As a younger pastor, who’s not a youth minister and who preaches every week, one of the main questions I get asked by other clergy is “do you lead the contemporary services”? My answer to that is, “No”. My lead pastor and I preach both traditional and contemporary every weekend. I’ve discovered that this is not a common practice.
I applaud churches that do both traditional and contemporary styles of worship (and whatever other styles and names are out there). Some of my friends from other churches, especially really fast-growing church starts, argue with me about this for two reasons: 1. Two different styles strains the resources of the congregation, and 2. They say it causes you to have a split congregation between a traditional church and a contemporary church. While that may be true, the problem is not that the church has two separate styles of worship; the problem is our style of leadership.
I know many churches that have traditional and contemporary services that have two separate churches under one roof. They have different preachers for each style, they preach different messages and different message series, and they do completely different worship elements with no crossover. There is no connection between the two, except for the offering, the announcements, and the building.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. One of the things I love most about the church I serve in is that even though we have four different styles of worship in eight different weekend worship services, we still have the sense that we are one church. In fact, far from there being a battle between contemporary and traditional, we celebrate and promote the fact that we have different services for different people. Without that, we wouldn’t have all these people under the same vision and mission, pulling in the same direction to advance the Kingdom of God.
The decision that made the biggest difference in keeping the feeling of one church, even with multiple services, was the decision to consistently and strategically use our preaching pastors in all the services. Sure, in all six contemporary services we do the same creative elements, and many/most of those are used in traditional as well, but the biggest connector is the preaching rotation.
Our Lead Pastor and I switch which services we preach every two weeks so that we don’t have a “traditional service pastor” and a “contemporary service pastor” who lead different churches. We like to change it up on people and keep them guessing who they’ll have preaching to them in that service (most people haven’t caught on to our rotation). Yes, it’s a lot of swapping. Yes, I change clothes in-between services when I go from traditional to contemporary. And yes, some people follow one of us over the other, but in large part, people love it!
They love that they get to hear a different perspective, from a different delivery, and different stories, but still the same message. In fact, some people will even go online and listen to the pastor they didn’t hear just so they can listen to both. It’s effective not only because it keeps our church’s worship services together, but because it also protects us from the problems that typically arise in a church where each pastor has his or her own worship services to preach. In those churches, issues often arise when one pastor’s service grows faster than the other’s, or when one service feels like they are second-class citizens since the service gets all the resources and the lead pastor every week. Sharing the preaching load in all the services, on the other hand, makes my Lead Pastor and I have to work together all the more, enabling us to maintain a close relationship between us as we stay on the same page.
In order to make this work, both preachers need to have at least these 3 characteristics:
- Kingdom-Minded – Both pastors need the mindset that we’re going to do what’s best for the growth of the Kingdom of God, and the health of the church, rather than what feels most comfortable or most prestigious for us. In general, if you’re a lead pastor, wherever you preach people are going to want to go to that service first to hear you. So, you need to be preaching in all the services, especially the ones that may be struggling. Do whatever is best for the Kingdom in your church.
- Humility – The lead pastor has to have the humility to let someone else preach to everyone, even though he or she may want to be the primary voice to one group or the other. The associate pastor must have the humility to submit to preaching at least the same message themes as the lead pastor. We don’t preach exactly the same messages even if we’re preaching the same points for strategic reasons. The stories and content will never be exactly the same. However, I am always trying to honor my lead pastor by being aware of the direction he wants to go with the sermon series and do my best to stay within those bounds. Conversely, he very often consults with me on what the direction of the series should be and when I plan a series he strives to stay true to its direction as well.
- Willingness to Adapt – Like I said earlier, I change clothes between services when I’m going from traditional to contemporary, or vice versa, and my lead pastor changes his look at least by adding or taking off a coat and tie. Neither my lead pastor nor I adapt our basic content any from service to service, but we do nuance our messages in certain ways depending on the group. I know plenty of younger preachers who wouldn’t feel comfortable preaching to traditional services, and many preachers who’ve been doing it for a long time in a traditional style who wouldn’t feel comfortable in contemporary services. It’s not about our comfort, however, it’s about the health of the church.
There’s a whole lot more to planning sermons and sermon series and coordinating creative elements between services, but it’s all worth it to make sure we stay one church, with one message, and one vision. Just because we have different service styles doesn’t mean we have to be split. Sharing the load, in fact, has enabled even more people to be a part of one church.
Just for reference, here’s what a typical weekend would like for us: