By Rev. May Saou, Worship Pastor at North Cross UMC in Kansas City
In a pandemic-era conversation with our lead pastor, I was caught by the question:
“If people have the option to worship online anywhere in the world, with churches that have giant budgets and production teams, what is it that keeps them joining us online each week?”
There are probably many reasons, but we figured the primary one was context. North Cross UMC is in Kansas City, specifically in the Northland. We have relationships and a history with people here – not only in our church, but also in our community. Place and connection mean a great deal when it comes to forging a faith community, which is a big reason why the COVID-19 shutdown has been so tough on us all.
Emphasizing the unique ways we can minister to our particular group of folks is pretty doable in a sermon. But how do you do that with your worship in song? I struggled with this question for a good while.
Then I thought about some of the most meaningful worship experiences I’d had, both in leading and in participating, and I realized that STORY was a huge missing link!
Lots of people think a worship leader simply leads songs. Play the music, guide the band, sing the hymns. But there is so much more potential in that space leading up to and directly following music in worship.
Did you choose the song because it includes a line of scripture that has transformed you? Perhaps your particular community has weathered a difficult storm, and the song speaks to God’s presence in this time. When people hear a story that connects them to a worship song, they are much more likely to engage with it.
There are some people who have heard “Grace Like Rain” one too many times to play it in worship anymore. And without context, perhaps I wouldn’t have chosen it on any ordinary Sunday. But a couple of years ago, I specifically chose it on World Communion Sunday and shared a story of how the Spirit had moved during a college trip to Mozambique.
We were invited to join our sister church in worship that Sunday, and they wanted me to offer a song in worship. I felt so out of place, only knowing songs in English and in a foreign-to-them style. But as I strummed through the first chorus, I heard a few lifted “halleluia”s join me. The second chorus was even stronger. By the end, I felt the Spirit connecting us in our alleluias together. ‘Grace Like Rain’ has never been the same for me since.
There’s something that makes your ministry unique. Go and share it, inviting others to God’s presence with the stories that only you can tell.