Let's face it, there are a lot of churches out there. And none of them "do worship" the same.
Some places start with an organ prelude. Others have a scripture reading. Some still have countdown videos. (So surprised countdowns are still a thing...)
At Bethel, we open our services with a song. It's not a cover tune, or a jam or a filler song. It's the first worship song we're going to sing as a congregation. A lot of you start worship this way.
For a lot us, the opening song is the signal to our people that says, "stop drinking coffee and get in the sanctuary." And because of that, we want the song to be a kick-off. Probably a little loud, with a big intro...something to grab people's attention.
The only thing is that because everybody is out in the lobby, we ended up jumping into a rock tune with only 12 people in the chairs. And that makes everybody feel weird.
So, how do we do it? How do we start worship with a tune that's inviting and ear-catching without it seeming like a show? At Bethel, we have a name for the way we do it.
WE GROOVE IT.
"Grooving it" simply means taking a section of the song (usually intro or bridge section) and playing it at a moderate intensity. Because it's a repetitive section, it has a jam-feel which is good to cue congregants that it's time to start things off. But because it's not full-band, full-volume, it doesn't feel quite so showy.
Grooving is really about dynamics. Most Sundays, I'll let a couple of instruments stand out but have the drummer hang way back, usually with just kick drum. We even work on making sure that the groove can segue immediately into the actual intro of the song. Our drummer and bass player can take their time building the size of the tune and I have some of our stronger "lead" instruments hang back until the full intro.
I'm not nuts about letting the band have a full instrumental jam to start worship, but grooving it is a way to give musicians that opportunity in a limited, less-concert like context.
Next time your service opener feels a little too in-their-face, GROOVE IT!