How Cool Is Too Cool for Church?
I had to reprint this excellent article regarding the transitioning of worship styles within the church. Read on for the author’s insights and findings with just two churches and how different the approach should be. The short-story is know the vision of the church and follow the direction of the pastor. The techs, especially your volunteer team, must be very involved in the process. Enjoy!
by Andy McMillan
A few years ago I was attending a church that was in the process of transitioning their musical style. In less than a year they went from a single worship leader/singer, a drummer (that wasn’t mic’d), a bass player that just played out of an amp on stage, and a piano player, to full band with a guy who brought in three different guitars every week, three keyboard players (piano, keys and organ), a drummer with a fully mic’d kit, a percussion player, and 12 background singers on wireless mics. Needless to say the volume more than doubled.
During this same time, the lighting for the services went from no colored lights at all and a bright room, to tons of color and moving lights, and a dark congregation. During that year the church experienced a large congregation shift. Many left the church because they felt what was happening was “over the top”. They felt it was too “showy” and too much like a performance.
Many churches have successfully transitioned their worship style. But how far is too far? How cool is too cool for church?
Every church is unique, so we asked two pastors from two very different church environments for their opinions were on this topic.
Dr. Jeremy D. Sims is the music and high school pastor at Kingwood Church in Alabaster, Alabama. Dr. Sims says, “It isn’t about what is ‘too far’, it is about the vision of the church and the goal of who the church is trying to reach.” He says he’s observed a consistent issue with some church production departments where the techies are more interested in “playing with their toys” than they are concerned with supporting the vision of the church. To further illustrate his point he adds, “I would rather have a mediocre production guy that was excited about the vision of the church, than have an incredible production engineer that was not concerned with the direction the pastor desired.” He made it clear that “too far” is relative to who you are, the background or history of the congregation, and the vision of the senior pastor.
Next we talked to Pastor Jason D. Mayfield, music pastor at Bethany Assembly of God in Adrian, Michigan. His perspective is very different. He says, “There is no such thing as too far or too cool, but there is a such thing as too fast.” Pastor Jason concludes that lighting or video effects or even volume levels in church are never too much. He suggests that church congregations can handle it as long as they are transitioned into it. “It takes time to get any church acclimated to change,” Mayfield says. “If you want moving lights running through haze, then start out with the just moving lights for a while and slowly add haze to the room. If you want your audio to be louder, take time to slowly raise it to where you want it. Don’t just turn it up.” He says that it simply takes time to transition any group of people to what the goal is. He believes it had less to do with what they will tolerate due to their background and more to do with how to transition them to the new way of doing things.
So how far is too far? A single answer could never cover all types of churches. The more important questions are: 1) What are the vision and philosophy of the church? And, 2) How, and how fast should the service transition to fulfill the vision of what the leaders desire?
If the tech staff is properly addressing these two questions, then there may not be such a thing as “too cool”.
After spending almost a decade as a FOH engineer and integration specialist, Andy McMillan left his FOH position and is now student pastor at Turning Point Church in McDonough, Georgia.