After working for churches over the past twenty years, I know that there are times when you can be in a season that is stagnant for ideas and creativity. So I want to provide twenty ideas in case this is the situation for yourself as well.
Below is a list of creative elements to infuse your service with. I’m sure you’ve tried a lot of these ideas already. And I’m sure that some of them won’t fly at your church. But I’m also sure that one or two of them will be a new tool in your toolbox. Hopefully these will help you get through any slump you face this year. And hopefully they will help you create and craft moving and memorable services onsite and online.
Before we describe how to infuse your service with creativity, we need to discuss how. Below are two reasons why you shouldn’t phone in your service planning and execution.
1. We Serve A Creative God – In Genesis things don’t begin with a sermon or systematic theology. Things begin with a creation account. In Exodus, the first person filled with the Holy Spirit was an artist. It was Bezalel. God filled this great craftsman with skill, intelligence and knowledge for the construction of the tabernacle. In the Psalms we read that the ‘heavens declare the glories of God’. So it isn’t just a three point message outline that explains the goodness and greatness of God. Sometimes it is just a stunning sunset.
2. Worship Should Reflect The One We Worship – If God is creative then our services should reflect that. If His mercies are new every morning, then our weekly services should showcase this newness. But often this isn’t the case. Often we don’t heed the words of the psalmist who encourages us to sing a ‘new’ song. Creativity is a great way to awaken the senses and help your guests get a fresh perspective of God.
Now that we have focused on why let’s focus on how. Below are twenty ways to inject dynamic elements into your religious gatherings.
1. Secular Songs – A lot of churches have been doing this for a while. But if you haven’t yet, consider it. There are plenty of secular tunes that can help point your people towards a larger truth you are highlighting during the message. If Paul was willing to quote the poets of his day, we should feel comfortable doing the same. Church By The Glades does an incredible job with this weekly, so check them out for inspiration. Here and here are lists of potential secular songs to cover.
2. Interactive Worship – A lot of worship is only interactive in one way, by singing. So consider expanding that with other interactive forms of music. Now that is easier said than done, cause not everyone in your church owns an electric guitar. One way we did this was purchasing 500 shakers, for about fifty cents a piece, and handed them out to folks as they entered. The worship set was percussion driven and the worship leader trained folks to shake on the down beat. That being said, it was still tricky because unless you are a skilled drummer, you naturally increase the speed of percussion. So our 15 minute worship set ended up being 12 minutes. And everyone was out of breath at the end.
3. Hymn Backgrounds – Most hymns have a rich story behind why they were written. Stories that make the lyrics more meaningful. But most people don’t know them. So consider giving some background context before you sing your next hymn. Here and here are some great resources with background information.
4. Drumline – If you don’t know what a drumline is, then you haven’t been to a decent football game in a while. Feel free to check out Nick Cannon’s classic to get up to speed. A drumline is a great element on Super Bowl Sunday or an energetic way to launch your fall season, especially if you are using a ‘kickoff’ theme. Also, you can usually score local talent through your Youth Pastor and their relationship with high schools in the area.
5. String Section – Nothing adds class to a service like a string section. These string sections can be used behind your regular band to complement them, or they can handle songs all by themselves. Local community orchestras are great connections for this type of addition.
6. Bagpiper – For Veterans Day we opened with a video thanking our vets followed by a bagpiper playing Amazing Grace. It was a powerful moment that veterans were very thankful for. Disclaimer, I can’t think of another great use of a bagpiper because the instrument can be a little overbearing. No offense to bagpipers.
7. Trumpeter – For Memorial Day we paused to remember those who had given their lives for this nation. After a minute of silence a lone trumpeter played Taps. You could hear a pin drop. Whatever you regularly instrumentally use during your services, consider adding a different instrument like a trumpet for unique occasions to keep things fresh.
8. Change Your Worship Style – Whatever your regular style of worship is, change it up. If you do mainly modern stuff, then do an acoustic set for a more intimate feel. If you mostly rock it out with electric guitars, then pull in a choir. Change it up!
9. Reciting The Creeds – Now, if you serve in a high church setting, this is probably common practice. But that isn’t the case for a lot of our non denominational friends. Most churches just rely on the Apostles Creed but there are great additional creeds to draw from here along with their origins and importance.
10. Reading Written Prayers – Spontaneous prayers are great. But we can over rely on them. If this is the case in your setting then consider reading beautifully written prayers. Some of my favorites sources to read from are Celtic Daily Prayer and Powerful Prayers for Every Need.
11. Stage Designs – Changing up the look of your stage is a great way to create visual impact when people enter your auditorium. Here is a stunning example from Ed Young and Fellowship Church. But remember to design for seasons not series. Trying to design a dozen stages a year will burn you out. Limiting your designs to the seasons or holiday services will keep you, and the look, fresh.
12. Created Videos – There are a lot of great sites that categorize created videos, like Twelve-Thirty Media. These videos are very inexpensive and a great way to visualize a topic or theme of the day to be used in a worship set or during the message. (Or check out a complete sermon kit that includes videos.)
13. Movie Clips – This isn’t a new option for most. It felt like every Pastor incorporated Mel Gibson’s freedom scream from Braveheart back in 1995. You can try to get these clips from the dark web which has some ethical implications. Or you can leverage sites like WingClips or ScreenVue without a moral cloud hanging over your head.
14. Message Illustrations – When it comes to illustrating your message, the sky’s the limit. One of my personal favorites was when we put a live potter and their wheel on stage to create ceramics during a message illustrating Jeremiah 18. Another favorite was when I compared Hebrews 4:16 to the bat phone. I learned a lot about message illustrations while working alongside Tim Lucas at Liquid Church. So check out his messages if you want to grow in this area.
15. Giveaways – This last topic is also filled with opportunities. There are some tried and true options that always work. Like candles or gift books on Christmas Eve or railroad spikes on Good Friday. I’ve placed scarlet threads in bulletins during a message on mercy featuring Rahab and handed out car magnets during an invitation series.
16. Games – There are a range of interactive games that can spice up a service. These are especially fun on Mother’s & Father’s Day. If you need inspiration then check out this list of games from the Jimmy Fallon show. Word of warning, if the game has a punishment like a pie to the face, include a staff member and if it has a reward include a guest.
17. Interactive Elements – Again, there are plenty of directions you can take interactive elements during a service. You could make it fun by tossing around beach balls during an outdoor summer event. You could make it evangelistic by writing down the names of those you are gonna invite to your upcoming Easter or Christmas services. You could make them celebratory by throwing out t-shirts to new visitors. If you want to step this up then consider incorporating a slingshot or cannon launcher.
18. Maximizing LED Wall – If your church has an LED Wall, you probably just use it for worship lyrics and message points. But it can be used to a greater degree. Photos during hosting. Biblical maps during the message. The only limitation here is your imagination. This is the vision cast I did for the staff at Christ Fellowship before we installed our 27 foot LED wall. The summary was, we have the best story to tell and therefore should leverage the best storytelling tools.
19. Testimonies – Testimonies are often told on Baptism Sunday. But not much throughout the year. Make sure to leverage stories of God at work throughout the year. And don’t just tell stories of salvation but also highlight stories of sanctification. Tell how God saved you and how He is saving you. Also don’t feel handicapped if you don’t have a videographer to capture these stories. Having someone share live from the stage or floor during a service can be very compelling.
20. Interviews – Sometimes someone has a great story to tell but they aren’t a great storyteller. When this is the case, use the interview form to pull out the story from them. This allows you to speed up or slow down the storytelling. It also allows you to bail if the storyteller gets stage fright by summarizing the rest of the story to conclude.
The above twenty ideas are not exhaustive by any means. So reach out to me and let me know how you inject creativity into your services. I would love to hear from you and learn from you. Also, if you’re looking for coaching on service planning and execution then visit benstapley.com/coach to schedule a free consultation. Have yourself an awesome day.
For over twenty years Ben has created & captured moving and memorable moments for individuals, non-profits & corporations across the globe. He has served on the executive team of multiple megachurches including Christ Fellowship Miami and Liquid Church. He currently serves as the Executive Pastor at The Life Christian Church leading staff and volunteers to execute the vision and mission of the church. TLCC is located in West Orange, New Jersey and is known for its active hospitality, vibrant diversity and robust leadership culture. Ben also coaches individuals, consults for churches and speaks at conferences about leadership, communication and creativity.