09 Feb 2013

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At Granger we are really intentional about creating space for our attenders to connect.  Often that happens before service in the atriums at our campuses.  The environment is designed in a way that encourages conversation in a comfortable seat over a warm drink.  Over time, though, we’ve found that we’ve been a bit too successful at creating connection.  At the time the service begins we have a large number of people still hanging out in our atrium space.  Maybe you’ve run into that problem too.

My guess is that at times you’ve also wrestled with the fact that half of your audience misses the music or that great opening element or even part of the message if it’s early in the service.  And you could never have offering less than 15 minutes after the service starts because you would miss a lot of people.  Us too.

So we’ve done a few things to address the problem without boxing ourselves in to a specific element.  Some churches do the same thing every week to start service and that’s great, but we’ve found it can become predictable for our crowd and they become immune.

There are two strategic things that we do to get people in the room before the service starts on any given weekend.

  1. Instrumental Cover Songs

There are a few things we do to maximize these moments as an indicator to our audience that service is about to begin.

  • We pick the most recognizable, best sounding instrumental covers we can find.
  • We do them without vocals because it gives us a broader selection to choose from without having to worry about matching lyrical content to service content.
  • We have either the guitar or the keys (and sometimes a sax) play the melody line.
  • We don’t run these full volume.  Our goal is that they’re loud enough for people to know that something is starting in the auditorium, but soft enough that you can holler at a friend in the next section of chairs.
  • We run the video and audio of these throughout the rest of the building so the you know something’s getting ready to happen no matter where you are.

Here’s an example of a recent prelude.

2.  Countdown Video

We designed a video that serves as a 3 minute warning for attendees as well as accomplishes a few other objectives.

  • It casts vision for who we are as a church.
  • It provides a countdown timer so that you know exactly when the service begins.
  • It provides high energy music that we play louder than our normal pre-service music so that people know something is getting ready to happen.

Here’s our most recent countdown video.

Using these two elements we’ve created interest and a reason for people to be in the service early as well as helped people throughout our building know that it’s time to head for their seat.  For weekly attenders the elements are somewhat predictable yet unpredictable enough to keep them fresh.  For us, we rarely feel the tension of a large number of people missing our opening moments and that’s worth the work.

4 comments on “Fill The Room BEFORE The Service Starts
  1. Anthony

    This is a great article that addresses a very real need for most churches. I have heard many worship leaders refer to the opening song as the “throwaway song” for this very reason.

    How do you pair these great ideas with a theology of a “call to worship,” that both gathers the church as well as acknowledges the centrality of the Triune God in our worship? In other words, how do we insure that our “cover song” is actually gathering a crowd not to hear something cool, but actually assists people prepare to meet with the living God?

    • Sean Bublitz

      Hey Anthony, thanks for the question. We actually don’t consider our pre-service elements a “call to worship.” They’re pre-service and we know that people aren’t focused 100% on anything yet. They’re grabbing their coffee, finishing a conversation, and hurrying to their seat. If we used them as a call to worship we’d have a lot of people who missed it. The intention of these is to make sure everyone is in a seat when the service actually begins.

  2. Jonathan

    Sean, I really like the countdown video. I have been working on ways to make people aware that the service is starting and have just started doing a pre-service announcement video. I know yall do “The Feed”. At what point in the service is The Feed? Sorry if this is a little off-topic. Thanks!

    • Sean Bublitz

      Great question Jonathan. On the weeks when we use the countdown video pre-service we move the Feed to a different part of our service. Most of the time we’ll show it during offering. It’s a great opportunity for people to hear about what’s going on in the life of GCC as well as give. We prefer to have almost all of our announcements communicated via video because we’re able to control content and length. Hope that helps.

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