The Many Forms of Worship

church-581069_960_720Most of us, when we hear the word “worship,” think of the traditional service that occurs in churches on Sunday morning with formal prayers, organ and choir music, congregational hymn singing, and a sermon by the pastor. However, worship occurs in many different forms.

  • Contemporary worship

The definition of contemporary worship varies but it usually includes modern music such as praise songs with instruments like guitars and drums rather than the organ. Often, contemporary services are thematic rather than following the lectionary. Technology is also in evidence, such as PowerPoint presentations and the use of screens. Rather than the traditional sermon, the message may be communicated through interactive preaching, dialogue, or even discussion in small groups. PRC – Practical Resources for Churches will be presenting a webinar on this topic on Tuesday, February 7, from 7 to 8 PM by Rick Bundschuh, author of Moving Messages. The webinar will be recorded; to attend the live broadcast or view the recording, register by clicking here.

  • Contemplative worship

In contemplative services the congregation quiets themselves in order to open their hearts and minds to God’s presence. Lights are dimmed and there may be a display of candles and icons to contemplate. Silence and meditation are used; communion may be celebrated. Often the structure follows that of the Iona and Taizé communities. For those looking to introduce a contemplative element into their services, check out LEAD’s website, which is offering free print-ready resources for this Lent based on the lectionary. The theme is Let the Living Water Lead Us and includes weekly bulletins with liturgy and prayers, weekly images to color, and prompts for engaging in a simplified form of Ignatian Contemplation suitable for all ages.

  • Blended worship

Large churches may be able to offer a variety of worship forms, either on Sunday morning or other times. Smaller churches might instead offer one weekly service of blended worship, with elements of traditional, contemporary, and contemplative services “blended” into one service. Ancient-future worship and emerging worship services are often blended services. Dr. Marcia McFee, an author, worship designer and leader, advocates for and teaches about sensory-rich worship with something for everyone, no matter what the style. She will be presenting a workshop for PRC on September 30, 2017. More information will be posted on the Workshops page of PRC’s website soon.

  • Targeted audience worship

Worship services may also be intended for a specific audience, such as a Blue Christmas service for those grieving or depressed. There are also healing services, services for specific age groups such as youth and youth adults, multicultural services, and services for the homeless or those with mental disabilities. Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter of the Congregational Church of Patchogue, NY has a series of events that “explores the ‘spirituality’ of select artists, bands and genres whose songs touch the hearts and souls of people in ways that sermons and newsletters might never do.” Offered on Sunday nights, Rev. Wolter finds that those who attend these events have become a “second congregation” at his church. Rev. Wolter recently presented a webinar about “The Spirituality of Popular Music” for PRC; you can view the webinar by clicking here.

  • On the road worship

Churches may take their worship services on the road to nursing homes, college campuses, prisons, or they may hold worship services outdoors or in public spaces. Some churches are combining worship with service projects, either within their church building or outside of it. Taking worship on the road can even include online worship services and virtual reality worship services.

  • Intergenerational worship and eduworship

There is a growing movement to include everyone in worship by adapting adult-centered worship to make it appropriate for all ages. Organizations such as Lifelong Faith Associates offer resources, workshops, and articles related to intergenerational ministry by Christian leaders and authors. Rich Melheim, founder of Faith Inkubators and author/editor of the book Let’s Kill Sunday School (Before it kills the church) suggests that churches move to eduworship, an “intentional blending of education with worship, especially in a Cross+Gen setting.”

For more information about different forms of worship, visit the Webinars and Recorded Webinars pages of PRC’s website to view our many free webinars on the topic.

-Debbie Kolacki


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