Henry Ford started manufacturing the Model T in 1908, and while it wasn’t the first mass produced car, Ford did implement manufacturing techniques and refined the assembly line process to make cars more accessible to the general public rather than the rich persons plaything. By 1918, half of all cars in America were Model T’s, and they were all black…as Henry Ford famously said,
“Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black”
Do you ever find church can feel a bit like that? We follow the same tried and tested formula, perform the same rituals, sing the same songs (hymns) by the same people in the same order, week after week after week. Even forward thinking churches can fall into following a routine, as it’s “normal” for a Sunday. Like the Model T, Sundays can all come in the one colour…we expect the expected.
This past Sunday we held our regular All Age Sunday which always happens at the end of the month. This has meant in the past always having a kids song, breaking the talk up into smaller parts, maybe a children’s story or some sort of interaction…again, falling into a tried and tested routine.
But this Sunday we got our youth group to lead the whole service….from the welcome to the notices to the story to the prayers at the end. And Amy our wonderful youth worker did the talk, which was amazing. And it was all great. It was really good. And it was only 45 minutes long.
So we came away saying “wasn’t it great” and “didn’t they do well” and ” fantastic talk” and other backslapping, positive things. And then we said “it was a bit short” and “the talk could have been longer” and ” probably room for another song” and other similar observations.
Which got me thinking…well, why? Why does it have to be an hour long? Why do we start with three songs? Is the talk (or sermon) the most important part of the service? Why Sunday morning…and so on and so on…
Too long or too short?
I can think of many films which have perfect endings…and then carry on for another half an hour (I can think of many sermons which have done the same….) We in the UK are used to series of six episodes…so when Top Gear has a run which only lasts four episodes, I feel somewhat cheated…where are my missing two episodes?!
And albums used to be around 50 minutes long as that was as much time as you could fit on the two sides of a vinyl record…around 8 – 10 songs. So when all of these classic albums were re-released on CD, you again felt cheated as you knew there was an extra thirty minutes of space…no, wasted space on the CD. And then record companies started filling the space with bonus tracks, remixes…live versions…and so we bought them again, and again, and again.
Nothing wrong with order
Now I’m all for a template, we need to have service orders so everybody knows what is happening, and lets be honest, if your services are radically different from week to week, everybody (including you) is going to come away confused. But at the same time, be willing to change, try and think differently, do mix it up from time to time, and always always always make sure there is space for God to take control…
Having a slightly shorter service meant more people stayed afterwards…we shared coffee and cake (as we usually do) but giving an extra (and unexpected) 15 minutes from finishing early meant the congregation felt less pressured (or knew they had more time) so they hung around. And talked about how good the service was, how well everybody had done, how great to have some different faces leading. Which in my book is a good thing.
Ford Model T’s aren’t still all black…