There are many ways a church can improve the order of service to make it more understandable to visitors. Below are two of my favorites, sent to me from seminar participants. One is from a contemporary church and the other is from a liturgical church. Both have many ideas that can make the impact on and response by visitors very powerful.
Many seminar participants have asked for these and I’ve reprinted them following:
An order of service for a contemporary church:
The following is from an church bulletin for a contemporary, charismatic church. It didn’t assume folks knew anything about what would happen and they explained in in this way:
Our Worship Service: thanks for joining us today! We will begin with about 30-40 minutes of singing. Feel free to sit, stand, sing, dance or just listen as we express our worship to God using all of our heart, mind, soul and body. If you don’t know the songs, hang on, we’ll sing them a couple of times-and don’t worry, we didn’t know them at first either.
The Message: A time of practical teaching from the Bible.
The Offering: This is a time for church members to share with the church financially how God has blessed them. If you are a visitor, don’t feel you have to contribute-the only gift we’d like from you is your Connection Card. Consider this service our gift to you!
Prayer Time: there will be people up front after the service to pray for any needs you may have. Please come up if interested!
Refreshments: Join us for coffee, lemonade and munchies in the lobby after the service.
The above bulletin wasn’t complex or fancy, but a stranger would know what to do and wouldn’t feel awkward.(ed. note: since the book came out, quoting this, a number of churches have used the following statment either on the cover of their bulletin or as a header on the service order page: “Feel free to sit, stand, sing, dance or just listen as we express our worship to God using all of our heart, mind, soul and body”)
Explanations in a liturgical bulletin
This style of service has it’s own challenges. Though many in many Lutheran churches and in churches with a similar worship style, have the words of the service printed out, a person who did not grow up in the tradition may not have any idea the meaning of what they are reciting.
As a solution to help visitors feel welcome, some churches provide a running commentary down the left-hand margin of the bulletin that explains what is happening. Below is an example.
On page one this bulletin had the traditional headings of Invocation, Confession and Absolution and Introit of the Day. To the left of each of these sections were the following explanations:
“Invocation” means “calling on” and here we call on the Lord’s presence.
In the “Confession” we name our sins silently before the Lord and accept responsibility for the harm they have caused in our relationships with God and each other.
In the “Absolution” the Lord speaks through the office of pastor to apply the forgiveness Jesus won for us on the cross to us in a personal and public way. (John 20:23).
“Introit” mean’s “entrance” in Latin. Now that we have been washed clean of our sins the pastor enters into the altar area. The Introit usually comes from a Psalm.
This bulletin continues in this way and provides excellent help in understanding for a visitor. Every church has terms that might not be familiar. Take time to explain them and it will do more to market your church positively than an expensive billboard on the freeway.