~ August 1, 2012 ~

Who Is Our Focus?

"I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:22 (NIV)

Know your audience. It's a top priority in writing and public speaking and should be a top priority in how we do church.

Most weeks, I'm in a different church. Speaking is a privilege, but I also enjoy listening to other leaders as they communicate God's Word. I like church, and I find that no speaker is the same as any other. Everybody's speaking style, experience, study habits, thoughts, and emotions are influenced by their personalities.

One of the "hot buttons" out there has to do with church music. This typically has to do with how church services are run, and isn't strictly about the music or the worship. Surprised? Likely not. Most of us have heard this discussion many times.

Often those who lead the music and worship of the service are musically talented. Their titles may be Fine Arts Pastor, Worship Pastor, Music Director, Worship and Drama Leader, etc. Most of the time, their title doesn't make much difference to those sitting in the pews. However, how we do worship, music, and drama does matter.

Leading in worship (and all that is involved in choosing the music, working with the various musicians, and overcoming technical challenges with the sound, lighting, etc.) can be complicated. It's not difficult for a music pastor to miss connecting with the audience/congregation.

Some examples could be . . . music that moves too fast, too many new songs introduced at one time, a strong/loud drummer or guitar, etc. Who the audience is must always be kept in mind. Music can help people identify with a church or congregation. It's good when they feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging. Conversely, music can make people feel uncomfortable, irritated, and like they don't belong.

Often very few people (the elderly and others) have a clue about the reason for a particular song or piece of music. Politely, they try to sing and move with the music . . . or many just stand (or sit) there with a blank look in their eyes . . . or schedule their arrival to miss as much of the music as possible.

What's going on?

The music was not relevant to or appropriate for a segment of the audience.

The music person might be saying to the people who don't know what's going on with the loud, fast music, "They just need to get over it! This is a new day, and if they don't get it . . . well, too bad." Or "This church is out to attract a certain age group - only!"

Understandable, but I really think we can accomplish both . . . reaching the young people & the other ages; mixing contemporary & traditional, and helping people understand why particular song choices were made.

I love the idea of reaching the "post-moderns," "the marginal," "the seekers" and all the rest, but there are lots of occasions when we can do this. Some pieces of the service miss the audience that is present. Often the people who are there are not feeling part of the service.

Now . . . hold on a little . . . don't get ticked. This makes sense.

If you want to sell shoes to a certain age group . . . or shirts, books, etc. You will aim at the way they think, how they feel, and what connects with the people who ARE THERE.

How can we know our audience?

Research and assess who (what age groups) will likely be in the service.

Target that anticipated group when preparing the worship/music and the message.

Determine the specific goals of the worship/music and message and prepare all parts of the service to aim at those goals.

What is the specific need that you want to address in the service? Prepare the worship/music and message to target that need.

Go over your strategy for each service (the music, worship, message, prayer time) and ask the question, "Am I hitting my target?" "Do the people understand what I feel God wants to communicate to them?"

Also, you need to anticipate unique times when the Holy Spirit will impress you.

So . . . when designing the music/worship for a service, we can anticipate who will be there and plan accordingly. Music has tremendous power as the memory kicks in with emotions, and places that were attached to those songs and a particular time in a person's life. It's not difficult to know the type of people who will be in a particular service . . . and then to think about worship/music that they will relate to. Often when a music pastor is young, he/she wants to play the fast, loud, new music that speaks to him/her. Perhaps mix in some medleys of a range of songs so everyone can relate. It's also quite common for a church to have a traditional and a contemporary service (depending on the audience). In this case, the selection of worship music is different for each service.

When pastoring, I met with my worship leader each week and went over the songs, and anticipated the length of time the worship segment would last. He knew the topic of my sermon in advance and organized music/worship to connect people to the topic. This worked well for me and I'd recommend this communication piece with the person that assists you.

The sanctuary or worship center is one of the few places where you have a real chance to connect to your whole congregation. Paul helped us understand this principle, "I am not seeking my own good but the good of many" (1 Cor. 10:33b).

The summer is often a time when we can regroup for the fall. We can think and pray through our fall speaking calendar, work with various leaders in the church and plan ways to create services where people will grow in their walk and will identify.

Always know that I am . . .

Your Friend and Servant in Christ,
Wayde Goodall, D.Min

Dean, College of Ministry

Northwest University

The College of Ministry at NU is here to serve you. Let us know if we can be of any assistance to you in your leadership.

I can be reached at: