Embrace Lent. Leave Worship Alone.

Many of my last week’s conversations with worship leaders have started with the question: What do we do? We want our community to engage with Lent, but our worship services aren’t set up for that. 

My favorite quote by Mark Pierson, from The Art of Curating Worship, is “There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to worship.” And that’s so true.

It’s difficult in my church too. We have multiple services of different styles. Musical tastes are all over the map. Liturgy vs. free-worship is always an issue. Yet, my church has a very strong desire to be connected.

There’s no magical solution. Prayer certainly doesn’t hurt. But Pierson’s no one size theory applies here too…within my one faith community. So it’s no surprise that new worship gathering ideas wouldn’t translate to all other churches.

But what if we took it outside of our worship gatherings?

Instead of trying to change our different services, we decided to take an artistic approach to connect our church during Lent. An approach that had nothing to do with music.

It was pretty simple.

We invited our whole community to get involved in a church-wide art project called The Cross Project. The concept was for all of the participants to create a cross with whichever art form or building process was their forte.

Then, tell us about it. What was the inspiration for the piece? What are the building materials or art form that you used? Most importantly, what does the cross mean to you? Why is it significant in your faith life?

We set a deadline of delivery at noon on Good Friday. With a couple extra hands we curated it all for worship that evening. The crosses and descriptions were on display in sanctuary and narthex/gathering spaces. We kept the crosses up for Good Friday and Easter worship gatherings.

Was our church the first to do this? Nope.

Did our church become more connected through it? Absolutely!

But even more than that, we engaged in Lent together. It was a season of sacrifice. Of reflection. Of faith.

It was personal. It was communal.

Seeing people gathered around the crosses throughout the building was deeply moving. And it was transformational for our people – whether they created a cross or not.

After Easter worship, a woman came up to me in tears. Sobbing, actually. She could barely speak. But through her emotion she said how much her faith was affected by worship that weekend. Through the music. Through the message. Through the crosses. “Look at this! These crosses are amazing! And they’re all from this church! You can see peoples’ faith!” she said.

She was right. And it was powerful.

We also saw some other things:

  • People came out of the woodwork to participate!
  • Talents came into sight that we hadn’t seen before.
  • We got a glimpse into the theology of our members and what is important to them in their faith.
  • We saw people change their perceptions of others because they saw them in a different way.
  • We witnessed offerings of  worship in forms that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

What we did required little more than an invitation, and only a couple extra hands. You can see and download the materials we created here. It was high-impact and very meaningful to our entire church. And it had nothing to do with music. We left our worship gatherings alone.

So, changing your worship gathering may not be the best way to embrace Lent in your church.

What other art forms or projects can you use to engage and encourage your community during this Lenten season? 


Get our email updates.

E-mail address:
About W. Zachary Taylor

W. Zachary Taylor is the founder and lead curator of worshipcurrent.com, worship leader, songwriter, producer, organist, and consultant in his twenty-fifth year of worship music ministry. He loves challenging worship music professionals to design deeply meaningful worship experiences, healing broken ministries, pushing boundaries, and helping others. He can typically be found somewhere in Minneapolis - usually in a studio, church, or office of some kind. Zachary currently serves as Worship & Music Director at Atonement Lutheran Church in Bloomington, MN and Alternative Worship Music Minister at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church in West St. Paul, MN.

Let's discuss...