The first time I went to Maasai land in Kenya, I learned a phrase used by the Maasai people whenever a worship song was really connecting in the moment. They would say, “That song is hot!” I would agree with them…especially since it was about 90 degrees inside a concrete building filled with jumping, dancing, and shouting worshipers. Hot? Indeed.
Would you describe your worship services as “hot?” Warm? Lukewarm? Perhaps you’re a step ahead of me and already thinking of Jesus’ words to the Church in Laodicea as recorded in Revelation 3:16,
“So because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth” (ESV).
I’m sure we’ve all been in worship services that lack the energy we feel God deserves. While people sip their coffee rather than use those same lips to offer heartfelt praise, worship leaders can’t help but wonder what we can do to “turn up the heat” in our services.
Another Kind of Warmth
Recently, I read Kara Powell’s book, Growing Young. She talks about the youth she and her team surveyed through the Fuller Theological Seminary Youth Institute. They found that relational warmth was extremely important and relevant to youth culture. In her words, “Warm is the new cool.” She would also point out that warmth trumps programs. This means you can have amazing programming to reach young people, but if the church lacks welcoming, acceptance, belonging, authenticity, hospitality, and care, you will not be relevant to youth culture.
I don’t think this is only for youth. I think every generation longs for warmth in worship services. And while no generation has ever not cared about authenticity, I do believe Millennials and Gen-Z’ers will tune out the second they suspect a lack of authenticity. Bottom line: Warmth in our worship services matters.
Warmth in our worship services matters.
It is wise for curators of worship services to examine our service planning through the lens of warmth. Does the service feel like we’re just going through the motions? That may come across as inauthentic. Does the service appear to only aim for expressive emotional responses at the expense of quiet depth? That may come across as inauthentic. Is too much attention and energy being given to lights, sound, videos, etc.? That may come across as inauthentic. Does the service seem flat and tired? That will come across as inauthentic.
I have certainly made my mistakes in not discipling the congregation with the services I curate. But some of the best worship experiences we’ve had on Sunday mornings are when we choose to keep things simple (not simplistic, there is a difference), and allow the morning to feel natural, not forced or flashy.
A warm worship service will carry a spirit of authenticity, as well as hospitality and care.
We need to ask ourselves if we plan worship services where everyone is encouraged to participate, not manipulated to participate. We need to sing songs in keys the average singer can manage. We need to carefully consider the ways we use technology so that it doesn’t serve as the main attraction. We need to prioritize the plurality of voices of leadership from the platform (which I think really reflects what I Corinthians 14:26 is getting at).
Worship Leaders and Lead Ministers: You will need to discuss what “warmth” looks like in your context, and I believe doing so will help you connect with your people even better, so that everyone can be as real as possible as they approach our God in worship. As soon as you look through the lens of warmth in your Sunday morning experiences, you’ll begin to see everything differently.
We have a lot to learn. But as COVID restrictions have lifted and COVID’s intensity in our community seems to be going down, I believe one of the things that has helped our church welcome people back is not only a good level of production for our live stream, but especially a warm and authentic culture Sunday after Sunday.
From the parking lot and lobby, to the communion table and the baptistry, a warm worship service will allow your congregation to feel more like a family than a loosely connected network.
A warm worship service will allow your congregation to feel more like a family than a loosely connected network.
 Kara Powell, Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016), 263.