These are thoughts you never want your members to have about your Sunday service.
You want colour, life, presence, joy, laughter.
Your Sunday service is the primary gathering point for your church. It’s also the number one entry point for new people.
To say it’s important is an understatement.
Therefore, what you must avoid are services that neither exalt Christ or move people closer to Him.
Here are 8 reasons why your services lack punch.
Avoid them like an 8 year old boy avoids a kiss from a girl.
1. Overload of Announcements
I am not a fan of announcements during the Sunday service.
They remind me of cinema advertising.
Have you ever gone to a movie to watch the ads?
They are long gone.
Similarly, on Sunday, churches spend 5 – 10 mins promoting events. Hours are spent on producing video news or designing stimulating graphics.
I will grant you that some church-wide events need platform exposure however I think it can be a lazy way to boost church events and programs.
A good exercise for pastors and teams is to analyse the different channels church members use for communication to focus their promotional efforts.
For instance, Messenger, Instagram, Facebook, text, WhatsApp and email are primary methods of communication today.
How do your members use these methods?
How could connect more effectively through these channels?
2. Not Enough Bible
The Bible changed my life.
Without its wisdom I would have lived a poorer, less purposeful life.
The Bible changes your church.
Without its stories we would not know Christ and His cross.
Without its guidance we wander in the dark like a drunken fool.
Therefore, the Bible must feature prominently in our services. It should be properly utilised during communion, offering talks, worship and preaching.
Preaching without a focus on Scriptures becomes just another Ted talk, relying on humanistic endeavours to move people to change.
Effective Bible-focussed preaching draws people to Christ and the Word of God, giving them a hunger for His word.
I have a personal preference for preaching that is passage based rather than a topical approach that jumps from one text to another.
Why do I prefer this method?
Preaching a passage of Scripture forces the preacher to dig deeper and contemplate the context, the back story not just the topic.
It also demonstrates how people should handle Scripture within its context and with an awareness of the back story.
How much Bible was in your recent sermon series?
How could you raise the prominence of the Bible in your Sunday service?
3. Dearth of prayer
When I consult with church leaders, I ask them: “where do you need to grow?”
The most frequent answer” In my personal walk with Christ.”
During seven years of consulting I’ve discovered that church leaders struggle with prayer.
Prayer is the doorway into relationship with Christ and the anointing we need to serve the Lord. If we are prayerless how will Christ accomplish His work in building the church?
Prayer is also a cornerstone of church life and especially services.
When a pastor is prayerless a congregation will be prayerless.
I visited the stunning Pompei ruins a few years ago.
One thing that struck me were the ruts in the cobblestone roads created by the wheels of chariots and wagons.
The deep grooves were worn into the cobblestones by the daily trekking of merchants, travellers and locals.
Pastors and church leaders must be diligent in building similar grooves of consistent habits of prayer and waiting on the Lord.
Through my Christian life I’ve developed prayer habits that supported me, and enabled me to survive the glorious and horrendous seasons I experienced as a pastor.
My prayer habits are established a round a set time and a set place.
My time is the morning.
My place is in my study.
This routine is ingrained in me. I’ve developed a groove that’s well-worn into my lifestyle.
A lack of prayer will deliver you a service that lacks punch.
4. No Pre-Service Connections
One tactic that healthy churches add to their Sunday routine is multiple pre-service connections.
This has a few elements.
Firstly, offer coffee connect before the service.
People will come early to church if you open your hospitality 30 mins before the service.
It might just a few but that coffee connect moment adds a good vibe to the pre-service.
You can maximise this time by ensuring a pastoral care person is lingering (with coffee) to check in with people, pray for any needs and generally be a shepherding presence.
Second, talk through the run sheet with key people involved in the service.
Pay special attention to transition moments in the service when you move from one key element to the next. Ensure everyone is in unity and is aware of the focal points of the service.
Third, pray. Yes, prayer together is vital. Gather as many volunteers as possible and pray for the service. I prefer to do this in the auditorium for about 10 mins.
Fourth, thank and boost your volunteers. During this prayer time remember to appreciate your volunteers and give them a small pep talk on the why of the service.
5. Rolling Conflict
Disunity and unforgiveness will quench the Holy Spirit faster than the kids will gobble up the desserts at a church potluck.
Lifeway research shows us the devastating impact conflict has on pastors.
Back in the 1970s, our church suffered a fractious split that irreparably damaged lives.
Our Sunday services were chaotic through this period. They became battle grounds for different factions rather than opportunities together as a family.
The crescendo moment was when we arrived at church one morning and the grand piano had disappeared along with a chunk of the congregation.
Paul reminds us to guard the unity created by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:1).
Leaders must actively protect the relational environment in their church otherwise your services will lack punch and repel members and even worse visitors.
6. Pastoral exhaustion
If the pastor is weary and exhausted, Sunday services tend to lack punch.
Every pastor feels tired almost every week so I’m not talking about regulation tiredness but accumulated fatigue.
There are a multitude of reasons why pastors are exhausted:
- ongoing relational conflicts
- lack of personal boundaries
- poor management of days off
- never going on holidays
- ill health
- lack of energising, positive addictions
When a pastor lacks energy, the Sunday service suffers.
There is no simple solution.
Forget that. There is one.
Give your pastor a 4-week break.
It’s a good starting point because restoring their emotional energy and spiritual strength must be a priority even above the Sunday service.
7. Disorganised Leadership
Pastors of small and medium size churches make this repeated mistake.
They hear pastors of large churches talking about a last-minute culture or how they switched things around on Sunday with little notice.
Pastors assume this is how you should operate on a Sunday.
They forget that large churches have multiple layers of staff and teams (read volunteers giving their time freely) to cope with the disorganisation that this style of leadership creates.
I am a fan of keeping leaders on their toes by pulling some surprises, however you must know what your team can cope with before sailing into these waters.
It’s far better to be super organised and then occasionally switch things up than to be a chaotic leader whose last-minute culture is produced by laziness or procrastination.
Organised leaders create calm. They are orderly and purposeful.
8. Sloppy Transitions
Transitions are crucial moments in your service. They can add punch or detract from your focus.
The two primary transitions are from worship to ‘family time’ and then to preaching.
Moving from the worship time to the next segment of what I call ‘family time’. During ‘family time’ we pray, make announcements, cast vision, receive the offering, celebrate occasions and so on.
We then move from ‘family time’ to preaching.
Then there are multiple transitions within these segments.
Sloppy transitions occur for multiple reasons, but they can be avoided.
The first musician mentioned in the Bible is Jubal (Genesis). His name means stream (or flow).
Our services are dominated by music and singing, and I think this concept of the flow of music should be incorporated into our thinking when it comes to the transitions in our services.
What can you do to avoid sloppy transitions?
Pray – soak your transitions in prayer. We soak the other elements of our services in prayer and we should approach our transitions with the same diligence. How many services have been derailed by poorly led transitions?
Holistic – see the service as one entity. Whenever the worship leader, service leader or preacher treat their segment as the standalone main event they neglect to read the mood of the meeting.
Run sheet – a simple run sheet shows clearly what’s coming next and who’s doing it.
Rehearse – rehearse your transitions. Don’t leave them to chance.