Worshippers at Easter fill Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, where attendance has been on a steady rise. Photo by Joseph McBrayer
By Darby Jones, United Methodist Communications
The word laity is from the Greek word, laos, meaning "people of God." It is used to describe members of a congregation or parish who are not a part of the clergy. By letting laity plan services and offer ideas for worship, the pastor and worship team members can get a little respite, and participating members may find a deeper connection within the church.
Laity Sunday is a specific day to include church members in the planning and execution of your service, but you could choose other days as well. Fall and spring breaks are a time when families may have more availability to participate together. Summer can also be ideal when parents may have more flexible schedules. If you have a worship planning team, make sure they’re involved to approve the nontraditional plans.
Involve your mission teams
Congregation (and community) members who go on mission trips often host a post-trip meeting to share what they did. Invite mission volunteers to plan a Sunday service to allow even more people to experience the mission in worship, inspiring and motivating the entire congregation. Ask the mission team to plan a Sunday service that they will lead a few weeks after their return. Talk with them about planning and leading the service before they go, so they can keep that in mind during the mission trip.
Young people, especially teens, like to share their opinions and to be given an opportunity to lead adults. Planning a worship service provides a perfect opportunity for direct church involvement. Youth can pick readings that inspire them. They can select music that motivates them. As they experience all it takes to plan a successful service, they may gain appreciation for what happens in worship. They also learn valuable skills for college ministry. Additionally, your adult congregation can gain insight and appreciation for youth as they participate in a more youth-oriented service.
Go to families
Sure, moms, dads and children are busy, but they often worship together. What if families planned a service together? Don’t just invite a couple of families you know well – extend the invitation to everybody. You never know who might be interested but won’t volunteer unless they’re asked. If interest is too great to fit your nontraditional service schedule, consider asking families to work together. Think about mixing it up—match a family of five (mom, dad, three children) with a family of two (mom, child) or a single-parent family with an older-adult couple. The varying perspectives will enhance the worship experience.
Trade churches or community organizations
Consider working with a neighboring church and exchange services for the day. Let the other congregation (or even a related community group) plan your worship service and offer to do the same for that group.
Although these worship services will be nontraditional, they still must be planned and executed to fit within whatever parameters your church sets. Here are some tips to ensure that happens:
Prepare how-to information
Decide how much freedom you want planners to have. Include time parameters and “must-haves." Keep the information to a single sheet so the other planning team isn’t overwhelmed.
Offer planning assistance
Some groups may want assistance; others may prefer to work independently. Provide a worship team contact to answer their questions.
Plan to review
In giving your worship planners a suggested timeline for completion, make sure to include time for your worship-planning team and pastor to review the plans. Don’t micromanage service details, but ensure the planned worship doesn’t have any obvious red flags.