The Myth of a Successful Blended Worship Service

The goal of a worship service is to provide and environment for people to connect and worship God. The goal of the worship leader would be to provide the best opportunity for this to happen in a given service or setting. Right or wrong this tends to revolve around music style. Right or wrong people tend to gravitate towards church services based on music style. So what is a church and worship leader to do? Some churches split services based on music style to offer options based around it; a traditional service for those who like hymns, a contemporary service, a modern service, coffee house service and so on. Some churches say “this is who we are” and have only one style of music. Some churches attempt a blended service which does it’s best to cover a wide range of musical styles in one service.

At Grace Church I think the best way to describe the past few years of musical style would be blended. And I think we did a very good job with a blended service, in fact we still do I would say. But does that make it a successful blended worship service? If the goal is to have everyone connect with God during worship then it’s probably not as successful as other services. I mean let’s be honest, a Blended Worship Service is really just a pacifier service. It’s got just enough of a music style to tick people off rather than allow them to drop their guard. An over-exaggerated example would be imagine transitioning from a traditional “It Is Well With My Soul” to “Salvation is Here” or a similar mix – half the congregation has hands raised for the hymn and promptly puts them down as the other half raises hands and begins to worship as the other half begins to watch. Now that is an over-exaggeration for sure but you can see my point I hope. You want people to be able to worship at all times (editor’s note – it is just about every worship leaders pet peeve that people can only worship to “their” type of music – it is a choice to worship not a recreational activity).

The thing I don’t like about catering to music styles is the lack of community that is created when you divide people into music groups. As worship leaders we must, MUST do our best to teach and lead people and not simply cater to them. Worship should be a journey that has no definitive destination (there is no right or wrong music style pertaining to worship).

What I do hope to see is that in styled services worship leaders are able to introduce more contemporary listeners to the great traditional (sung theology) hymns. There are many great contemporary remakes of beautiful hymns. At the same time I hope that those more inclined to traditional hymns can be introduced to the wonderful modern day hymn writers.

I am thinking out loud here. What do you think? Can you successfully span the chasm from traditional to modern (without modern remakes of traditional songs)?

NathanSutliff

He's a nice guy

7 comments

  1. rectagon   •  

    If a church is even having the debate about contemporary/traditional…. etc… it is a sign of immaturity. Those who are called to minister must operate from their strengths. The reality is that only larger churches even have the ability to do anything about their “style”. Small churches can only dance with the girl that brung them.

    • Nathan Sutliff   •     Author

      But that girl that brung them does have the ability to continue to grow into that nose and those ears. ha ha. It’s a valid argument. I agree that there is immaturity within the debate itself but not sure I am as willing to call it a sign of an immature church. Even large and mega-churches at some macro-leve have style discussions. Yes our consumeristic American culture has made our church experience more of a “product” than what it should be and ultimately I think that is where we find the root of this conversation. But if a church continually does the same thing over and over we tend see a trend of diminishing growth and eventually a church dying out. Ministers must operate from their strengths but also, I feel, help lead the congregation to a deeper relationship with Christ and at times that may involve moving from point A to B and other times growing where the roots are planted.
      Good points man I appreciate them.

  2. Tom Rowell   •  

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with different styles of music. Let’s be honest music has the ability to change people’s moods and their hearts. Music is powerful and some music reaches some people on a different level. I attend a contemporary church that strives to be a coffe shop feel. I personally can’t stand the music or the decor. I much prefer the youth worship as it’s more fast paced and my style. The style of music inspires me to praise and worship in different ways. One style of music may have a different effect on another person. There is nothing immature about the style of music you like. You like that style of music because of the way your spirit moves when you hear it.

    I think it’s immature to think the church should be homogenized and the members should be indifferent to how they want to praise God. God inspired man to make many styles of music for a reason. I mean do we really even need music? We can praise god without it. right? We can even praise God without a church. Yet we have a church and we have music because God has provided it. Praise and worship should transcend everything. As it turns out humans are inspired by music and places and this inspiration causes some to praise God for the experience.

    • NathanSutliff   •     Author

      I couldn’t agree more that our worship is far beyond the music, the building and style of our music. And like you I think that people get too hung up on those particulars and miss the true reason we gather. I can get caught up in trying to keep things fresh, new and moving a certain direction. At the same time people in general get caught up in personal preferences versus just worshipping. I still personally love what has been termed blended services. The variety brings freshness and different ways of experiencing God that a more homogenized service just can’t. But I don’t know how many times i get the comment of that was a nice song you should do more like that cause that’s what “we” want versus you know that’s not my preference but worship today really felt spirit driven keep it up. And while I agree it is an immature conversation to have, I have them more than I would like to admit.

  3. Trent DeJong   •  

    I’d like to suggests something under the heading of selection. We need to sing songs that help worshipers experience TIME more fully. We have adopted a “secular” view of time that Praise and Worship songs can feed. I suggest that our selection lead worship to “higher times.” I explain more fully here: http://trentdejong.com/?p=959

  4. Willie   •  

    I play acoustic guitar in the worship band in our church. We are a rural church with both old and young members. Our band ranges in age from early twenties to sixties. I’m pushing 60 myself. I love the old hymns (that’s what I grew up on), but I also love the modern worship songs that are being written now. Our church previously had a very traditional worship service, with a worship leader and sometimes a choir accompanied by a piano and organ or occasionally a song track. They used mostly hymns or older choruses. About 3 or so years ago, we formed a worship band consisting of bass, drums, 2 acoustic guitars, clavinova, and electric guitar that accompanied 3 singers. We used mostly modern worship songs and a few hymns. We alternated Sundays with the worship leader/choir, which resulted in two very different services. Beginning in August of this year, our pastor wanted to combine the two teams so our worship services would be more consistent from week to week. So our organist switched to clavinova (our original clavinova player didn’t really feel comfortable playing keys, so she was relieved at this new development. She is one of the singers and likes that better anyway). The pianist and worship leader were added to the band. We usually do about an equal number of hymns and modern worship and it seems to work out pretty well. Surprisingly, the older people in the church seem to support the blended worship better than the younger ones. I’ve heard almost nothing but compliments from the older folks, but some of the younger people tell me that they wish we would do more of the modern worship, rather than the hymns.
    I agree worship style shouldn’t have anything to do with worshipping our awesome God, but churches are made up of people of all levels of spiritual maturity. Also, worship is not only a head thing, but a heart thing and if the truth were known, we all probably have our preferences of worship styles. I can honestly say that there are some songs that move me to tears at times and other songs that really don’t speak to me much at all. On the other hand, when I make a conscious decision to worship God anyway, my heart usually follows my head. I don’t know think there’s an easy answer. As someone said to me recently, “Personnel management would’t be so hard if you didn’t have to deal with people!” :-)

  5. Colton D   •  

    I’m 23, grew up in small traditional churches. I love the hymns and wouldn’t have it any other way. However, I love Christian music and of course contemporary, ranging all the way from Michael Card to dc Talk.

    1st, I always listen to the song being sung and ask, “Did they write the awesome music and THEN string together some words?” Or “Why is she trying to sound sexy?”

    Of course, this is hardly the case in our topic of contemporary in church, so…
    2nd of all, I look at the point of the song chosen to be sung. I don’t like praise & worship bands or even choirs that tend to “hog” the worship time or sing hard to sing stuff, when the audience is not able to sing along. Sorry, but if I’m apart of the congregation I want to easily sing and worship. It’s not a concert. Becoming entertainment is dangerous. Why is there a praise & worship band? What is their true motive? Is it a concert?

    Let’s say there are no problems with anything. Moving on. 3rd, why aren’t we singing hymns? Or contemporary? If one of them doesn’t move you because the “old way is lame and boring and slow” or the “new stuff is rock n roll”? The problem in our new age of contemporary is that young people listen to Toby Mac because he’s cool (NOT A KNOCK ON HIM AT ALL), but wouldn’t listen to Michael Card because he’s outdated (not always the case of course). My younger sister loves the new Newsboys but doesn’t like them when they had Peter Furler. Why? He wrote both songs… we’re in an age where it’s “entertain me” and “I want to have a good time”, forgetting the true meaning of worship. Then there are your older folk, who sees anything that has a drum set in it as sin (exaggerating). Just because aunt Betsy only listened to the hymns doesn’t make modern songs less powerful or God-inspiried.

    We do contemporary/modern songs in various ways at our church. We only use the piano/organ or guitar/banjo, depending. We neither have the size of the church nor the talent needed for a praise team, but I don’t see why one is needed. In my own opinion, what does having a Bassist do for our congregations worship experience? To each their own. It all depends onwhy you are singing. I can lead a hymn and not be in the mood to sing that day and it does just as much damage if I danced to “Jesus is Just Alright” in front of my extremely traditional church. The question you must ask in any situation is, “What are we doing?”

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