A Look at Non-Conventional Worship Services

A Look at Non-Conventional Worship Services

August 16, 2016 by

What is the Church Anyway?

As I sat on a warm beach on a Sunday afternoon, a few hours after my California church’s Sunday service, marveling at God’s creation and the amount of people who had spent their whole Sunday here in the sun, I wondered: What is church, anyway?

Does it always have to look the same, or is there room for those who don’t want the traditional church building service, with worship, a teaching and a prayer at the end?

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying I don’t like church. I’ve been a member of one church or another for decades. In fact, growing up, the only way to get out of going to church was to projectile vomit. (And, fortunately, that didn’t happen often.)

Making a Change in the Church

What if we could change the way church is done?

But, what if we could change the way church is done? I’m not sure we could—or should—go around changing the face of all existing churches.

But, what about small steps? What can we do now that allows us to meet Jesus, as a community, in our community? And does it have to always look the same?

Now, before we abandon what we know, I need you to ask: Why?

Think about why you’re willing to change. It’s not because it’s the new, hip thing. It’s not because it works for the team down the block. And it’s not because you feel inferior next to the big guns who are “challenging the status quo” to be “relevant.”

What can we do now that allows us to meet Jesus, as a community, in our community?

How to Know You’re Ready to Change

Rather, it’s because:

  • You feel God calling you and your congregation to explore a new way to engage.
  • You genuinely need to connect your people with God and with each other, and your existing model may not be fostering healthy communion or community.
  • You desperately want to create a space where not-yet-believing church attendees feel comfortable and welcome within your walls.

Of course, there are ways to “be the church” without having a weekly service. But, for today, let’s zero in on those who currently host one and see what’s possible.

You’re going to host a worship service at your church. So, what’s it going to look like?

As you consider your community’s needs and what God is asking of your church body in this season, take a look at how a few fellow churches are living this out.

Micro-Site Church

Set up in several locations around the city. These don’t have to be permanent spaces or full-service churches.

Rather, it’s a common place to broadcast your service live, where people in the neighborhood can gather, watch and learn, and connect at a location closer to home. You can see this in action at The Rock Church in San Diego, Calif.

Drive-In Church

Invite guests to join worship without needing to leave the comfort of their cars.

Coordinate with a local school to use the parking lot. Set up a screen to broadcast the worship service, then crank up the radio.

In an era when lots of non-believers don’t want to step foot into a church building, invite them to join without needing to leave the comfort of their cars. Plus, who doesn’t like singing in the car? Catch it happening this summer at Augustana Lutheran Church in West St. Paul, Minn.

Meal-Time Church

Nothing forces people to slow down and get to know one another like sitting at a table to share a meal.

Swap out the pre-service donut stop for a full-scale, family-style meal before or after Sunday sermons. In our oft-busy culture, nothing forces people to slow down and get to know one another like sitting at a table to share a meal.

So, go ahead: Find cooking volunteers who love food (or even invite the whole congregation to meal prep), and cultivate community. Look into Theophilis in Portland, Ore., or Saint Lydia’s in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Online-Presence Church

Host digital gatherings in social spaces, like a Periscope broadcast, Twitter chat or Facebook Live video. Be ready to ask questions, to breakdown Scripture and to facilitate digital discussion, similar to small group settings.

Not only meeting online? Have hashtags and even geofilters available for face-to-face gatherings, so people can keep talking online about what they discover in-person. Tune in to The Slate Project in Baltimore, Md.

Third-Space Church

Identify where people in your community spend their free time and take worship services to them.

Identify where people in your community spend their free time. Maybe it’s a pub, like in St. Paul. Maybe it’s the skate park, like in Santa Cruz.

Then, instead of petitioning pub crawlers or skaters (or insert your city’s vibe here) to come to your church, take worship services to them. Just meet people in their context, in a third space.

Get inspired by Humble Walk Church in St. Paul, Minn., and by Santa Cruz Hope’s Skate Church in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Listen to God for Guidance

Of course, a worship service isn’t the only way to “be the church” either. But, it’s a part.

So, if you’re a church leader involved in influencing how God is calling your church body, be open to asking: How would you like us to connect with you, with each other and with those who don’t yet know you?

Then, listen.

Be ready to act on what he says. Remind yourself of what he’s told you in the past. Hold firm to promises of where he’ll take you in the future. And ask God good questions. He’ll let you know.

Post By:

Ally Siwajian


Ally Siwajian is the digital engagement and communications liaison for a church denomination based in Los Angeles. She also tweets personally about mobilizing Christ-followers, being a native Nevadan and reveling in all things nerd here: @AllySiwaj.
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2 Responses to “A Look at Non-Conventional Worship Services”

  • Paul
    August 17, 2016

    Good stuff Ally. God has led the church I’m a part of now -journeycclife.com – down an unconventional path. We meet in the activity center of a foster care ranch, the foster kids & house parents often join us, we gather around tables instead of in pews, our gatherings include a time of discussion around the tables, and every 5th Sunday is a pot luck “Brunch Sunday.” I think all of these unconventional ways of doing things has led to stronger relationships and better community.


  • Tom
    December 13, 2016

    I get it, I agree with it, I hope it happens. But most likely it will happen with people 40 or 50 are pretty much stuck, at least the already convinced/church attenders are. (I’m 63 and love the micro church model)



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