As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been part of a six member team (and now seven) re-thinking worship at an elderly congregation. One of our insights came to us as we shared about our hopes for worship. "How do we connect our music to the young people?" was one of the questions asked. We had maybe ten junior high and high school youth, and they pretty much checked out during the whole service. They came because their parents were there. It tended to be one of those things they needed to endure. Our worship group naturally wanted to see them involved.
But asking what kind of music should we play asks the wrong question. It has no possible answer... because our churches consist of many age groups and many cultures (not to mention church cultures), and trying to be relevant to each is impossible. It would leave everyone frustrated, as many blended worship gatherings do. The same goes for preaching the relevant sermon, playing the right video clip, or dressing up the announcements. Trying to reach the the audience with the right cultural element when our congregations today share so little of the same culture is an exercise in futility.
Instead of trying to create worship a service for them, in what we perceive to be their culture, the right question to ask is how do we create a space for them to express their own worship to God. We don't need to figure out how to do it to them, if they are doing it for themselves! We create a venue for participation rather than produce a show for them. They are the new creators, the ones we want to see engage at deeper levels. We do it together.
The relevancy issue takes care of itself if people create worship for themselves. In planning for worship, we don't need to strategize every aspect of the service, spend money on demographics, take polls on felt needs, blah, blah, blah. What our congregations really need are deep encounters with God in worship. They experience God when they become active co-producers of worship. Our role as worship facilitators is to create that space for them and with them.
Result? At this particular congregation, the youth now look forward to 'family sunday' - it energizes them, stirs them up, and connects their faith to their everyday reality. It is the one service a month they do not want to miss and they do not soon forget. Not just with the youth, but with the whole church, we became relevant when we gave up on relevance.