Preaching at Grace Church pt.4 -creative process

So, how do we think through and develop the creative elements in the services?

Well first of all, I need to say upfront that Chris Thomson is our “pastor of creative arts” and does an amazing job in this process, so I will not take credit for most of the amazing stuff we are blessed with in this area! But let me at least give you the behind the scenes picture of how we get there.

First of all is the sermon/ message/ theme development and I would say that is primarily on my shoulders (but please take note of pt.3 of this blog series for more info on what goes into that). But any speakers other than myself are typically assigned by me and they are typically asked to fit in with whatever series we’re doing. So whoever is speaking on a particular week comes up with a 5-6 sentence paragraph stating what they feel God has put on their heart to share. When I’m speaking, I typically try to get the message into a key sentence or “take away”.

We then have a creative team that is made up of Chris, Will (from the music side), and a number of very skilled volunteers who have experience in a variety of areas. We intentionally try to have a few generations represented as well as having both men and women on the team. The team meets about once a month and takes the “message paragraph” and brainstorms 20-30 creative ways to communicate that message. These include drama ideas, video clips, song selections etc. This team will also talk about ways to engage the room whether through rearranging chairs, the stage layout, props used or even interaction times.

From the 20-30 ideas we typically narrow them down to 2-3 that have the most potential and impact. We then decide whether the speaker (me in most cases) will be sharing one block of 35 minutes or breaking up the message time with dramas, videos etc. The goal is whatever will best communicate God’s truth.

We do take some time to think through the worship music that is shared as well. While we work hard not to let the theme hinder our worship, if there are worship songs that fit the theme we use them. The goal being that people leave the room with 1 message instead of several.

Sometimes we’ll utilize an acrononym to help us plan. E-P-I-C – which stands for Experience – how can we all experience the theme beyond just hearing about it? Participatory – how do we help people participate in the service and ideally with the theme from God’s Word? Image driven – what is the central image that drives home the message? (For example a few weeks ago the image of “body of Christ” for the church helped us better understand our role in the mission of Jesus). Community/connect – how can we help people connect with each other and “feel at home” during the service. Sometimes this is done through interactions, sometimes through the use of humor or even well-done announcements can help accomplish this goal.

Although the team gives ideas and advice, Will Lopes is the one who chooses 90% of the songs we do. (To be completely revealing – we actually talk through a list of 30 songs that we all approve as the songs in rotation from which Will makes his choices. This list of 30 changes about every 3-4 months when songs are removed from the list and new ones added. We found this enables the congregation to learn songs without getting new ones thrown at them every week. It also allows us to intentionally choose songs knowing the themes we’ll be covering in the next 2-3 months).

Chris Thomson makes the final call on elements in the services (with counsel from Will and I). He also makes the final call if elements need to be cut on the fly in a service due to time constraints. Chris often is the one who writes dramas, works with the lighting, sound and creative elements and pulls all the pieces together.)

Once again, I’ve probably shared more than you ever wanted to know – but hey, that’s what a behind the scenes look is all about! Feel free to share your comments on this blog/ blog series by hitting “add a comment”. We’d love to hear your thoughts and interaction on this topic!

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