Freedom Within Structure: Respecting Time

Andrew Stanley —  September 17, 2013 — 2 Comments
Part 1 of 3 in the series Freedom Within Structure

Timing

I have found that there is a spectrum of stylistic approaches to worship leading between two polar opposite ideas:

(1) “I don’t know how we’re going to do each song, I don’t even know what songs we’re going to sing, but I do know that when I get on stage, the Spirit will lead us. It’ll be awesome and God will be glorified!”

(2) “I know the songs we’re singing, I can tell you exactly how we’re going to do them, I could even tell you (to the second) how long the entire set is going to be. It’ll be awesome and God will be glorified!”

I haven’t met many people that solely live on one pole or the other.  I would also say that many of us wouldn’t find ourselves at the same point along the spectrum every single Sunday. Sometimes, our sets feel like they’ve locked into a groove and we feel GREAT about knowing exactly where we’re going to go. But the very next week, we could find ourselves hitting a wall within our planning and we come to a place where we know we just have to read the moment when the moment comes and move forward with flexibility.

I’ll be honest, I am one that leans more towards knowing where things are going to go over starting a set unsure where we’re going to finish. In fact, the unknown freaks me out so much that I don’t sleep on Saturday night if I have a set that lies more in the unknown than the planned and practiced.

We’re starting a series that is going to talk about finding freedom within structure.

One of the structures that I know we all face is that of TIME. Some churches will fluctuate the length of their service from week to week depending on the elements that are included, others have less freedom to include different elements and when those other elements are included, it’s at the expense of something else.

The debate of time. What is the best length of a service? What is the best service start time? How long should the music run and how long should the speaker get? How much chaos are we causing the kids programs by running a few minutes over? Do we have enough time between our services to get people out before the next round of people come in?

I once was speaking with a leader from a large church in Texas and they said, the city had approached them to ask that they keep to the proper service times because when a service ran long, the parking lot became so backed up between services that cars lined up down the road and onto the interstate, causing traffic problems throughout the city for the whole morning (everything is bigger in Texas). It didn’t look good on the church when this happened, and for that reason alone, their service times begin and end within the second that they have planned.

Maybe your church has a little more flexibility than that.

At The Meeting House, we have our own reasons for running services as structured as we do.  One of the reasons our services are only 60 minutes long is because within our agreement with Cineplex, our tear down teams need to have every theatre cleared out by 11:30am so they can start playing movies. It might not be the most reflective response moment for us to be singing, “Christ is enough for me!” while Bruce Willis is driving a car into a helicopter on the screen behind us …

We all have our structures that we need to fit within.

If your Sr. Pastor (or leadership) is asking you to take 10 minutes here and 5 minutes there, respect their request. This is not permission to take 12 minutes here and 8 minutes there. I would say that you and I don’t know the full extent of who we’re affecting by running more than our assigned time.  Is it a rental agreement that needs to be met? Is it the kids program teachers that are sacrificing time from being in the service?  Is it the city’s traffic?  Whatever it is, there is likely an invisible ripple effect for every minute we take that doesn’t belong to us.

Keep to the time that you have been given!

We’re going to talk more about stylistic approaches that can still feel natural and not rushed in a set time over this series.  But, here is our takeaway for today …

In order to find freedom within time structures, plan less than the time allotted to you.

If you have been given 15 minutes, then planning 3 songs that are all 5 minutes long will cause you to rush through your set and you may miss out on moments that you’re meant to hang onto. We sometimes rush through our transitions for the sake of time, when really what’s needed is a brief pause (silence even!  WHAT!?) for a breath to be taken before moving on.  No, that is not permission for you to leave unnatural and unintentional dead space.

Within the 15 minutes that I’m given, I’ll typically plan for a few songs, but one of them will often be only a few minutes long. This gives me freedom to hang out on one of the other songs for a longer period of time.  But notice, I never said anything about not planning for those extended moments. Sometimes they happen organically, but typically, extended reflective interludes, outros, etc. are practiced.

What comes across to those engaging is a free and non-rushed moment to dive in deep.  That wouldn’t be the case had I planned 15 minutes worth of music.

Remember the post on where we talked about chopping up songs to create flow within the set?  This is where the freedom comes within all of that planning.

Plan for less than your allotted amount of time and be amazed at how the extended, non-rushed musical interludes, prayers, or silence can lead to a sense of freedom, even while the clock continues to tick in front of you!

Series NavigationFreedom Within Structure: Lead People, Not Yourself >>

Andrew Stanley

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