by Monty Kelso
Guest columnist Monty Kelso of the Slingshot Group (church staffing and coaching) explores characteristic trends seen in the American Church's worship services over the past year.
Worship Gathering Trends of 2017
On any given weekend, Slingshot Associates (“Slingers”) are on the campuses of some of the healthiest churches in the country. We have a front row seat regarding their successes, failures, and questions. We are honored to speak into the life of each church with great care as we build remarkable teams through staffing and coaching. Our expansive reach into the church allows us to observe the “big C” Church from a vantage point that few people ever experience.
It’s hard to believe we’re almost halfway through this year! As I reflect on all we get to see and experience at Slingshot, I want to share 10 trends that we’ve observed in worship services in 2017:
Trend 1: Community-building efforts within the context of the worship gathering.
In the past, churches have done the 30 second “meet and greet” with the people sitting around them. More churches are now taking an extended time (3-10 minutes) where the church is encouraged to have meaningful conversations with the people sitting near them. One church in downtown Seattle actually puts a ten-minute timer on the screen so that everyone knows how much time they have. This isn’t a trend for every church, but seems to be connecting with churches that attract young adults.
Trend 2: A deliberate focus on human “connectivity.”
In a high-tech, multi-site environment where screens prevail and synchronization is vital, we can easily fall into the “add water and stir” approach to planning and executing a worship gathering. This immediately undermines the uniqueness of the moment, diminishing the real-time experience of recognizing the human and spiritual dynamic of the room. Platform leadership must have the freedom (and time) to sense The Holy Spirit, read the room, and respond to the dynamic of the moment. If every service is exactly the same, we are likely missing out on the remarkable.
Trend 3: Generational consolidation.
This means moving from niche-oriented venues and services to a more universal approach and appeal. Swinging the pendulum from age/demographic divided campuses (Modern Service, Traditional Service, Classic service, etc.) to intentionality in both creating and embracing multi-gen environments. The music content remains modern in overall feel, but stages are becoming more demographically mixed as the young hipsters of a decade ago are now adding children and deeper/broader relationships to their church communities.
Trend 4: A swing back to the future of simplicity and creativity.
Access to downloadable loops, tracks, and teaching resources is amazing. It’s put a new level of worship production within reach of even small churches. But some early adopters who have embraced these resources are now asking, “what’s next?” The predictable “add water and stir” recipe that drives our modern worship sounds are losing their appeal and are close to becoming “white noise.” There is a longing for originality, authenticity, and creativity. And in some cases, churches are adopting a simpler live sound over the otherwise highly-produced, studio sound. This trend is also providing flexibility for worship leaders to be “in the moment” and more responsive to both the Holy Spirit and the people they are leading.
Trend 5: Versatility as the response to a changing human complexion.
Churches that were once thought of as singular in demographic are having to re-innovate and broaden musical style, taste, and creativity like never before. More than one pastor has asked, “Where are all the good songs?” and, “Why does every song sound like a different version of this is amazing grace with a track? We have grown tired of it.” From my seat, this doesn’t appear to be age-driven either. This will take a new era of hard work and diversity of skill on a team.
Trend 6: Story Curation.
Directors of Story are being hired to mine out stories of life change. Stories are considered the greatest apologetic of the 21st century. These are documentary in style and format with an emphasis on quality, requiring both skilled artists and technicians.
Trend 7: “Snackable” content.
A “less is more” understanding of content (written, verbal and video) becomes memorable, shareable, and more conducive to captivating an audience both in a live gathering, as well as on social media.
Trend 8: Post-complex simplicity.
Though service planning, message preparation, and artistic elements may require countless hours of both designing and building, the end result should be grounded in the simple and sensible. If a service element becomes too complex, it will undoubtedly lose its greater appeal to an already desensitized audience.
Trend 9: Tag team leadership.
Especially in worship leadership, the playing field is becoming less about a singular personality/voice and more about a competent combination of talented communicators who connect with a diverse audience. Note: This does not diminish the need for strong platforming talent.
Trend 10: Curation of resources.
A highly-valued staff person is able to creatively curate the resources God has provided within a church community. This “worship curator” is able to steward/assemble/produce a variety of content/story, talent, and creativity in a way that brilliantly leverages the collective resources to facilitate a remarkable “Sunday experience.”
Monty Kelso is a nationally recognized leader and clinician with decades of experience serving the local church. His national network and passion for the church helps keep the Slingshot Group innovative and relational in its solutions and services.