Planning Together

Rev. Joshua Patty
Regional Minister and President

I hope that your Advent and Christmas Eve services were wonderful and that you feel good about your efforts. I worry, though, that there may have been a nagging question -- where is everybody?

In talking with leaders in our region, I hear that worship attendance has been lower, even on Christmas Eve. According to a recent survey, lower participation is noticeable in most congregations. For those who invest so much of ourselves to prepare and lead worship services, it can be demoralizing when fewer people participate.

There are many causes for declining attendance, some created by and almost all intensified by the COVID pandemic. So there will be no easy or quick answer to reverse the trend and increase worship participation.

Here's some surprising advice for increasing worship attendance: worship leaders need to plan and communicate better for each worship service. This is one of the most surprising pieces of advice in Overflow: Increase Worship Attendance & Bear More Fruit, a 2013 book by Lovett Weems and Tom Berlin.

In ways we often overlook, our worship services are often disjointed, with pieces that seem to be included randomly. There are last minute announcements. The sermon seems to be about something different than the music and prayers. Technology is haphazard.

Better planning can create better worship services. It also can create more ways for you to share and promote aspects of worship services to attract more people. We will explore this in more detail next month.

The first step, though, is to start planning together. Pick themes for each worship service through Easter. Encourage all those who will participate in the services (preachers, elders, musicians, liturgists, graphics/tech people, etc.) to share ideas, ask questions, and support each other. Easter is coming. Start planning together now!

Don't know where to start? Pick a focus scripture for each upcoming worship servcie.