WORSHIP DISASTER & A True Story of the Senior Rebellion – A Leadership Exercise

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 11/10/15.

Here is a humorous story which I received permission to share anonymously.  I hope you enjoy the humor (and can relate to the scenario).

A Leadership Exercise:  

Once you have read the story can you tell what stage and triggers the church encountered (for more on stages and triggers of church polarization click on GROUP EXIT & Preventing Group Exit During Change and Group Exit Articles or see my books “Staying Power” and “Preparing for Change Reaction.”


Subject: Howard’s Worship Disaster

The Mountain Top Church (a pseudonym) desired to attract and maintain young families with children and youth. Understanding that the future of the church was at stake, they decided to introduce a more contemporary worship service. This would include a worship team with guitars, a key board and several singers. We were able to get three people to plan guitars, one lady brought her new keyboard to the service, and we had two other singers. The idea was to “blend” the old with the new. All in all, we had 6 on the worship team, they worked well together and spent plenty of time practicing, and our hopes were high.

When did the mistakes begin? The church board approved the new style and gave the go ahead for this new format, emphasizing that we must also include some of the hymns of the church, as well as the new praise songs. They encouraged the worship team to spend time in practicing and they would begin advertising in the church and community. The mistakes began prior to the implementation of the new format of the service.

What were the primary mistakes, and what should have been done differently? The primary mistake was that, while we did advertise the new format, we did not seek the advice of the seniors. In doing this, they felt left out and were not in favor of this move, which created a whole other set of problems. While we did not need the approval of the seniors, in looking back, I believe that, as the pastor, I could have met with then to explain why we were making the change and how it could be an advantage to the church, both immediately and in the long term. I have to believe that had I spoken to the seniors before hand, this tragedy could have been averted.

What was the aftermath? As we began to implement this new style, we began to sense that the seniors were not happy, they all sat together with a scowl on their faces and refused to sing the choruses. I was okay with this at first, thinking that they needed time to get used to a worship team and the different approach. However, I was very wrong and about the third Sunday into this new format, as the worship team began to sing opening choruses, the seniors began singing a hymn, loudly! I stopped the service, thinking that they didn’t understand where we were, thought that I had things on track and we began again. The same thing happened, this time with the help of the piano player! This went on for three weeks; finally I had to address this problem from the platform. Grateful that there were no visitors, I spoke to the whole congregation, not wanting to single any one person out, telling them that the format was approved by the board and that we would proceed in that direction, incorporating hymns and praise songs within the service. If anyone was not comfortable with the song being sung, they could refrain from singing, but be respectful of those who were singing. To make a long story short, the end result was that all but two seniors left the church, and this left a gaping wound that simple wound not heal.