QUESTION: Our church makes announcements immediately following the worship music. This feels like an interruption. Do you have any thoughts on this?
Regi: This is a great question with a lot of practical implications.
Most of us begin our services with uplifting praise, moving intentionally toward a deeper place of worship and intimacy with Christ. I can't tell you how many times I've come to that last song--often the most tender, worshipful, meditative one of the morning--and as the last note fades, someone steps on the platform, asks everyone to take their seats, and launches into eight minutes of announcements. Talk about “quenching the Spirit”! It's like throwing a bucket of ice water on the congregation.
After all, the goal of musical worship isn't to prepare hearts to receive information about a pizza party in the gym next Friday evening. At the same time, we all understand how important it is to keep the congregation informed about the life of the church.
The first answer to the “announcement enigma” is to understand the importance of transitional moments.
After the last note has faded, whoever takes the platform must respect the sacredness of what has just occurred while moving the congregation into another aspect of the worship service. At this point, some churches move from musical worship into the offering or communion—two important acts that should be celebrated with spiritual intentionality. “Flow” is critical to a cohesive worship experience. “Hard transitions” may move the service along, but they may defeat the greater goal of responding personally and congregationally to God and his Word.
While transitional moments are important in worship service planning, that’s just the start. The second—and possibly more important--strategy is to be more intentional about communication.
We’ve all heard the arguments for placing announcements smack dab in the middle of the service:
- If we do them at the beginning, there's hardly anyone in the sanctuary.
- We need to do them when everyone’s here because people just don’t read the bulletin.
- If we do them at the end, people are leaving and won’t pay attention.
But in one sense, an announcement from the platform is literally the last place an announcement should be heard for the first time. If that’s the case, your church team lacks a cohesive communication strategy. Fix that and you’ll go a long way toward guarding the spiritual integrity of your worship service.
Here are some practical suggestions about how to be intentional with communication:
- First, your leadership team needs to prioritize which announcements are important enough to be promoted from the platform. This discussion should not happen five minutes before the start of service. Rather, the team member in charge of communications should develop a plan of how and when specific things will be communicated.
- The “how” aspect is extremely important. Like all advertising, messages require multiple impressions before the information is retained. With that in mind, think in terms of several intentional “touches” in the weeks leading up to your event. Create a spreadsheet with all the possible message outlets and assign a date and detail to each communication.
- For example, start promoting important events at least a month out. Begin with inclusion in your weekly bulletin, on your website, on your church’s social media, and in your church’s weekly email. There are any number of easy and affordable email and list management services available (i.e. Constant Contact, MailChimp, Emma) as well as social media apps (i.e. HootSuite) to help you schedule your messaging.
- As the date grows closer, the intensity of the communication should increase. Again, the week of the event should not be the first time your folks hear about it. One particularly creative way to accomplish this is to produce an announcement slideshow that tastefully promotes each item in the pre-service time. This slideshow can also played as people can leave the sanctuary. If you’re ready to take announcements to the next level, consider subscribing to a video church announcement service. These can be a little pricy, but you can get double-duty from a video: it can be played in the pre-service as well as sent in an email as a link that your folks can play during the week.
- Okay, what about the problem of getting people into the sanctuary at (or before) the downbeat of the first song? That’s not a communication issue; it’s a church culture issue. Your leadership staff, Sunday School teachers, deacons, and elders need to model (and personally encourage) people to be in their seats when the service begins. “Start-drift” will always be a challenge, but it gets worse when the service “waits” for people to come in. Create the expectation that your folks will miss something if they’re late. Better yet, consider posting signs that the coffee bar will close five minutes before the service starts to make sure folks aren’t lingering in the lobby!
- Consider having your pastor offer key announcements (supplemented by what’s in the bulletin or on the screen) while the congregation is seated at the very end of the service before they stand for the benediction. It may take a few weeks to establish this habit, but people will respect and accommodate structure and predictability. It’s also a nice way to transition out the doors and into the community.
If you’re not communicating with your folks on many platforms throughout the week, you can’t expect an announcement from the platform the Sunday to make up for it. You’re competing for your congregation’s time and attention just like everything and everyone else.
For me, there's nothing more frustrating in a church service than a list of announcements following a beautiful musical worship experience. It robs everyone of the opportunity to rest in that moment.
Hopefully, some of these recommendations will serve your unique setting and help you in your worship service planning. Let me know what works for you!
--For other helpful blogs about worship service planning, check out www.discoverworship.com.