Worship Vision Implementation

The following was adapted from an announcement Rex Taylor made for the elders at the end of both worship services on Sunday, April 1, 2012. It gives a quick status on our progress toward the goals we set as part of our vision and shares plans for addressing one of those goals.

Status of Goals

It’s been almost two years since we rolled out our vision. Part of that vision included five goals we wanted to accomplish within roughly five years. The last two of the goals were achieved very quickly.

  • Number 4 was to “increase our full-time ministry staff by a third.” That was accomplished with the hiring of Hillary Hoover and Matt Mazza.
  • Number 5 was to “increase our regular contribution by 10%.” You responded and our regular giving increased 12% in 2010 as compared to 2009.

We still have some real work to do on the other three.

  • Number 1 said we want to “double the number of elders” and reach a ratio of 1 elder to 20 member families. I’m happy to let you know that all 11 of the elder candidates being considered in the current selection process were affirmed last week. However, that means we’ve only maintained the same number we had in 2010. So to make progress on this goal, we will probably need to rethink our selection process and how frequently we implement the process.
  • Number 3 said we need to “Let go of some good things to enable greater focus on achieving our mission and vision.” This is a very tough one. It’s hard to judge between lots or great ministries, but we also know we can be more effective if we focus our attention and resources. So far we can’t point to any significant progress on this one. I can say that we are not ignoring it. A couple of weeks ago the Ministry and Administrative Shepherding Teams were considering an exciting new outreach ministry. As we were discussing the opportunity, we were also asking the hard question about what we might scale back on to free up people for this new ministry.
  • Finally, we set a goal to “Double our capacity to serve people in worship.” We identified three tactics we would use:
  1. Offer more and different kinds of worship assemblies
  2. Maximize the use of our existing facilities before we build any new space
  3. Plant new churches

Today, nearly two years after we established this goal, our average worship attendance is up about 12%. In the first three months of this year, we averaged 930 people in worship and a few weeks ago we established a new record attendance of more than 1,100 people. We have maxed out our two current assemblies.   

Worship Vision Implementation Team

One action the elders took to address this last goal (and several broader elements of our vision) was the creation of a Worship Vision Implementation Team. This team began working about 14 months ago. They tackled three challenging leadership questions that are raised by our vision.

—  First - How do we provide assemblies that are authentically joyful and thankful celebrations for very different people? (what’s joyful for one person many not be for another)

—  Second - How do we create worship gatherings that are so enjoyable, exciting and deeply meaningful that children, teens and adults all eagerly look forward to participating? (what’s deeply meaningful to a fifth grader, a high school senior, a new parent, a single parent and a retired person, in many cases, are probably not the same)

—  Third - How do we offer different worship styles that enable people from various parts of our contemporary culture to hear and actively engage in worship experiences that are relevant and encourage them to effectively honor God? (how we worship God is probably more foreign to our contemporary culture than most of us realize)

One of the most visible things the team did was to seek your input through a worship survey that was conducted about this time last year. We received an incredible response and very valuable input from more than 500 members. Last August we reported the results of that survey. You can view those results by logging in to this web site as a Greenville Oaks member (follow the directions in the "Announcement" box).

Recommendations

The team’s final deliverable was a set of recommendations that were presented to the elders in early January. All of the elders and ministers spent a Friday evening and most of a Saturday reviewing the history of worship practices at Greenville Oaks and studying the team’s recommendations. At the end of the day, all of the recommendations were approved. However, approved doesn’t mean implemented. Some of the recommendations will require additional time and development.

You can read all of the recommendations by logging in to the web site as a Greenville Oaks member. There were 11 recommendations.

  • The first three are generally about the planning and evaluation of all worship assemblies.
  • The next five recommendations are specific to our current two assemblies. They don’t involve any dramatic changes, but simple enhancements and a continuation of the current direction.
  • The last three recommendations directly address the goal of doubling our capacity to serve people in worship by adding more and different kinds of worship assemblies. Since these recommendations involve a larger degree of change, I want to give you a little more detail, specifically about our plans to add a third worship assembly.

Reasons to Add a Third Worship Service

The Worship Vision Implementation Team carefully examined many reasons or motivations for adding a third service and considered many different times and ways of adding a new assembly. We settled on three reasons for starting a third service.

The primary one is to offer a more missional or outreach-oriented worship setting. Greenville Oaks is serving our community through the benevolence ministry, HOPE at Greenville Oaks, Career Solutions, the James Group, through our partnership with Ultimate Escape, and other ministries, and through our personal connections. Many of the people we are serving are not aware of the Kingdom of God and certainly not familiar with Church of Christ traditions. Wouldn’t it be great if we could provide a safe and comfortable place for these people to begin exploring what it means to worship God? We intend for this new assembly to be a safe place that makes sense to these people. We hope it will be a place that you can, with excitement and confidence, invite your friends to come explore what following Jesus could mean in their lives.

A secondary reason for adding a third worship opportunity is to offer new worship experiences for some of our own. Most of us feel our current assemblies effectively help us grow and mature our faith in a healthy God honoring environment. However, some of our young and older Greenville Oaks members are beginning to search for fresh worship experiences that challenge them in new ways as they too seek to mature and develop their own faith. A new worship assembly will enable Greenville Oaks to provide a place for these members to continue their spiritual growth through a variety of different worship experiences. It will also encourage healthy spiritual growth as our members serve the new people we hope to reach.

Lastly, adding a third worship service will provide additional seating capacity. As I said, we have maxed out our two current worship assemblies. With an average total attendance that is approaching 950, one or both assemblies are typically at or more than 80 percent full. At this level, we simply can’t consistently accommodate any more people. A new assembly will allow Greenville Oaks to offer meaningful worship experiences for more people.

So the three reasons for adding a third worship service are to:

  1. 1.    Offer a more missional or outreach-oriented worship setting
  2. 2.    Offer new worship experiences for some of our own
  3. 3.    Provide additional seating capacity

Third Service Plans

We are planning to launch a third weekly worship assembly this September. It will be held on Sunday mornings in the Teen Center and will begin at 10:45 a.m.

At this point, I can’t give you a very detailed picture of what this assembly will look like because we’re still planning. I can tell you it will be more informal than our current services. The order of worship and format will be more varied week to week than our current services. It will generally provide more times of sharing, a greater emphasis on communion and a shorter teaching time. It may utilize varied lighting and music to establish a different atmosphere. To help develop and prepare to launch this service, we’re planning to offer a third worship time once a month in May, June, July and August. In essence, these special services will allow for some experimentation as we explore how to offer meaningful worship experiences that support the three purposes I explained. Look for specific dates to be published soon.

A cappella or Accompanied?

One of the biggest questions the Worship Vision Implementation Team struggled with in recommending an outreach-oriented third worship service was whether the times of singing should be a cappella or accompanied with instruments. The elders also struggled with this in accepting the team’s recommendation.

The decision was to be a cappella. I know that’s reassuring for some of you and I know it’s equally disappointing for others. This was not a struggle about being biblically faithful. The New Testament simply does not address a cappella or accompanied singing in worship. As everyone who has attended Discovering Greenville Oaks has heard, this congregation has always viewed our use of a cappella as a preference that honors our rich heritage, but not as a doctrinal issue.

This decision was a challenge because a cappella music has been such a strong identity marker for Churches of Christ. However, that is beginning to change with a number of Church of Christ congregations adding instrumental worship services. Therefore, the team also recommended that the elders begin to examine whether it would be beneficial to add the use of instrumental accompaniment in the third assembly.

The elders agreed to give the question serious prayer and consideration. At this point, the topic is on our list of upcoming topics, but a process for addressing and scheduling it has not been developed yet. So, don’t expect any changes in the near future.

Taking Action

Regardless of future decisions on musical styles, your leadership and a sizable third service planning team are very excited about taking action to expand Greenville Oaks’ ability to engage more hearts and minds through worship as we together strive to become fully devoted followers of Jesus.

The team’s final recommendation was that Greenville Oaks plan to continue adding more and different types of worship gatherings that connect with the larger culture as frequently as we are able to provide sustained quality leadership.

We’ve seen how God has blessed Greenville Oaks throughout our 26-year history.  I believe He has been preparing us to be an even brighter beacon for His Kingdom than we can even imagine.