Post-Worship Conversations Done Poorly
After attending worship services for over 35 years, I’ve noticed a few things that attenders do poorly when having conversations afterward. See if any of these comments ring a bell for you:
- The service was too long.
- It was too short.
- The sermon was boring.
- The sermon was over my head.
- The sermon was more style than substance.
- The sermon was too personal.
- The sermon wasn’t applicable enough.
- I wish that other pastor that I like better had preached.
- I didn’t like the number of hymns that we sang.
- I didn’t like how many worship songs we sang.
- I would prefer a more traditional service.
- I would prefer a more contemporary service.
- The kids in the audience were too loud.
- The worship leader talked too much.
- The prayers were too long.
- There wasn’t enough praying.
- We stood too much.
- We sat for too long.
- There were too many announcements.
- There’s weren’t enough announcements.
- Giving was too much of a focus.
- We weren’t encouraged to worship during the offering.
- I wish that they played the organ.
- I wish that there were more guitars.
- I wish the worship team was larger.
- I wish that the drums were louder.
- I hate drums in worship services.
- I prefer a rock band.
- I prefer the choir.
Do any of these statements sound familiar? Do people you ride in the car with or go to lunch with say things like this? More importantly, do you? Do I?
Friends, comments like these are signs that we’re being more consumeristic than we might want to admit. We’re treating our worship services like vendors who distribute religious goods and services. If one vendor isn’t meeting our needs, then we’ll complain about it. After a certain amount of time, we’ll switch to a new vendor that can better suit our needs. Then complain about it…then switch…then complain…etc.
We’re all aware that this isn’t a good scenario, so what kinds of conversations could we have instead? Are there ways to do this better?
Post Worship Service Conversations Done Better
I’m sure that there are a thousand ways to have better conversations after worship services. Here are five.
- Focus less on my own preferences and more on what I learned, how I was convicted, or what my take away was. Many of the comments above are really selfish at their core. They’re about me and my preferences; about my criticisms and critiques. But it’s not possible (or advisable) to avoid talking about myself, so it might be better to discuss with friends and family after a worship service the ways I can grow as a result of what I experienced. And if we all did this, then we would be more like communities of learners and less like communities of selfish little tyrants.
- Talk less about music and musical preferences and talk more about what it was like to encounter God with my community of faith. Our age-old debates about musical style are getting, well, old. The conversations are really more about personal preferences and/or generational divides than about worshiping God. So instead of complaining about the mandolin, the organ, the number of singers, etc., I should focus on what it was like to culminate my week of worship with communal worship. How did I experience God as we worshiped together? This will require me actually living a life of worship instead of pinning all my worship needs on the worship service and worrying less about my preferences and more about encountering God!
- Have fewer conversations about the people leading worship and more conversations about me and my community in light of the worship service. After a worship service conversations often focus in on people who were leading worship — what they were doing, how they were doing it, how long they did it, what they wore when they were doing it (especially if they are women), etc. Now in my innermost self I know that all of these things are superficial and they reveal more about me when I complain about them than they do the people I’m complaining about. Instead of focusing on the people leading worship, it would be better for me to think about how my community and I can be changed because we were led in worship. This shift can do a world of good!
- Discuss what I learned about God or what I was reminded about God. Ultimately our worship services should be centered on God, so why would our conversations after a worship service not also be centered on him? What about God was I reminded of during this worship service? What about God did I learn for the first time? How do I want to worship God more with my life in light of what I learned about him? What part of God’s mission in this world was I reminded about and how can I help with that? I’m convinced that our experiences in worship services would be better if we knew that our conversations afterward were going to be filled with questions like these!
- Have “so what” and “what if” conversations. Lastly, it would be good to let the content and experience of the worship service set in and begin to make a difference in my life. While most of my conversations after a worship service tend to be critical in one way or another, they could be more focused on the continued impact of what I just experienced. I think two questions help accomplish this best: 1) So what? In light of what I heard this morning, so what should I do now? What in my life needs to change and how am I going to go about changing it? And 2) What if? What if we all did a better job of living out what we heard this morning? How would the world be different? How would it impact our efforts to speak and embody the good news of Jesus with our friends and neighbors?
What do you think? Are there other ways that we can improve our post worship service conversations? Let me know in the comments below!
Side note — If any of us have what we feel are legitimate complaints or issues with the worship services we attend, perhaps it would be better to have some conversations with the people who plan the worship services than complaining with our friends and family. Just a thought! 🙂