Worship Service Plans
Dear Friends of ACC,
We have all learned how difficult it can be to make plans during a pandemic. From businesses, to schools, to local governments and individual families, we all know what it is like to make plans and then be forced to revise them because of changes in the public health situation. Because of this reality, it is difficult to say exactly what the coming season will look like at Astoria Community Church.
But one thing the elders of ACC have decided, as the pandemic lifts and we return to normal patterns of congregational life, is that we will have only one worship service on Sunday mornings.
If you worshiped at ACC prior to COVID-19, you know that this is a change in our approach to ministry. For years we have offered two worship services on Sunday mornings, with the same sermon and the same basic philosophy of worship, but with different formats and styles of music.
I would like to explain some of the reasons for the decision to go to one worship service, as well as steps we will need to take as a congregation to accomplish this goal.
Reasons for one service:
1) Oneness. Though having two Sunday services allowed us to plan worship gatherings that recognized the differing backgrounds and expectations of our church members, in many ways this practice hindered a sense of congregational oneness. Many people who have been part of the ACC family for years have never met brothers and sisters who worship in a different service than they do. In a neighborhood church of our size, this is regrettable. The elders are convinced that gathering as one body to worship the Lord will have a positive effect on the overall spiritual health of our congregation. Scripture instructs us to make “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Our hope is that uniting to worship together will help us to follow this important directive.
2) Efficiency. The practice of having two worship services put tremendous stress on the members of ACC. Every Sunday for years, volunteers have had to staff two welcome teams, run two nursery programs, provide music for two services, and stock a hospitality table for two gatherings of people. Those who came to set up for the first service would arrive at 8:00am and those who finished cleaning up after the second service would often not leave until nearly 2:00pm. Frankly, all of this extra work left many of us worn out.
Our hope is that having only one worship service will open the door to a simpler way of doing church. We still need members of ACC to help out with various ministry tasks on Sunday mornings, but with only one service we anticipate that Sundays will feel more like a true Sabbath rest and that we will all have more time to greet each other and to welcome visitors.
3) Expansion. Having only one service will free up space in our church budget to hire a part-time Children’s Ministry Coordinator and a part-time Youth Ministry Coordinator. Our children and our teens need this additional spiritual care, but we will not be able to take this step if we continue to hire two worship directors. In addition to this benefit, having only one service will free up time on Sunday mornings to expand our Christian education program for children, teens, and adults.
Steps to accomplishing this goal:
I do not anticipate that becoming a one-service church will be easy, nor that everyone in the congregation will be pleased with this decision. Though I see advantages to taking this step, some of us may find this adjustment challenging. To help us with this change, here are three things we can do.
1) Discussion. The leaders of ACC want our worship services to edify the entire congregation. We appreciate the fact that, in our church, we represent different ethnic backgrounds, church traditions, and personality types. We understand that, in moving to a one-service format, we will need to worship in ways that blend aspects of each of our former services. To help us design services that build up everyone in the church, I plan to lead a focus group of ACC members through a worship discussion this fall. Hearing people’s thoughts and questions about worship will be beneficial to us in our planning. If you are interested in participating in this focus group, please contact me. I would love to hear what you have to share.
2) Patience. My expectation is that, as we learn to worship in one service together, we will all encounter practices that we find familiar. But we will probably also face moments in worship that feel uncomfortable to us. As your pastor, I want to encourage you to be patient. The primary purpose of worship is to glorify God. We bring glory to God as we give up some of our personal preferences for the benefit of others. After all, they will be doing the same for us.
3) Prayer. Above all, we need to pray. Without the Spirit at work in our church, all our best efforts will be in vain. Pray that grace and wisdom will be given to us all, and that God’s presence will be powerfully evident as we gather to praise him.
If you have questions or ideas about any of this, please do not hesitate to contact me.