Corporate Worship: Ideas for Engaging your Congregation

In my roles with the RMCN and CBAmerica, I am exposed to a spectrum of styles of Sunday services. This continuum ranges from traditional services, that have an organ and hymnals (these are definitely fewer in number, thank goodness because those books are heavy), to rock concert like productions with laser lights and fog machines and often times, thank goodness, optional ear plugs. Oops, tipped my hat there a bit, didn’t I?
When I am in a Sunday morning service (as one pastor of a very large church told me, it is not a worship service), I often mentally pose the unspoken query for the pastor and worship leader, “What are you trying to do with this service?” Another way to put it is, “What is your philosophy worship (sorry, I am old)?”  or “What are you wanting me to do in this 1-hour experience?”
Do you want me to worship God? … be entertained? … gain more bible information? …commune with other believers? My hope is that if I knew what we were trying to do, that I could either relax and enjoy or perhaps join you in fulfilling your purpose. But to be honest, most times I do not have a clue what we are trying to do.
So I have asked a few “Worship Leaders,” that from my subjective perspective “get it,” to share some of their insights. The first to come to mind was my good friend Sam Hoffman. Sam is the volunteer worship leader at First Baptist Church of Sheridan, WY. I have known Sam for over 15 years. Vocationally, Sam is an optometrist. He and his wife Robin are the parents of three wonderful daughters.
First Baptist Church of Sheridan, WY is a church of 500 multi-generational attendees. The church recently called Chad Cowan to be their pastor.

Knowing Sam’s musical talent and leadership gifting, I knew that he would share some very practical observations about worship. He did not disappoint me.

From Sam:

I strongly recommend the book “Worship Matters” as a point where I learned much of the following.

In corporate worship, I try to gently lead people to worship God by singing songs that they already know and having them do so in keys that are singable, with the mind and heart fully engaged.

This means:

  1. We introduce a new song once every two weeks maximum, usually only once per month. We do not retire “old” songs very often: if they were good enough for worship 5 years ago, they’re probably still good. I look over old songs and try to do them a maximum of once every three months. For most people who are worship leaders or music-people, learning new music is easy and fun, so I think a major mistake that a lot of worship teams make is too much new music too fast (in fact, this is the primary problem in most churches in America today). YOU may like it, but the average congregant is likely struggling to follow along if you do too many new songs too fast. Also, pay attention to the demographics of your congregation: if it’s mostly older people, you’ll want more hymns. If it’s mostly younger people, you’ll want more contemporary songs.
  2. When we introduce a new song, I play the melody loud and clear on the piano in order to help people pick it up as we sing it the first couple times.
  3. Typically, we start with one or two upbeat songs, and move into more slow/worshipful songs at the end. We do four or five a week, but that’s not a magic number.
  4. All songs must have good theology. There are a lot of songs out there. No sense using one that has bad or even questionable lyrics. If you’re not sure, run it by the senior pastor or the elders. “What a Beautiful Name it Is” is a nice song, but some of the theology is suspect (or flat out wrong), so we haven’t done it.
  5. Key is very important. The average singer can sing from a “low” A (or G in a stretch), to a high C (or D in a stretch). Comfortable for most people is an even narrower range, perhaps a “low” C to a high A (less than one octave!). This may require transposing a song into a difficult-to-play key, but it is worth it to allow people to sing. “Songselect” is worth every penny for performing these transpositions. Guitar players can capo, and piano players (keyboarders) can grow by doing these in strange keys. Remember though that a lot of songs on the radio span an octave and a half or even two octaves (!). Don’t try to do these songs corporately!!! It won’t work!
  6. I sometimes change words in songs to make them fit more appropriately. I do not let this trouble me in the least. Most often it is changing “I” “me” and “my” to “We” “us” and “ours,” making individual songs into corporate songs.
  7. Follow the music and sing the notes as written. Leading worship is not a time to improvise or try something fancy. Keep it simple so people can follow. If your worship team can’t sing it perfectly in 2-3 times through, then leave it. (For instance, I really wanted to do “Jesus Friend of Sinners” recently, but after trying it twice, my worship team was struggling, so we scrapped it.)
  8. Sing songs with appropriate feeling and accompaniment. If you are singing “I Surrender All,” it will be more quiet and subdued than the upbeat song “Trading My Sorrows.” Certain verses of certain songs (see “How Great Thou Art”) call for quiet contemplative minimal accompaniment, and other verses of the same song call for HUGE sound. Play and sing appropriately. In a quiet restaurant, you will whisper “I love you!” to your wife, you don’t stand on your chair and scream it. Apply the same rule to your worship: make sure the volume, tone and presentation fit the words you are singing.
  9. As much as possible, the worship leader(s) should disappear. No stories about “how my week went,” or “You know, I’ve been thinking…” Let the pastor preach. My job is to lead worship, period. Brief exhortations are ok, but anything longer than about 30 seconds is too long (with very rare exceptions). 
  10. Remember it is never, ever, ever about YOU. This is not American Idol. It is about God.
  11. Point people to God, and get out of the way. Bad notes call attention away from God and towards the instrumentalist or vocalist. But a fancy guitar solo does the same. Don’t interrupt the flow. Even long song introductions are rarely worth it: four measures at most for an intro then get the show on the road! If you want a contemplative part in the middle of a song to give people time to pray, you must TELL them that this is what you’re doing… don’t expect them to know. 
  12. At the same time, there will be times when a certain song requires some kind of story or anecdote or thought to get into it gracefully. I do NOT invent these on the fly. I thoughtfully consider what I am going to say and often type it up (at least the keywords) so that I don’t ramble.
  13. Often before singing a song, one simple thing to do is to restate the main theme of the song in different words. Then sing the song. Easy to do but engages the mind. For instance, before “Amazing Grace,” you could say, “If you do not know that you were a wretch at one time, perhaps you do not understand the position from which you were saved.” or “God’s grace is so amazing it will cover every one of your sins,” or something. This needn’t be profound, lengthy, nor poetic. Keep it simple and grounded and relevant.
  14. Avoid 7-11 songs. There are many great worship songs out there. Too much repetition is awesome for about 3% of the congregation, the rest hate it. Trust that people get the message in 2 or at most 4 cycles through. “Jesus lead me where my faith is without borders…” can be grasped in 1 or 2 times around.
  15. Hymns are good, especially ones that are widely known. I do at least one per week, and I try to do them as people remember them. If you jazz them up too much or change them, people will be frustrated because “I wanted to sing it like I know it!”
  16. Don’t be too loud, or people can’t hear themselves sing. Don’t be too quiet so it feels like no one is singing. There’s a balance there, and your sound guy should know it (and will have a meter to find it). 
  17. Every so often, on songs the congregation knows well, have all vocalists back away from the microphone, stop the accompaniment, and let the congregation hear themselves sing.
  18. Don’t worry about the technical components of the sound. Let the sound guys worry about that. Trust your sound person.
  19. Remember there is a difference between leading (taking people where they WANT to go) and manipulation (taking people where they do NOT want to go). In leading worship, we do the former. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to take people out of their comfort zones if it will get them closer to true worship of the living God.
  20. Every so often, intersperse Scripture, a reading, or a responsive reading. If you can get the words on the screen, all the better (some people will not grasp it unless they read it). Make sure it is appropriate and meaningful to your audience.
  21. During powerful worship songs, people will have a hard time sitting. Let them stand.
  22. Don’t make them stand for the whole set, it can be a long time. Give them breaks at times to let them sit.
  23. Respect people’s time. Remember that many of the people on your worship team have 40+ hour per week jobs, spouses, kids, and other hobbies. If you call a meeting from 6-7 PM, make sure it is over at 7 PM… even if this means abruptly interrupting Suzie’s story about her son’s kindergarten class. (Even better, aim to get done at 6:50 so you have a 10 minute buffer). Also, you as the leader need to be ready to go at 6 PM: get there early to make sure things are in place so that others don’t have to pick up your slack.

Developing A Spirit of Generosity – Live Streaming

Catalyst Denver One-Day

Catalyst Denver One-Day

March 8, 2018
$79 Tickets

Once again we have an opportunity to offer discounted tickets to the Catalyst One Day Training event in Denver.  Again this year it will be held at:

Cherry Hills Community Church
3900 Grace Boulevard
Highlands Ranch, CO 80126

It is often said that change is the only constant and we know that our world is constantly advancing, shifting, and adapting, but how do we lead in these new realities?

Join Craig Groeschel, Lysa TerKeurst, and Levi Lusko as we examine how to anticipate coming change before it arrives, create a strategy for transition, and map a compelling vision for the future.

Bring the entire team! Together you’ll learn to:

  • Foresee problems and opportunities before they arise
  • Create and communicate a strategy for change
  • Understand organizational life cycles
  • Establish a different way of thinking
  • Foster a culture that embraces change and fuels progress


Cultivating Generosity

Date: January 24, 2018
Time: 10 am to 2 pm
Good News Community Church of Broomfield
5511 W 136th Ave,
Broomfield, CO 80020
Presenter: Pastor Matthew Fite
Most pastors do not see themselves as effective fund raisers.  Few enjoy talking about the financial component of ministry, let alone soliciting people to give. Yet, stewardship is a critical component of discipleship and a revealing window on the heart of those who follow Christ.
Pastor Fite will lead us in the exploration of this important topic. Some of the areas for our discussion will be:
  • Preaching on Generosity.
  • The importance of leading by example.
  • The 5 reasons people give.
  • The generosity Ladder.
  • Following up with first-time givers.
  • Electronic Giving is now a non-negotiable -the culture has already changed.
  • Quarterly Giving Letters.
  • Always say thanks.
  • Generous Givers Dessert.
  • Setting the Annual Budget.

Register For the Event

Hurricane Harvey Relief Opportunities

Calvary Church in Longmont, Colorado, sent a group of six to Ingleside, Texas, to assist Calvary Relief in clean-up from Hurricane Harvey, for one week in November 2017.  This area between Rockport and Corpus Christi, Texas was in the center of the eye of the hurricane and sustained substantial damage and are still trying to recuperate.  Not only was there damage from the winds of the hurricane, but over 70 tornados hit the area during the hurricane.  Many homes and businesses were totally destroyed.  Some structures were so damaged that when the rains came, they were unprotected and then the interiors were damaged as well. Even now, over three months later there are still huge piles of debris to be cleaned up and many structures to be repaired.

The group from Longmont spend the week replacing a roof for Jerry, who is a disabled Vietnam veteran and his son.  Clean-up was done in his yard and several other homes to pick up debris from the hurricane.  There are many areas of service needed when responding to a disaster.  There are no unimportant jobs or unimportant people; it is a team effort.  There is always something for everyone to do.  Over the week in Texas, relationships were developed, and there was the opportunity to share the gospel and invite those who were helped to the local church on Sunday.  The community was so grateful for the work that is being done to help them.

Calvary Relief is a non-denominational ministry that responds to areas that have been hit by natural disasters.   Pastor Curt Hencye and his wife Mary Jo aim to assist the elderly and those lacking resources for repairs to their homes.  Calvary Church became connected with Calvary Relief when Curt and Mary Jo came in the area to help in the Lyons and Longmont area after the floods in the fall of 2014. This ministry stays in disaster areas for months at a time to develop long-term relationships and especially to reach unbelievers through their work.    They are always in need of volunteers and donations for their ministry.  If your church is interested in helping, please check the Calvary Relief website ( for more information.

Connecting Church to Church

In the mid-1990’s Tom and Sheri Luksha, with their two sons, acted upon a deep sense of calling to leave Charlton, MA and travel West to plant a church in rural Montana.  The Lord led them to establish a Gospel outpost, naming it Grace Community Church, in the Ruby Valley of South Central Montana. They have now served faithfully for over 20 years.

Workers from First Baptist Church of Basin, WY

Hidden amongst arguably some of the most spectacularly beautiful landscape in God’s creation are people who are fiercely independent and acutely rugged. But also, like everywhere else, they are people who are often broken in spirit, isolated relationally, and overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness.

Tom and Sheri have given themselves to not only share the gospel through the establishment of the church, but to share their very lives with the community.  Tom is a Chaplain with the Sheriff’s department, and the Luksha’s are known throughout the Valley as a resource of care and compassion. They have come to learn that rural ministry is best expressed not only in sermons on Sundays, but in life-on-life relationships. Then again that is what real ministry should look like in a suburban and urban context also.

The Luksha’s have been working for many years to give Grace Community Church a place to call home.  For most of the church’s existence, they have been meeting in rented space at the small country school in Alder, MT.  A number of years ago they were able to purchase property with a vision for ministry opportunity.  In addition to their home, they have developed a Bed and Breakfast ministry called Elijah’s Rest and have been working to convert a barn on their property into that church home for Grace Community Church.

Work nearly completed!

Recently, some men from First Baptist Church of Basin, WY, under the leadership of RMCN Area Coach Kent Dempsey and Pastor Aaron Gesch, traveled to Sheridan, MT to do additional work on the future home of Grace Community Church.  Their goal was to finish the exterior of the building before the onset of another harsh Montana winter.  This included the installation of backing board, siding, and a window.  Additional work was done on the interior of the building.

Your support of the Rocky Mountain Church Network can help bring together resources to aid one another in Kingdom expansion and Gospel impact.

RMCN Spring Ministry Retreat: Leadership: Being a Culture Sculptor

In an article in the magazine Executive Leadership, Dick Clark, CEO of the pharmaceutical firm Merck noted: “The fact is, culture eats strategy for lunch. You can have a good strategy in place, but if you don’t have the culture and the enabling systems, the [negative] culture of the organization will defeat the strategy.”

Samuel Chand notes the importance of organizational culture:

  • Culture is the most powerful factor in any organization.
  • Culture is usually unnoticed, unspoken, and unexamined.
  • Culture determines how people respond to vision and leadership.
  • Culture most often surfaces and is addressed in negative experiences.
  • Culture is hard to change, but change results in multiplied benefits.

Our Keynote Speaker is Mark Hanke. Mark is the Senior Pastor of Salem First Baptist Church.  He has been a pastor for 26 years serving in three churches (two of which were in the Colorado Front Range are) and has taught at Denver Seminary as an adjunct professor in Theology for 20 years.  He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Oregon State, a Master of Divinity from Denver Seminary, and DMin from Gordon-Conwell Seminary.

Mark will address the role of leadership in addressing the culture of your congregation.

  • The Power of (Congregational) Culture
  • Artistic Vision – Getting Others to See the Possibilities
  • The Art of Sculpting a Missional Culture – The Pastor’s Role in Shaping Congregational Culture

Date/Time:          5pm, April 24th and 3pm, April, 25th

Location:              Y of the Rockies – Estes Park Center

Keynote Speaker:             Mark Hanke, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Salem, OR

  • The cost of the retreat will be $110 per person, spouses are free.  This will include dinner, breakfast and lunch.
  • Those driving greater than 3 hours will be gifted another nights lodging, dinner and breakfast .
  • Those driving less than 3 hours can get an additional nights lodging, dinner and breakfast for $80.00.



God’s primary way of communicating truth is through story.  Over 50% of the Bible was written in narrative form.  Seldom however, in our Biblical and Theological training are we taught how to understand, interpret and preach stories.  The results are that often stories are used to illustrate teachings found in other passages or treated as allegories.  Much of the theological richness of the text is silent for us since we have not been trained to handle story, as story. 

I want to spend time helping us understand how to interpret stories, prepare sermons from longer passages, such as many O.T. narratives are, in the same amount of time it takes to prepare for shorter passages and demonstrate how to preach stories in a way that reflects the essence of story.

We live in a media saturated society where story is king.  If we preach stories well we will increase interest and attention.  Plus we will discover rich truths that speak to people in ways other Biblical literature does not.

Date:                        May 16, 2017

Time:                       10 am – 2 pm, – Lunch Provided

Location:               Good News Community Church – 5511 W 136th Ave, Broomfield, CO 80020

Presenter:            Paul Borden – Author, Educator, Consultant


Preaching with Authority in a Secular Age

How do we handle the scriptures with integrity and preach with biblical authority yet do so in a way that still connects to the culture and concerns of people who live in a modern and secular world?  How do we move from a text written over 2000 years ago to a relevant and transformational message?

Date:                        September 20 , 2017,

Time:                       10 am – 2 pm, – Lunch Provided

Location:               Good News Community Church – 5511 W 136th Ave, Broomfield, CO 80020

Presenter:            Nick Lillo, Pastor – Waterstone Community Church


Kingdom Theology and the Ministry of the Church

Jesus talked about the Kingdom all the time – more than any other subject.  But, what difference does the theology of the Kingdom make in the practice of ministry and the mission of the church?  If we are to be seeking the Kingdom first what does that mean in a practical way in how and what we do in church? How does it change our strategy, mission, and re-shape even our understanding of the gospel? Does the Kingdom require a shift in our paradigm of ministry!  As Gordon Fee said “If you miss the Kingdom – you miss everything!

Date:                        March 22, 2017

Time:                       10 am – 2 pm, – Lunch Provided

Location:               Good News Community Church – 5511 W 136th Ave, Broomfield, CO 80020

Presenter:            Nick Lillo, Pastor – Waterstone Community Church

Eventbrite - Kingdom Theology and the Ministry of the Church