WORSHIP & #SundayChurchHacks: Some mid-tempo songs work best in large environments, but not so well in smaller churches. The energy created by a large crowd enhance mid-tempo songs with a liveness because of the experience of an assembled multitude singing together. But in smaller venues more up-tempo songs will be needed to create a liveness and experience for a smaller assembly of worshipers. Song selection should consider which songs best connect to the size of the gathering too.

See the video of the song The Passion by Hillsong Music. It is clearly anointed. And the lead worshiper crying out above the singers, captures the sense of a large cloud of witnesses singing praise.

But sometimes worship leaders, seeking to be faithful to the original recorded in a large auditorium, will cry out above the singers. But this can feel inauthentic because of the smallish size of the crowd assembled.

When choosing worship songs, look to tempos, styles and musical arrangements that have worked best in the past in connecting with your unique audience culture. Don’t necessarily replay earlier songs. But look for common personalities in the songs and wed them with the personality of your congregation (note: each worship service probably has its own unique worship personality).

Here is a helpful chart of the most common tempo markings (with bpm) and definitions from a previous article:

  • Prestissimo (> 200 bpm) very very fast
  • Presto (168 – 200 bpm) very fast
  • Allegro (120 – 168 bpm) fast
  • Moderato (108 – 120 bpm) moderately
  • Andante (76 – 108 bpm) walking pace
  • Adagio (66 – 76 bpm) slow and stately
  • Lento/Largo (40 – 60 bpm) very slow
  • Grave (20-40 bpm) slow and solemn

For more details, see my full article for Biblical Leadership Magazine.

LIGHTING & Today’s #SundayChurchHacks: Ensure the front lighting is not too high above the speaker. If the front lighting is too high, it will create dark holes where there should be the speaker’s eyes.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/5/21.

High ceilings force churches to often hang their front stage lights too high. The result is that the preacher, who is usually trying to convey a message with his or her facial expressions, will appear to have black holes for eyes.

Here is a client church that has improved its front lighting (though even a bit higher might be ideal).

Here is how to fix it:

  1. Evaluate your recorded “on demand” streaming videos.
  2. Make notes when eyes are visible and when they are black holes.
  3. Lower your front lighting, options include:
    • Hang lights to the front of a balcony
    • Lower your ceiling lights with pipe, cabling, etc.
    • Add a light tree in the auditorium,
      • In a place that does not interfere with sight-lines.
      • Sometimes it can be added near the camera operator’s position.
  4. Practice raising your head, if none of the above options are viable.

Preachers and worship leaders spend many hours preparing to communicate God’s Word. But as a church, we may not be spending as much time ensuring that the speakers/musicians’ stage presence communicates as well.

#SundayChurchHacks Sunday Church Hacks

WORSHIP & #SundayChurchHack: When worship leaders begin a service, they can be feeling a sense of uncomfortableness, even stage fright. As they open in prayer, it’s often not very focused. Instead have another church leader prepare to pray in the spirit of Psalm 8, 40, 145, or 146.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel, 2/6/22. 

While observing hundreds, if not thousands, of worship services I’ve noticed that the beginning of the service sets a tone and direction for what follows. Sometimes called the opening prayer or the call to worship, it is often the worship leader who utters this. But, I’ve noticed that many times they seem less than focused and even nervous when doing so. This may be the result of working on the music more than on the words with which they’ll to utter to launch the service. This is especially true in non-liturgical churches where the worship leader often begins the service from the platform by offering a prayer. It is this prayer that I have found to be less than focused on a recurring basis.

Subsequently, it’s may be better for church leaders and/or worship leaders to designate someone else to deliver the opening prayer. The opening prayer should be a joyous entrance into worship. It should be uplifting, heavenly focused and inspire exhalation.  

Inspiration can come from psalms such as Psalm 80, 40, 145 and 146 (see below). Even if the opening prayer is pre-written and/or in a liturgical format, the person delivering the prayer can meditate upon such psalms before hand. This can put them in the right frame of mind to deliver a biblical call to worship.

The psalmist says:

“LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” – Psalm 8:9

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.” – Psalm 40:3

PREACHING & #SundayChurchHacks: Don’t just use slides on a screen, people better remember what they see written. When you preach/teach also use a whiteboard, etc. that allows you to write drown important points in front of the audience.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Communication researchers have long known that watchers will retain more of what a speaker is saying, if he or she writes writes something down in front of viewers. Audience retention increases when something is written done on a whiteboard or large tablet, rather than just projecting the words on a slide on a screen via PowerPoint, Keynote or ProPresenter. While interactive whiteboards even allow your written points to be preserved online, writing on a temporal tablet (non-electronic whiteboard, blackboard, etc.) will force the audience to watch more closely, to interact with you and to write down the points as you write them. This communication enhancement is equally effective onsite as well as online.

Do an online search and you find a myriad of products that can help almost any size church improve the retention of what is being preached/taught (see a few examples below).

A. Clear boards

https://www.displays2go.com/Guide/How-to-Choose-a-Whiteboard-4
https://vault50.com/alternatives-to-whiteboards-top-5-office-classroom-use/

https://vault50.com/alternatives-to-whiteboards-top-5-office-classroom-use/

https://vault50.com/alternatives-to-whiteboards-top-5-office-classroom-use/

STREAMING & #SundayChurchHacks: Stream your services so viewers can watch them on their TVs, not just on their computers.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Do you have a vision of people gathering around a computer screen and watching a church’s worship service? Have you tried it? It works, but some of the power and majesty can seem minimized by a minimal screen. Most would agree this experience would be enhanced by gathering around a larger screen such as a household TV.

Recently, an ice storm made the roads impassable in our area. We began watching our local church online, before realizing our FireTV device might make it easier to participate via a larger household TV. After searching on YouTube for our church, we found that among the (probably) hundreds of congregations with similar names as our church, only a dozen or so offered live streaming on YouTube.

Too often when choosing a streaming platform churches opt for computer-focused streaming options. Instead, to increase your outreach:

  1. Investigate and then use platforms (e.g. YouTube Live, etc.) that allow your services to be easily watched on viewers’ larger screen TVs.
  2. Explain on your webpage how to access the services on larger screen TVs.

NEEDS OF GUESTS & #SundayChurchHacks: Before and/or after worship services set up tables in your gathering spaces with signage inviting attendees to meet others with similar hobbies & interests. Guests will find people like themselves.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I heard about a church that offered tables in their foyer with signs above each with the names of various hobbies. The tables had titles above them such as: gardening, fishing, traveling, etc. including many actives popular in the local community. The result was that people didn’t shuffle out of the church with comfortable smiles and nods to others. Instead, those who felt passionately about an interest found others with whom then could share that interest and begin building a relationship.

Create opportunities for guests to not just learn about the church through pamphlets and bulletins, because it is even more important to help guests start deeper relationships which will lead to friendship, interdependence and discipleship.

#SundayChurchHacks, Bob Whitesel DMin PhD

#SundayChurchHacks

WELCOME & # SundayChurchHacks: Don’t exaggerate for online viewers, the size of an onsite audience. Leaders can make it seem that there are hundreds in attendance, when there may be dozens. This creates dismay & disappointment when an online viewer visits in person.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Part of my ongoing research is to visit churches online before I visit them in person to evaluate the online perception versus the onsite reality. One of the greatest discrepancies is in the number in attendance.

Charles (Chip) Arn, a writer, colleague and friend, told me about his experience attending a megachurch with a famous TV ministry that had now shrunk to a few hundred attendees. He noted, “They acted like they were still on TV with thousands in attendance. It not only made me uncomfortable and it gave the impression that they were untrustworthy. They should be themselves.” I noted that, “honesty is what will grow a church, not deception.”

Don’t exaggerate the size of an onsite audience for online viewers. Some leaders make it seem that there are hundreds in attendance, when there may be dozens. This will create dismay and disappointment when an online viewer visits in person.

Sunday Church Hack: When you are streaming, there are hundreds and could be thousands watching. Accept it, pray for them … but don’t hype it.

#SundayChurchHacks

WORSHIP & #SundayChurchHacks: The worship singers should be skewed toward the age group you are seeking to reach. Nonetheless, they also should be skilled.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I regularly evaluate online and onsite worship services for clients and colleagues. A reoccurring experience is when a skilled worship leader is backed by supporting vocalists who have been faithful churchgoers for some time. However, if you are trying to reach younger generations (see the list of generations here and here) you should include backup singers from missing generations too.

Yet don’t err on the side of participation, and ignore skill. In many churches there is a community music leader, e.g. current or former school music teacher, etc. that can help. Seek out these musical coaches and ask them to work with your supporting vocalists, relieving the music director of having to work with novice vocalists.

Regarding getting younger people involved, see the chart below for the generational names and years (in addition, you will find an explanation of “Early Boomers,” “Generation Jones,” “Generation Alpha” and “Generation Beta” here).

Following the “Millennials” born between 1982 and 2009, the next two generations are now “Generation Alpha” from 2010 to 2024 & “Generation Beta” from 2025 to 2039. 

(chart retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/03/here-is-when-each-generation-begins-and-ends-according-to-facts/359589/)

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & #SundayChurchHacks: As a staff, review together the previous weekend’s streamed service. When all leaders are involved, corrections can be made quickly. Remember, missteps can inadvertently give online attendees a sense of being overlooked, if not second-class.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: As part of most consultations I analyze the online and onsite services. I then provide a confidential report to the senior leader or executive leadership team. On many occasions I find that online services have become an afterthought, inadvertently giving online attendees a less than fulfilling experience.

Solution:

Each week as a staff, review the previous weekend’s streamed service. Often churches use videos to augment the sermon and worship. Unfortunately, many times the videos are not viewable online. This inadvertently gives online attendees a sense of being overlooked, if not second-class. Such missteps can easily be overcome by a weekly staff review of the streamed service. And if all leaders are involved in the review, corrections can be made quickly.

For more Sunday Church Hacks:

SUNDAY CHURCH HACKS & On your onsite and online “communication card” start by asking for prayer requests (rather than asking the person for contact information). Contact info can follow, but show the person you are putting their needs first, rather than a need for information.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Hurting people who are seeking you out, may not yet be ready to share identifiable data. On your “connection card” (virtual or hard copy) do not require …

  • phone numbers
  • email addresses
  • physical addresses
  • even names

You can ask for this information, but do not make it required (usually identified by an asterisk “*” .

Click on the picture below to enlarge an example from a client. This example includes changes to make a communication card more focused on the needs of others.

#GuestServices101 #ChurchGuests101

STREAMING & #SundayChurchHacks: Make sure links on your #streaming page open in another tab and do not stop the streaming. See this example …

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Watching a client’s streaming today, I noticed three nicely placed buttons that say …

Clicking on any of the three boxes above results in ending the streaming playback and exiting to another webpage. This would be analogous for someone in a face-to-face service taking a “connection card” and starting to fill it out; only to have the entire worship service stop, the preacher stop preaching and everything put on hold until the attendee has finished filling out the connection card.

The solution is to have:

  • A “feedback” button where people watching the streaming service can give you input.
  • Ask your staff and leaders to semi-regularly watch the service online to stop such missteps.

For more ideas about communicating in the new reality of the eReformation, see the book:

STREAMING & #SundayChurchHacks: Check your streaming webpages early every Sunday to ensure they are ready to stream. This church’s streaming page was empty, up to & through the beginning of the service. Plus, add links on your streaming page to FaceBook and YouTube streams of your live worship (though their menu was truncated).

Even this client church, that has done remarkably well hosting online services, left many viewers without a worship opportunity.

Thankfully, the links to their FaceBook and YouTube streaming (in the top menu) added work around options for the technologically inclined.

STREAMING & one of today’s #SundayChurchHacks: Have a “trouble shooting FAQ” button w/ a list of common video problems. While analyzing a client the streaming feed quit. Other online attendees (the chat room still functioned) figured out a work around. But some of us lost 10+ minutes.

See more ideas in the chapter: “Best practices in streaming services” in Growing the Post-pandemic Church.

COMMUNICATION & Today’s #SundayChurchHacks: When you’ve been away (but still watching online) don’t say ‘It is good to be back’ from the stage when you return in person. It makes the online congregation feel second class. Instead say, “It is good to be with you again this week.”

Read about innovative strategies in Growing the Post-pandemic Church.

CULTURAL RESPECT & Today’s #SundayChurchHacks & If you are leading a traditional service – wear clothes that honor their traditions, not clothes from your culture. A worship service is not the place to create cultural acceptance (though laudable), but a place to minimize cultural differences and increase focus heavenward.

Today I have been engaged to analyze a traditional worship service. And, it is an exceptionally anointed and well organized worship expression. However, when leaders of the contemporary service participated in the traditional service they wore clothes representing their culture.

There is nothing wrong with this, but it can distance you from your listeners. This is because each culture has what Paul Hiebert (Cultural Anthropology) describes as aesthetic “products” or expressions of dress that show reverence for their culture.

While many leaders want to stretch congregants’ acceptance of other cultural norms, during worship is not usually the place. The word “worship” means to intimately draw close to God. A worship service is not the place to create cultural acceptance (though laudable), but a place to create minimize cultural differences and increase focus heavenward.

STREAMING & Today’s first of our #SundayChurchHacks – Musicians should be careful when moving about the stage during the videotaping of services. Forced-perspective makes those behind the speaker seem closer and their movement more distracting.

Forced-perspective will make objects in the background look closer. To avoid distractions, be aware of this phenomenon as you film your worship services. Below is an example about how making objects in the background look closer is used routinely in movies.

Courtesy of https://nofilmschool.com/Elf-Forced-Perspective-Effects

STREAMING & #SundayChurchHacks – Ensure you have a pastor interacting in the “chat room” of your streaming worship. A technician might be tasked and capable. But ensure it is someone with pastoral skills. Ck out this example.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Online guests can have a more interpersonal experience if they can dialogue with others before, after and when appropriate during an online service. But, there should be a pastoral “moderator” who can answer questions, guide and encourage. Here is how one church does it, by utilizing an “online campus pastor.”

STREAMING & #SundayChurchHacks – When streaming services, don’t require phone numbers and/or email addresses for people to register their presence (like the example pictured).

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Worship registration “templates” often ask for too much information than visitors to your online service may be ready to give. Check your online registration site and ensure that phone numbers and email addresses are optional, not required like the example below. This example, from a client church that is making great strides in becoming visitor focused, was unaware it had this requirement.