Where to Begin

How do we imagine creative, interactive, participatory, and alternative worship in our own settings?

Integrate participatory ideas into parts of the liturgy where people are already moving.
Getting up and moving around can feel disruptive if worshippers are used to staying seated.  We can use parts of worship where there is already movement:  during entering, at the passing of the peace, when returning from communion, at the sending.

Begin with silent or individual activities.
Posing new activities or questions to discuss can be intimidating, especially for introverts.  Inviting participants to write, doodle, or pray as a response to something new can be a good starting point.

– Engage unused senses.
Worship, like many other parts of life, relies primarily on sight and sound to communicate.  Stained glass, light shows, projector slides, organs, guitars, interludes … we see and hear much of worship.  It can be a beautiful surprise to be asked to engage our other senses.

– Make it easy to understand, easy to participate, easy to “buy in.”
Doing creative things in worship can be intimidating for worshippers who don’t consider themselves “creative.”  Simple activities ease that anxiety.

– Expand on the children’s sermon (if you have one).
Children’s sermons are already a place where we expect the unexpected.  They can be surprising, hilarious, and charming, with that added ingredient of spontaneity and participation.  It’s a great place to begin.

If the children’s sermon precedes the scripture readings, it can call ahead to themes in the stories.  It can be used as an exegetical tool, laying the foundation for the sermon.  For example, if one were preaching on John 1:29-42, we could invite the kids (and their parents and the rest of the congregation!) to listen for when John the Baptist says “Here is the Lamb of God” or “Look, the Lamb of God!”.  When they hear that, they could silently point to images of Jesus around the church (stained glass, wood carvings, the cross).

– Consider your building and your people.
What works for 60 people may not work for 200.  What works in Minnesota may not work in New York or Colorado or North Dakota.  What works in a building with chairs and PowerPoint may not work with pews and stained glass.  And that is perfectly fine.

– Explain, explain, explain.
Disrupting routine, even with a small change, can be disheartening for those of us who rely on ritual as a way of quieting the spirit.  When something new is introduced, be clear in explaining what it is and what it hopes to do — and repeat yourself often.