Full-Service Church

Is More Worship Workers Better?

My first job in high school was detailing cars. It was a simple setup: I cleaned and vacuumed the inside of the car, the other guy cleaned and waxed the outside. Any problems with either area was the responsibility of one person. Two jobs, two guys…done. So we had to know our areas inside and out, and to this day while I can detail the inside of a car easily I still am terrible at waxing.

I recount this because a few months back I got my car professionally detailed for the first time in my life. I was struck that the place had six workers on each car. One did the windows, one did the tires, one de-insected the front grill, one did the interior vinyl, one waxed and one vacuumed. And…they took as long as we did back in 1996! And I doubt they could do much  beyond their assigned area. So while I was glad that more people are being employed, it was weird that over a decade later, the profession required more people to accomplish the same task in the same amount of time.

Along the same lines, InternetMonk (which has been carried forward since its creator’s death from cancer a few months back) posted two letters one day a month back talking about the “work” of church. The first is from 1972 that has a megachurch pastor claiming it takes 365 people to do the work of the church for the entire year. The second is from 2010 that has Northpoint Community Church (which we’ve blogged about before) claiming it takes 2,000 people just to run weekend church services.

So like the auto detailing business, from 1972 to 2010, it seems like the number of people required to “do” church has increased considerably. When you do the percentages (1972 church had 7,000 members = 5.5% are workers, Northpoint has 23,000 members = 8.5% are workers), it still indicates that it takes more people to do worship on Sunday morning. Keep in mind that those numbers from 1972 referenced the entire ministry of the church, not just a Sunday service, so the 1972 numbers would be significantly lower.

I examined my church this past Sunday. 148 attendees. Here’s the jobs list that I was aware of (all different people)

  • 16 choir members
  • 3 ushers
  • 1 helping the acolytes into their robes
  • 1 making coffee
  • 2 setting out sweets
  • 2 nursery attendants
  • 7 Sunday School Teachers
  • 2 adults assisting with youth sunday school
  • 1 attendance taker
  • 1  unlocked the children’s sunday school building
  • 1 reset the thermostat.
  • 1 ran the powerpoint for the first service
  • 1 ran the sound for the second service
  • 2 pianists
  • 1 choral director

And my church doesn’t have a full tech team or media ministry. But 42/150 had or did at least one job (28% of the worshipping attendance that day). That is not including those who greeted visitors or passed notes or prayed or read the bible along with the lector (me).

I’m still wondering what to make of this.

  • On the one hand, like auto detailing, it takes more people to accomplish the same task: provide worship for people. Now, we can blame technology as requiring more people but at my church, it added exactly one person per service who does the powerpoint or the audio. Many churches only require one extra person, unlike Northpoint whose sound booth, lasers, and powerpoint team is probably a dozen, at minimum.
  • On the other hand, I’m excited that more people are involved in worship on Sunday morning. It’s great to have more people be passionate about worship and want to participate. By having more people up front or behind the scenes, getting them to regular discipleship isn’t too hard a leap.

What do you make of this phenomenon? Is worship becoming a bureaucracy where teams of people “present” worship and the behind-the-scenes crew will outnumber the choir or the worshippers eventually? Or is worship becoming an immersive experience such that helping with worship becomes part of worshipping God?


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  1. says

    I hate to quibble (okay, fine – I love to quibble. sue me) but do you think it might be a healthy thing within the church to just go ahead and stop using the term “worship” to signify with any degree of exclusivity the act of making music for a few minutes on Sunday mornings? I feel like it’s a diminishment, and that words really, really matter.

    Perhaps my feelings can be best expressed with a poem: http://joshbarkey.blogspot.com/2009/08/steeples.html

  2. says

    Most of the people I have known that have helped with Sunday morning services felt like their work was a part of their worship. Ushers wanted to extend courtesy to strangers, liturgists wanted to help proclaim the word of God and the secret do-nut crew wanted to make sure our community had a time to actually commune together.

    Good post. Stay blessed…john

  3. Kayla says

    I connected with a woman recently who hasn’t been in church for several months. She asked for a Sunday morning “job” which would push her into making sure she shows up. I think many people like to feel that they add to the entire worship community and experience, but as a pastor, I often find it hard to worship when I’m leading so much of the experience. I miss my teenage days of sitting in the youth pew…

    • says

      I connected with a woman recently who hasn’t been in church for several months. She asked for a Sunday morning “job” which would push her into making sure she shows up.

      That’s interesting, Kayla. It makes intuitive sense to me … and yet, I’ve commented frequently in recent months that church feels increasingly like a job to me — that I do things because I feel a sense of obligation/responsibility, rather than just doing it because I love it.

      On the one hand, I’m a big fan of the fact that I’m more “officially” a part of the leadership of church services I love — I feel a much stronger sense of ownership (and thus investment), rather than feeling like an Outsider who’s critiquing Someone Else’s service (which is a role I often feel really comfortable in, but that’s an entirely separate discussion). But it also means I’m doing more “work,” which makes it more challenging to cultivate an attitude of connection to the Divine.

      Of course, as John above alluded to, Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” We are called to love and serve God, and thus to love and serve our neighbors and our world, and so if people are serving doing that work they love, then that’s all to the good.


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