Churches are always looking for ways to make their worship “better,” whatever that means. But we often think that means spending money, or working to make people happier about worship. Actually, there are several basic things that, when done well, make our worship services rise beyond our expectations and the expectations of our congregation. In this article, I will deal with one key action that can be enacted in multiple ways, all working toward achieving the same key goal – accessibility!
When Churches Do This, Worship Can Be Amazing!
This is making your worship accessible despite the physical limitations your congregation may have. Examples include:
- Assisted hearing devices-electronic or using a sign language interpreter in ADA compliant sanctuaries.
- Serving those who cannot come forward, especially if coming forward is a part of a worship action, like communion or the offering.
- Providing a genuinely welcoming atmosphere to those who struggle physically. We ask people to stand or sit for periods of time that extend past where they are comfortable.
You would think that this would be a given, but think again. There are many ways our songs are not accessible to everyone:
- The songs are always in a terrible key for congregational singing (too high/low).
- No one knows the new song and no time is spent teaching it.
- The melodies or words are very complicated and/or difficult.
- The arrangements are long, repetitive, or complicated.
- The worship leader and/or band are the only ones who actually like the music (that one happens more often than you might think).
What can you change to make your music selections more accessible for singing by everyone?
You are conducting the service in the language of your congregation, so how can this not be accessible?
- Are you speaking in the actual language of your neighbors, or just the people who drive from wherever they may live to come to your church? Hint: Outreach?
- Do you only speak in Christianese? What about unchurched or nominally churched people who may be there? Would it surprise you to learn that most long-time Christians don’t understand as much as half of what is said from the platform or the pulpit?
Worship is all about participation. When people just come and sit and never get to participate, then your worship is not truly accessible.
- Design opportunities for participation, and then give the instructions necessary for people to actually participate.
- Let those who are physically challenged come up on the platform and lead when possible.
- Use volunteers more often and in greater leadership roles.
Sure, Sunday mornings is the “traditional” time for worship, but what about those for whom Sunday morning is impossible? In today’s world, people work all of the time. If there is a need for a non-traditional worship time, is your church prepared to meet that need? The church is here to provide worship opportunities to the Body of Christ. Is it possible your church could be more accessible in the times worship is offered?
Let’s face it, while print media will always have a place in our world, the printed word on paper is no longer the dominate way people engage with information. Is your church making the words and the Word accessible to all?
- Could you provide suggestions on good Bible apps at all price points?
- Do you use video in your services? YouTube has become the “go-to” place for learning. Could you incorporate videos to be a larger part of your service?
- Pastors love to use media references in their sermons. However, what decade are your references from? Are you sure everyone in the room has seen that movie or TV show you just quoted? Hint: If it was in black and white, probably not!
- People are glued to their media devices. They engage with them more than anything else these days. Using those devices in creative ways to encourage participatory worship could be the key to getting your congregation closer to God.
Are you doing anything to make people more accessible to each other in worship? The standard today is little-to-no interaction outside one’s immediate circle of family and friends. However, congregational worship is about the “interdependence” of the Body on one another. Design ways to help your church interact with each other.
- A positive example would be to pray together and for each other.
- A negative example is, “Turn to your neighbor and say. . .” Literally, there is nothing they can say which would make this a good idea in today’s culture.
These are a few ideas on how to make the worship offerings in your church more accessible to all. Maybe you can think of some more. Think about the worship in your church and decide what you can do to make it more accessible.