he sat down on the chancel steps each week to offer a children’s sermon. Anyway. And invited them to imagine and love the children who might hear this. Anyway. Within three weeks, a child came. Everyone was ready for her. And she experienced the I-just-can’t-wait-to-see-you love of our God.

It’s a premise for a great movie—if you build it they will come. But it’s also great hospitality. It will change the congregation’s awareness and let them playfully practice. Plus, child-friendly practices actually deepen the worship of all the people.

Great Shares: GenOn Ministries

GenOn focuses on deepening intergenerational worship, study, service, and fellowship. It’s a focus that works well for small congregations. It taps into one of your superpowers: participation of all ages together to grow the faith community.

Christmas-to-Epiphany Sunday: A Simple-Lavish Arts & Music Celebration

This is the perfect occasion to try out some of your worship advantages—the heightened-participation, deeply-forming stuff that doesn’t work in big settings.

The worship is based on a hymn-sing-music-fest. Let the music preach!

But it also includes an arts celebration—where worshipers are invited to draw, doodle, and depict their joy with a playful variety of simple art supplies. Later in worship—along with the usual offerings—their art is brought to the altar for display. As gifts. And as precious to God as gold, frankincense and myrrh.

An Essential New Year’s Practice for Small-Setting Pastors

You didn’t take on this job for the prestige. Or the big salary and benefits package. Or the cool swag bags at conference gatherings.

You signed up because somehow the divine called, or nudged, or waited patiently, or knocked you flat. And you knew that God’s ways would be your ways. Not just in theory, but practice.

And bottom line: God’s ways require rest. It’s written into the instruction manual for the good creation to flourish. No exemptions. You included.

The Outside-In Planning Strategy for Music

Create worship with whatever their musical gifts might be. Our faith really is big enough for that. The key is that you’re not offering a performance event. You’re crafting worship centered on hospitality and participation. Outside-in planning isn’t about replacing bad music with excellence. It’s about replacing the expected with a new sense of abundance, wonder and gratitude—Your gifts are welcomed here. No matter what they are. Because you are welcomed here. Wow! Thanks! The kingdom is among us!

Anticipating Advent, Part 2: Gentle Reminders

As pastors and worship leaders, you have to live between two sets of demands. The now demands and the season-about-to-come-so-you-really-need-to-get-ready-at-the-same-time demands. Sound familiar?

Q & A: Call to Worship with Small-Setting Strengths-Conversation

Dear Teresa: On Sunday mornings, my congregation is chatty. There’s a natural enthusiasm as each person arrives. After a greeting, I lead them in a call to worship—usually one of the readings suggested by my denomination. The enthusiasm in their voices plummets. The readings often feel awkward, stilted, and artificial somehow. Is there a better way to call each other into God’s presence? 

—Looking for a Better Way