When clergy and lay people lead worship is it important that they know who they are and what their role is in leading the community gathered for worship. That is a significant focus in “Leading Worship 101” (IFD 385), a course I lead with lay people in BeADisciple.
Equally important, worship leaders need to know who they are leading. Of course, that includes knowing the specific people who make up the congregation—Harriet, John, Cleo, Clement, and Kelsey. That is, worship leaders need to know who is there. Equally important, they need to know “how” and “why” and “what” of those gathered presence for the weekly service of Word and Table.
How do they think of themselves? Why do they come to worship? What is their understanding of worship?
Here are some possibilities:
• Consumers of religious goods—“I come to get charged up for the week” “I like the sermons—they really give me something to think about” “I just love the music of the choir and the praise band. I get pumped.” “If the services don’t grab me I’m out of here.”
• Automatons—“I come every week without fail” “It doesn’t matter who’s preaching or what happens; I’ll be here.” “I just come in, sit in my pew and go with the flow.” “Worship? I don’t think about it unless they change something. Then I get upset.”
• Seekers—“I am yearning for something more. I am not quite sure what it is, but I’m hungry for God, for something stirring me up in my mind and heart.” “I want to be in touch with something real and alive.”
• Priestly people and missionary people—“I belong to God and I am here to praise and listen and then be let loose to love and care.” “Without worship, I feel like I’ve missed the boat; I yearn for being in touch with the Holy.” “The liturgy shapes my life and redirects my vision and purpose; it breaks me open for service and seeking God’s justice.”
• Can you think of other possibilities and motivations?
Do you recognize any of these in yourself or in others in your congregation?
Here’s a hint: on any given Sunday morning, probably there are some of each these folk in the congregation you will read to, lead in prayer, and serve the Holy Communion. In fact, most of us are a mix of all of these. When I go to worship, the seeker, the automaton, the consumer, and the missionary is present in me. On any given Sunday, you may be present as one or more of these types.
What does each need to experience in worship? How skillful is the team of lay and clergy leaders in your church at engaging people at different places on the journey? What growing knowledge base and skill development would make you a more adequate in making clear the extraordinary treasure we proclaim? (2 Corinthians 4:7)
One thing is for sure. We can’t stop growing in faith, love and capacity to enact and embody the risen Lord who stands among us whenever and wherever people gather to worship. We can rejoice that the church, its colleges, seminaries, and judicatories provide ongoing opportunities to hone our skills and deepen our understandings and appreciation of communicating the gospel in word and sacrament.
Daniel Benedict lives in Hawaii. He is a retired elder (presbyter) in the California Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. For twelve years he served as Director of Worship Resources for The General Board of Discipleship. He is author Come to the Waters: Our Ministry of Welcoming Seekers and Making Disciples and Patterned by Grace: How Liturgy Shapes Us. Daniel also serves as the abbot of the Order of Saint Luke. He has taught several IFD courses including IFD 385 “Leading Worship 101 for Lay People”. Currently, Daniel serves as Ecumenical Associate at The Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew in Honolulu, where he guides the community’s process of making disciples.