NEWS

Church tweaks services to appeal to multiple generations

Nick Stroman

Imagine your son or daughter text messaging on their cell phone, drinking a cup of coffee or watching television while the preacher is trying to give his sermon on a Sunday morning.

Now imagine the preacher and church actually encouraging and embracing the behavior.

New Life Christian Church in Morton is moving the experience of Sunday morning worship into the future with four services in three distinct formats.

Pastor Bob See said the church will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year and it was important to church leaders to make changes and reach more members.

“Society’s changed and so has the culture. When planning this change, we asked ourselves how we could adapt and package our eternal message so it could appeal to future generations as well,” See said.

“When I was growing up, there were three TV stations and everyone listened to top 40 radio. Now, there are literally several hundred channels, and we think people want options in their church, too,” he added.

See admits the church has followed the same basic format since the beginning.

“There’s nothing wrong with what we’ve done in past, and we have reached lots of people, but there are also no rules in the Bible as to how you have to do a worship service,” See added.

So, for the past 18 months, church leaders have attended conferences, researched other church services around the nation and brainstormed on how to make changes, but still keep the church aligned as a whole.

The result of their planning kicked off Oct. 5 with each Sunday featuring three differently formatted services: New Life Central, The Gathering and Torch.

New Life Central is at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. in the worship center and features the original informal and casual service the church has always had with contemporary worship bands.

The Gathering is at 11 a.m. in the fellowship room and features intimate worship in a smaller coffeehouse setting with acoustic music.

The Torch is at 11 a.m. in the Hartseil Center and focuses on the younger student congregation with a media-driven and interactive environment and full rock band.

See said while the three approaches are different, the message remains the same each Sunday.

“All of our speakers collaborate so the key points and themes are the same for the services. That leads to conversations between the parents and kids who learned about the same things, but in different ways,” See said.

“It also helps keep kids involved, who tend to fall off from attendance as they get older,” he added.

See said the Torch format encourages text messaging so young people can ask questions via cell phone during the service.

All three services feature televisions for interactive video opportunities during the sermons.

See added the walls in each worship space have been sound-proofed so the congregations cannot be disturbed by the music or speakers at the other two services.

“Our live speakers and communications are important, and the use of the TVs keeps it fresh, current and creative,” See said, adding he will occasionally record a televised message to play at all services.

See said church leadership is also encouraging the congregation to try out the different formats and see what works best for them.

“I think people can sample the three and will eventually settle into a groove, but this can also lead to our members recommending friends or family who might have different tastes,” See said.

He added going in this direction has also been cost effective for the church.

“If we didn’t do this, we might have to remodel or build a new auditorium to accommodate more seats and people. I’m glad we’re not investing our money in brick and mortar right now,” See said, with a laugh.

“We want more people to hear the gospel, serve and use their gifts. By going to this format, that will happen,” he added.

For more information about the church and its services, visit www.newlifeonline.org, or call (309) 266-9050.

Morton Times-News