A Picture Is Worth… A Lot Less than You Think
The most common question I get asked when I talk about worship curating is, “Can you show me some photos of what you do?”
Yes, I can. But the most important part of what I do can’t be photographed. A photo can show you how I answered my questions about what I wanted to achieve with a particular worship event. It can show you the space I used, what I did with the space, and how it was curated. It can show you what ages of people were engaged and in what particular ways. It may even convey something of the atmosphere of the worship event.
But it can’t show you what my prior questions were – what I wanted to achieve with the worship event; nor whether or not people engaged with it and how it influenced their formation as followers of Jesus. And those questions are more important than the answers are. So I am hesitant to show you pictures too soon.
What does this photo tell you about the service I curated for my congregation in the evening of the Third Sunday in Advent?
You need a lot more information to be able to understand what they are about. You can make some judgments – about numbers, what you think the style of the service is etc., but you would have no idea what either service had set out to achieve, nor how successful it had been in achieving that.
Of course, if you are just looking for ideas to use in your own services, then you may pick up something that’s useful – how I used candles, or stations, or seating arrangements, a prayer activity, or items that followed the Church Calendar … and you might use them in your service.
But unless you first ask the hard questions about what you want to achieve – what I call the “prior questions” – you will remain a worship leader, director, or designer who achieves little more than moving the deck chairs on the Titanic. People may be more comfortable, hear the band better, even enjoy the journey for a while longer, but they won’t be part of the story of the rescue.
There is no definitive list of questions, as there is no definitive response or silver-bullet to the decline of the Church in the West. What I offer is simply an offering to stimulate your own questioning and struggling with your answers.
Here’s my short list:
- What does the church exist to do?
- What does our worship exist to do?
And having answered those questions,
- What do I want to achieve in the corporate worship events/services I am responsible for?
Those are all broad questions that have general answers. The more specific questions include:
- What do I want to achieve in this particular worship event (e.g. this Sunday at 11am) that is different to the last one or to our worship events generally? (i.e. what do I want people to know, learn, apply, be like, as a result of their having been part of this event?)
- What do I want to say in this particular worship event? (i.e. what do I want people to go away with?)
These may seem like useless and waste-of-time questions. If they do, then you are probably wasting the time of the people who come to your worship events week after week. I can’t imagine a worse sin than doing that! It must surely grieve the heart of God.
The Church in the West doesn’t need to ask more questions. It needs to ask better questions. It doesn’t need better answers. It needs better questions.