Category Archives: Creative Worship Ideas

Finding God at Sturgis

Two weeks ago I went to the motorcycle rally at Sturgis, South Dakota with my husband. We were coming home on Saturday, and I was going to lead worship on Sunday. So I decided to preach on “Finding God at Sturgis.” All week, my husband and I were on the lookout for God, taking photographs, reflecting, and sharing ideas with one another.

During the sermon on Sunday, I shared the photographs we had taken.

Here’s the link to my sermon, and here’s the photos that I included.

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How I Design a Creative Worship Service

Main graphic for service on the Lord's Prayer

My philosophy, which I learned from the Midnight Oil guys, is to have one graphic up for the whole worship service. I’m trying to tell the story, to get a message across, so I want all the creative elements to reinforce that message. I use a faded copy of the graphic behind all words. (I do that in Photoshop Elements, a program that costs about $80.) I don’t put nature scenes behind the words, or change the photograph with each verse of a song, or have motion backgrounds, because again, I’m trying to get a message across, not use creative elements just so people will so, “Boy, that was cool.”

Last week I was preaching on the Lord’s Prayer. I went to WorshipHouse Media to see if they had any good videos, and I found one for about $20. I could also have created a slide show in Photoshop Elements, but I liked the video. It was the Lord’s Prayer with a piano background. I was at first planning on using it after I read the scripture and before I started preaching.

I needed to find out the heart (theme, thesis, main idea) of the sermon before I chose a graphic. I had one picked out at the beginning of the week, but my sermon went in another direction. So I found this one at the end of the week. You can find graphics anywhere. Take your own photographs. Use google to search for an image (be careful about copyright). Go to worship sites (like WorshipHouse Media or other free sites). I usually go to stock photography sites because I can find what I’m looking for easier and the photographs are very high quality. If you’re just projecting the photograph, a resolution of 72 dots per inch is good (the smaller the resolution the cheaper the photograph), but if you’re going to print it, 300 dots per inch is necessary. I’m now using photographs both for projecting and for printing on cards, so I get the higher quality. They cost me about $5-10.

I wasn’t going to put the scripture passage on the screen. I lean more towards fewer words and more graphics. But I was playing with our new system to find out how big the type needed to be to be able to see it well (over 40 point type). I put one verse per screen, and I practiced reading the scripture from the screen. I loved it, because I was able to have more eye contact with people. And several people said they appreciated having it on the screen. So I’ll probably do that in the future. Again, I used my washed out graphic as the background.

During the sermon, I decided to have a slide with my main graphic and the phrase of the Lord’s Prayer that I was speaking about at the time. I don’t generally plan to have an outline of my sermon on the screen, but this worked well.

I thought about putting the video right before the sermon. I also thought about putting it right after the sermon as a “visual meditation.” I could have also used it after the prayers of the people when we normally pray the Lord’s Prayer. (This week we sang the Lord’s Prayer. I’ve had several people asking for that. “Fresh Worship” doesn’t have to be high-tech. It can be just doing something in a little different way.) We were having communion, so I finally decided to use the video during communion. It was about 2 1/2 minutes, so I played it once while we passed out the bread, and again when we passed out the juice. I heard that one of our four-year-olds was fascinated by it, although he thought the man with the arms raised was an alien.

I want the technology to be invisible. I don’t want people saying, “Oh, that was a great piece of technology.” I want the technology to help us worship deeper and remember the message longer.

I’m a visual person, so designing worship like this comes naturally to me. And because I know where to find resources, and how to use the technology (computer, screens, MediaShout software, remote, etc.), I find it easy and nourishing to my soul. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, take it slow or find someone else to work with for whom it does come naturally.

Creative Worship Ideas: The Lord’s Prayer

I’m preaching on the Lord’s Prayer this week from Matthew (Matthew 6:7-15). We just put in our new projection system, so I’m thinking about visual elements to use in the service. Since I haven’t decided on the heart of the message, I haven’t yet picked out a graphic. I have chosen a video. It’s from worshiphousemedia.com, the site where I find lots of worship elements. I’m going to play it right after reading the scripture and right before I start preaching.

The Lord’s Prayer video

As I’m speaking about “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” I might show this graphic on the screen. I created it at wordle.net.

Word cloud with names of God

Word cloud with names of God

Although I generally don’t put the scripture passage up on the screen as I’m reading it, and I certainly won’t start doing that until we have some people trained to run the computer, I might put each phrase of the passage up as I’m talking about it. Usually I use the screen for graphics rather than words, but having each phrase up might help people focus on it.

Creative Worship Ideas: Good Friday

One of my favorite Good Friday services is this service from Reformed Worship: And There Was Darkness: A Solemn Service for Good Friday. The heart of the service is a reading from the gospel of Luke, edited by Dennis Dewey. There are two readers who alternate telling the birth story and the crucifixion story of Jesus. When these two very familiar stories are read side by side, it helps you hear both of them in a new light.

Reader One: In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Reader Two: Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. I will therefore chastise him and release him.

One: And all went to be enrolled to their own cities. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

Two: But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released Barabbas, the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, who they asked for, but Jesus he delivered up to their will.

One: And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.

Two: And when they came to the place which is called the skull, there they crucified him and two criminals—one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Reformed Worship has lots of ideas for Holy Week and Easter worship services. All but the last two issues are searchable online to anyone. The two current issues are searchable by subscribers only.

Children’s Artwork

I’m watching Cokesbury’s Worship Connection Creative Worship conference on DVD. In the section with Tex Sample, he gives a great idea for using children’s artwork in worship.

Sample suggests having children draw pictures of the Bible stories that you will be using in worship. And then show those pictures on a screen with music playing in the background. A great way to teach children the Bible, involve them in worship, and make worship visual.

Using a Song as the Focus of Worship

The scripture passage I’m preaching on this Sunday is Luke 1:39-56, which includes the Magnificat, the Song of Mary. I’ve been playing around with ideas for the sermon. One is the theme of joy in the gospel of Luke. Another is God as Savior. Not just Jesus Christ, but God, too, has that role.

I knew that the Presbyterian Hymnal has a musical version of the Song of Mary. I’ve never sung it in church. It’s a bit of a difficult tune. Then I pulled out my copy of Gather, a contemporary hymnbook from GIA Music. I saw it last year when I went to our community’s Christmas Musicale held in St. Mary’s Catholic Church. (I always like to look at the books in the pews when I visit other churches. I get good ideas that way). Gather had “God Has Chosen Me” in it, one of my favorite songs, so I ordered a copy of the hymnbook as reference.

This year, again at the Christmas Musicale, the Catholic church choir performed “Canticle of the Turning.” It’s an Irish tune, and I love Irish music.

When I looked through Gather to find musical versions of the Magnificat (I figured a Catholic hymnbook would have loads to choose from), what did I find but “Canticle of the Turning.” Turns out that beautiful song was a musical version of the Song of Mary.

So I’m playing with ideas of how to incorporate it into our worship service this week. There’s a video with the song on YouTube (be careful with usage issues.) I’ve purchased a download of the song by Rory Cooney, Gary Daigle, and Theresa Donohoo. I’d like to show a video or play the song sometime during worship. Perhaps instead of reading that portion of scripture, or right after I read it and before the sermon. Or during the sermon. Or for the offertory. And I’m leaning toward using “the world is about to turn” as the theme of my sermon.

How you ever used a song as the focus of worship?

Advent Prayer Stations

Steve Taylor, over at sustain:if:able kiwi wrote a great post on prayer stations for Advent.

Ever since the suggestion was made at the Synod School Creative Worship class, I’ve been thinking about it. Perhaps now is the time.

Steve’s three suggestions are:

Scriptural prayer: Consider the words from Numbers 6:24-27. What strikes you? What questions would you like to ask the writer? In the white space, around the words, write or draw your comments and questions.

You could use any scripture passage you want, the same one throughout Advent or different ones each week, the sermon scripture or another scripture passage.

Intercession bowl: Write or draw the names of people and places you want to see blessed this Christmas. Place them in the bowl.

This sounds like a very easy one to start with. Our children’s Sunday school is using The Way of the Child, which has several stations for individual work. I could use the intercession bowl at one of the stations during Advent.

Fridge magnet prayers: The Bible is written in Hebrew and Greek. As words are translated, they take on different shades of meaning. This provides an opportunity for prayer and reflection. First, consider words of similar meaning.

(spread on table — lord/protector/saviour/redeemer/provider/the/and/you/us/his/her/with/in/be/bless/benedict/kiss/impart/watch/guard/keep/strengthen/sustain/protect/shine/glow/highlight/enlighten/illuminate/magnify/reflect/gracious/kind/merciful/give favour/hug/lift up/hold/extend/face/peace/shalom/tranquility/whole of life)

Second, arrange the words into your prayer of blessing. When you are satisfied with your work, write your prayer in the Advent journal. Please note that by writing out your prayer, we are asking your permission to display it publicly, perhaps on the church website or projected at a service or in an outside art installation.

Sometimes when we’re asked to write a prayer, we have a hard time. But if the words are already there and all we have to do is arrange them, I think more people would try. The prayers that Steve’s church came up with are beautiful.

Redeemer, wholeness of my life, illuminate your will and love
Provider, sustain me through life, provide me with your blessings
Protector, be gracious to me, be merciful
Saviour, show me your peace. Shalom.

The Lord give you his favour with the whole-of-life-shalom
The Lord bless you
Face to face. Amen

For Ill and old people; Merciful protector
Hold
Kiss
Keep
Guard
Watch in the whole of life

Have you ever set up prayer stations in worship or other places?