The more we talk about multiple worship options (multi-site, -venue and -campus) the more important unity services become. In fact, I have found that unity services can be an important tool in every size of church, but in the largeer church hosting them becomes exponentially challenging.
Finding a facility for a unity celebration is the first big hurdle. For a large church one idea is that perhaps a city auditorium or even a tent is the answer. I know Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa CA grew to over 10,000 in a tent (in sunny So. Cal. 🙂 For medium to smaller churches, it might be a local theatre, community room, or school auditorium.
The second issue might be timing. St. Thomas’ Church in Sheffield England had nine different Sunday worship encounters, each focused on reaching a different culture (Connect = a sub-congregation for young adults, Encompass = several sub-congregations for specific neighborhoods, Expression = a sub-congregation for college students, Radiate = a sub-congregation for young professional adults, Forge = a sub-congregation for inner city poor, etc. – see Whitesel, Inside the Organic Church, 2006, p.6). But, to unite these nine different worship celebrations, St. Tom’s has a united worship expression each Sunday evening at 7 PM. And, each week a different sub-congregation leads the unity service.
The third issue is what is the “goal” or “purpose” of a unity service. Too often unity celebrations seem self-serving, i.e. “Hey, look at our size!” Rather, they should be opportunities for you to accomplish a goal (one church held a unity service to “pray” for 9/11, when it would have been easier to just meet at their various venues). If you can establish a goal that a combined group can address better than smaller individual ones (such as taking a stand on a social issue, etc) then a unity service will make more sense and be better attended.
Next, publicity has to be handled right. The attendees should understand upfront that great hassles will be encountered in a unity gathering due to the combined size factor, the convenience factor (non-convenient times), and the locale factor (not the usual venue).
And finally, a unity service must have success in developing unity among the attendees. Thus this is the time to:
- give your strategic long-term plans,
- to celebrate the mosaic of cultures you have in your church
- and to give people a glimpse of the future.
Usually in such scenarios unity results (after all that’s why we call it a unity service). Remember, as we prepare to measure four types of church growth, one of those types has to do with “growing in unity” (Acts 2:45). The unity service may not be feasible nor desirable everywhere, and it is certainly a challenge to bring off; but if you are measuring your Unity Growth and it is not increasing, then a unity service may be a missing part of your church health puzzle.
In fact, in my book The Healthy Church (2013) I dedicated a whole chapter on ways to turn yearly events into “unity building” events. In fact some of the examples were given by my colleagues and students from around the nation.
In fact, here is that chapter (not for public distribution, so if it helps then consider buying the book). Take a look at some ideas in the attachment.
BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – HEALTHY CHURCH Unity Events