P is for Participatory.
Participation. This word has been swirling in my head for some time now, specifically surrounding worship and teaching. For me this is focused on the youth I minister to. Over the past year, I’ve been thinking about how they are participants in our high school youth group called Elevate on Sunday nights and not just consumers or listeners. From Twitter responses, asking questions or giving time to think, doodle or talk, I’ve tried to bring the act of participating up a level.
Whether or not it has worked, I’m not sure, but what I have a feeling has happened is the youth have been given the space to participate. In guided ways, yes. But also however they feel comfortable. I think younger generations are aching for this participation
People long to participate. The worst thing you can say about a worship service is that it is uninvolving. Worship wars in churches are better described as EPIC wars, since the battle is less about the type of music than it is about the degree of participation. (pg 84)
In EPIC worship the congregation is not a passive consumer of content but a participant in the creation and refinement of the experience.
In the modern world of pulpit-centric preaching, great effort was spent on how to write better opening sentences. In EPIC preaching, time is spent on how to create better opening (and closing) interactions.
To me this chapter in the book is maybe the weakest. Sweet starts off with some of these quotes above, but then goes into a discussion on passion and spontaneity. I like these topics, but I wish he would have focused more on why participation is important and built on how God impacted this world, which he does a bit at the beginning of the chapter.
Regardless, as this is not a critique of the book, participation is important, especially for today’s young adults and youth. There is no lack of research on the decline of young adults in our congregations. Neither is there a magic bullet to get them back in the church. But for a generation where they have the choice to participate or not participate we need to re-imagine how we engage them in participation.
How do we engage our congregations in the “creation and refinement of the experience”? A better question may be, are we willing to let them be engaged in this process, regardless of what may come of it. There are many unknowns when we open up the process of creating, but can we neglect this participation any longer? What are we missing from not allowing others, regardless of age, in on the creative process for these experiences, specifically in worship?
I understand that Worship is not about us. With that said, is there a way we can make it both/and instead of either/or. Is there flexibility in our ideas surrounding what Worship is and how we participate with it? I don’t have the answer, but my underlying feeling is that we need to find a way to make this work, while holding on to our past and looking toward the future.
Participation turns the spontaneity up. (87)
So here is where spontaneity and creativity come back into the fold. Both of these are messy. Both require more time than a normal planning session. But both awaken a part of God’s Spirit within us, which is important for participation. So, here is the “Grounds for Truth” statement to think about…
Creativity needs ambiguity, fuzziness, fluidity, diversity. What kills creativity? Certainty, clarity, homogeneity, and fixed boundaries. What fuels you creativity? (91)