There’s a lot of thought that goes into designing your weekend experience. Here are a few practical questions to consider as you do:
1. What would it look like for people to respond to God in reaction to your service?
A lot of services at other churches don’t give people an opportunity to engage the message they’ve just heard or the way God is working in the room. We wanted to give people the opportunity to respond in ways that would be meaningful to them. So, we have a response time after the message, when people can get up out of their seats and move around to different stations—a cross, an area to light candles, a place to receive communion, and a place to leave an offering.
We also wanted worship to be very demonstrative, with people responding to God by singing from the heart. So, we release the upcoming weekend’s worship set on Spotify (through The City) so people can be singing the songs all week and be very demonstrative during worship, rather than learning them uncomfortably in the moment.
2. How long do you think your experience should last?
How many songs do you want to do? How long is your ideal sermon? Are there any special elements you want to include? For us, these included our response time, and also a five-minute greet time. (Thirty seconds did not seem long enough to really grow community, but five minutes allows parents to take their children to their area for the remainder of the service but not too long to start to make guests feel awkward.)
Calculate the time each of these elements will take—and don’t forget things like your welcome and transition times.
We decided that eighty minutes was a good length for us. We have a welcome, three songs, greet time, the message, response time, and two more songs. These are the elements that we consider important enough to fit into that eighty minute block.
3. How do you want your experience to end?
This can be the most overlooked part of a weekend experience. You get to the end and the experience just dies. Ask yourself what feeling you want people to leave with. Pastor Mark Driscoll gives a great analogy that all sermons are either funerals (putting to death sin) or weddings (celebrations and victory). We decided to use those metaphors to help us decide how a service should end. After funerals we end with a more subdued tone, and with weddings (which tend to be the bulk of our experiences) we end with fun and happy music. We want people to leave laughing from a final joke or comment and walking with a little pep in their step.
4. Transitions, Transitions, Transitions.
If I could go back and practice something a little more before every experience it would be transitions. Transitions are the glue that holds all the planning and work together. Practice them over and over. Do not let people just wing it.