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General Service Training

Holding Weekly Services - Protestant Style
by Rev. D. E. Hickman

This article is designed to help you in the planning of regular weekly services. You should remember that planning is important not only for the service, but also in your preparation prior to the service. Do not wait until the night before to write your sermon or find a scripture reading. As the Pastor (even if only as a guest Pastor) it is your job to make sure that the service serves the congregation and follows the weekly plan as closely as possible. Confusion up front causes distraction and unrest in the congregation. You are the guiding force when you step up to the Pulpit and all eyes will be on you to lead the flock.

Basic outline of a weekly service:
Opening the doors in the morning and greeting those that would worship with you this day.
Hospitality time.
Call to service.
Opening music, either by choir or congregation.
Opening prayer.
Youth sermon.
Scripture reading.
Sermon.
Music or singing.
Offering and offering prayer.
Call to testify or personal prayer (best accompanied with music or singing).
Music or singing.
Announcement.
Closing prayer.
Benediction.
Music while Minister retires to back to thank members for coming.
You are not done yet!

Return to the office to handle collection and attendance with appropriate members.
Take a personal moment to reflect and make any notes of items mentioned as people were leaving such as illness in the family or other items that need attention.
Walk through the church to be sure everyone has finalized any extra duties and remember to thank them for the additional help. Even paid employees appreciate a word of thanks for doing their jobs.

This is one of the harder articles to offer as there are as it seems there are as many forms of weekly services as there are religions and variations to the religious beliefs.

First, I will start with one of the most common schedules of the average small church. Later, we will look at some of the variations used in larger Evangelist programs seen on TV and often used at revivals. The small church, parish or ministry is still the most often developed program today, in that we start our church or ministry with a few members and expand from there.

As we enter many churches for weekly services, we normally find one or more people waiting at the door to greet members and new friends as they join us for service. The Greeters can often set the opinion of the new worshiper as well as members that do not attend regular. The Greeter should be pleasant and warmly welcome the new visitor without being overbearing. They should be neat, but not heavily perfumed. It is polite for the Greeter to introduce themselves and ask the new visitors name if not a person they are familiar with.

Often, the Minister will fill the position as Greeter, but remember that when filling both positions, to have a second person on hand, so that you as Minister have a minute or two before services start to prepare. Usually, it is best for the Minister to be close, but not the official Greeter. Some churches have the Ushers fill a dual role as Greeter and at the same time lead the folks to seating. Whoever is appointed will be very important in how your Church or Ministry is perceived. The Greeter should be reminded as well not to make cynical remarks to those that do not attend regular. Making someone feel uncomfortable at the door will cause him or her to have second thoughts about returning for future services.

Years ago. I returned to visit the church I grew up in after living out of the area. The Greeter did not offer to shake my hand, nor to welcome me as someone worthy of their attention. Instead, I received a comment something to the effect that the roof must be ready to fall in from waiting my return. This came from a person that I vaguely knew, someone that should not have been given such an important role as they overstepped familiarity. My first emotion was surprise, followed by irritation for such a comment. If they had known me by more than face they would have known I lived over 100 miles away, which is beside the point as their function is to greet and not to attack what they consider to be a non-regular.

By making poorly thought out comments, as mentioned above, my revisit to the old church was no longer a reunion, but a status statement of the Greeter. The same feelings are created when the Greeter looks disdainfully at a person's attire or grooming. If the new visitor or the old member feels attacked at the door they will feel guarded in their worship with the congregation as a whole. As the leader of the church or the appointed person in charge of Greeters and Ushers, it is your job to appoint people that will serve the church and not their own opinions.

After the Greeter has made the members and visitors welcome, and not otherwise, we next need to bring them either to a place in the Chapel. Or possibly, if there is time to bring them to the Hospitality area for possibly a beverage and the chance for other members to introduce themselves and make everyone feel as welcome as if they had returned to their own loving family. Your congregation should be just that. A loving congregation of brothers and sisters coming together to worship and share faith that all may prosper in spiritual wellbeing and love. Now we know that this is not always the way things work. But again the Ushers and Greeters can make this easier for the new visitors and members as well by expressing good emotions and outlook.

Now is the time to bring the congregation to the service. Have the Ushers start to move the people to chairs or pews before the appointed moment of beginning the service. For the churches that have a bell, now is the time to ring it to show service has commenced. This is often the time that the Minister will quietly make his or her way to the Pulpit. As the last bong of the bell subsides, the Minister or perhaps an associate lay person will often step forward and lead the congregation in song. Pick a song that is uplifting and full of spiritual good will to set the emotions to a positive feeling.

Now that the service has begun, it is common for the Minister or perhaps someone picked from the congregation to offer a prayer of thanks. I suggest that you use the youth of your church to help in this area. A Boy Scout working on a religious badge, a member of the youth group, perhaps a member of the choir or someone wishing to become a minister. By sharing the Pulpit with members of the congregation you make the congregation an actual part of the service and not simply an audience waiting for a good show.

At this point in the service, some churches will offer a special youth sermon to the smaller members of the congregation brought together in an appointed pew or seating arrangement. The sermon will be presented in a manner and vocabulary that the young folks can understand, as well as relate to. This sermon should not be long or taxing on the children, but should allow them to feel part of the congregation as a whole and special at the same time. This is a very good place to use associate Ministers or young adults wishing to work with children.

Once the children have returned to their normal seats, we often find that this is an excellent place to have another song. Remember that singing wakes the mind and gets the body moving so that old Uncle Joe doesn't fall asleep and to get the congregation involved.

Now we move forward into scripture reading based in the book of your particular faith. The scripture reading presented should be one that coincides with the sermon you will present. If you take the scripture reading away from the ideals of the sermon you will cause confusion in the congregation. Do not read how Jesus tossed the moneychangers out of the temple and then preach on tithing. Do not offer a reading on topics that have little or no bearing to the sermon, as this will make folks lock into one frame of thought and miss what you wish to share this week. Keep the reading down to a few verses or a chapter at best. Take time to read slowly and share insight of what is being shared in the scriptures. This is not a time to offer a marathon reading of an entire book or Gospel, but to offer a small reading and its meaning in the service. Now is also the time to have the congregation join in the Lord's Prayer or the Nicene Creed if your faith uses these forms of recitals. Several churches use both prayers and separate them with one now and the second possibly right after the sermon as a way of closing that portion of the service.

Depending on the attitude of your elders or church board, some churches will after the reading take time to pass the offering plates while other churches prefer to wait until after the sermon. This will be up to you and your church leaders to determine as to when to ask for tithes or donations. Some churches go for the money before the service starts, but I believe they miss the value of waiting until after the sermon. Now I realize the collection offering is an important function of continuing the operations of the church, but again if you use the wrong readings prior to collection you can actually cause a reduction of donations which in turn limits the ability to provide services. I prefer to hold offering until after the sermon, as this will often increase the amount some will give.

Now is the time for you to shine. You have taken time before the service to make notes or crib sheets to guide you, but the moment is at hand for you to share your thoughts, opinions, understandings and knowledge with the congregation. As the Minister you will take center stage, so to speak, and impart your sermon to the masses. What you say and how you share your sermon will directly effect each member of the congregation in one way or another. If you preach Hell fire and Brimstone, do it with the appropriate attitude. If you are sharing God's love, do so with feeling. If you are discussing enlightenment or some other subject, do so with the proper conviction of faith and in a way that keeps the congregation's attention.

Be aware of the time involved in making your statement. Many Ministers will try to hold the sermon between 8 and 12 minutes to avoid losing the attention of the congregation. If your sermon needs more time then take it, but remember that if not presented in a manner that keeps the crowds attention you may actually lose more than interest of the moment. I have worshipped in some churches where the minister seldom preached for less than 45 minutes. Did he make his point and present his story well? I can not really answer that as the steel chair became almost unbearable by the time he was done and lost my interest about halfway through the sermon.

Your sermon is a teaching tool to help your members. It is a story that makes them think and associate with the story. It is a piece of your beliefs and faith that you are putting out in front of everyone and must be shared in a manner that makes them want to understand. There are two types of ministers on the Pulpit. Only you can decide which type you will be. You can be a servant of your faith and beliefs working to lead your congregation or you can be a servant of power and money pitching a program designed to separate the fools from their money.

Too many ministers are of the second type in today's churches. Too many seminaries and Internet sites are teaching ministers how to run a business instead of how to best serve their membership. Look to any TV Evangelist and you will see where they stand. If they are asking for donations beyond that average person's ability to give and using faith as the shill to press the issue you can bet they are of the second type. Out dressing the flock is another tactic of the money ministers. It helps to look good when pressing for dollars, but Jesus felt that simple dress was sufficient. We hope that as you work within this program, you seek the way of faith and not the demons of money. Whichever path you follow, you still need to keep the attention of the congregation.

For those that waited for the sermon before passing the offering plate, now is the time to get the Ushers moving. If you have a choir, this is an excellent time to have them sing a song of good faith and generosity. Though we are no here to get wealthy, we still have bills to pay and need the help of the congregation if we are to cover these costs of the world. Once the offering is collected, it is common for one or more ushers to bring the offerings to the Pulpit that you may offer a prayer of thanksgiving over the collection. This reminds everyone that this money was collected to serve the needs of the church and God's work in the world. When the prayer is finished, you may wish to have the offering left on the altar or removed to the church office for safe keeping.

Once more, either a song from the choir or the congregation is often added at this time, as well as inviting those that wish to testify to God to come forward at this time. By combining the two, you reduce the time needed to get the folks forward to testify and the congregation is once more invigorated. If your church invites members and friends to step forward for personal prayer or to give a personal testimony, be sure to limit the time to a minimum that all may share without unduly extending the service. We do not want to short someone needing our help or needing to share what is in their hearts, but often they will be better served in a more private moment or during a weekly prayer session.

As the last person returns to their seat, it is time to make announcements important to the church and its weekly activities, perhaps comment on the special days of individual members such as birthdays and anniversaries. It is an excellent time to share the engagement of members discussing marriage and announcements of upcoming Baptisms. This is an important part of the service, as it reminds folks of what is coming up during the week as well as gives the individuals a bit of the spotlight, allowing others after the service to take a moment to share blessings of the day.

As we wrap up the service, normally we close with a prayer of Thanksgiving. A silent prayer call for all to share in and give the benediction that commends the souls of the congregation into the Lord's hands requesting His guidance for each member as well as His blessings of the week ahead.

Closing music fits well at this time for the minister to retire to the back of the church or the door to thank folks for coming, share a word or two and offer a hand in friendship to all. Even if Uncle Joe fell asleep during the service, this last minute or two will remind him that you are there for him and that you care enough to personally acknowledge his presence in the congregation.

My Grandfather used to tell me that a good sermon and mighty scriptures will wind them up, but often it is the last moment at the door that many folks will remember until the next week. Take their hand and let each one know that they are special to you and to God.

REVIVAL, TENT PREACHING AND MONEY BUILDING MINISTRIES.

I will not go into this area in great depth, as there are plenty of examples all around us everyday in the world. You see this form of ministry with Benny Hind and Bob Tilton. Not to mention one of the best study tools is the movie, "Leap of Faith" starring Steve Martin. Another classic is the "Elmer Gantry Story," for you old movie buffs. You can turn on the TV to see several variations of this form of ministry any day of the week. The revival, tent form of ministry is seldom geared to work with regular members of a congregation. More often they are bent on screaming damnation one minute and then telling us how much God loves us, but to find that love we need to give until it hurts to find approval In Gods eyes.

They will bring folks forward and show their miracle healing even when the folks did not know they needed healed. They will entertain you with pretty singers and choirs dressed to please your spiritual senses. They preach to the masses while helping few in fact, but never do they miss the opportunity to pass the plate or insist that you must send money if your life is ever to be better.

Money and valuables will not now or ever before make you a more spiritual person. Giving money to those that pretend to have your best interest at heart will not buy you a place in any life after. Money will not provide healing through faith to you or your loved ones and those that claim otherwise should be seen as the corrupters they are. If you are interested in providing this form of ministry, at least have the dignity to send the sucker back to a church that will try to help them after you fleece the flock. As you can see, I have a low opinion of the average tent type of ministry we see today.

Having a tent ministry does not mean we have to treat people as if they are at the county fair. Though your ministry may move around and visit many communities, it should still be based in your faith first and the cash register a distant second. Work with the local churches and ask the local ministers to share the Pulpit. so that the faith stays foremost in your work. Honesty and integrity do not have to be left at home while you are on the road. Be a servant first and your work will be financed from your deeds as well as those that come to share.

Marathon preaching is a common tradition of the revival or tent ministries and this is another reason to invite local ministers to share the Pulpit. You will need to offer plenty of music to get the folks to open their minds to what is shared. Music also gives you time to rest your voice before starting the next sermon or scripture readings. Unlike the regular service that usually lasts an hour or so you will be performing several services each day in each area. Where the local minister may seem more laid back in his service you will need to be effervescent in your preaching and attitude before the masses.

As many of you have read or heard from various sources, a base rhythm played constantly in the background will help to place the audience in a more receptive mood. The singing of the choir and soloist will need to follow this format as well as deliver a message of well being and generosity. Before getting involved in this form of ministry, you will need to decide if you are motivated, energetic, able to stand before large numbers of strangers and make them feel the need to listen more so than the average minister. You will make or break this form of ministry based in your ability to do this day in and day out to new people all the time.

Good luck.


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