We did something in our youth service this week that I've heard discussed many times but never seen implemented. I've even talked about it in the past but finally felt it was time for us to attempt it. It's a pretty crazy experiment.
We turned the crowd away from the band. Or we put the band behind the crowd. However you want to say it.
And the world didn't stop spinning. Remarkable.
Our youth recently moved into a "new" facility. It's new for us; it's either the 10th or 11th "home" we've had on our church campus. Or maybe the number is much higher. I keep losing count.
Last month, on my mini-sabattical/personal spiritual retreat, this was one of the ideas I had as a way of helping our students focus more on what worship is all about. There really were two reasons for moving the band behind the crowd.
1. It's good for the band. It's too easy for student musicians to get involved simply because they get the attention and the eyeballs and the focus. That's not the purpose of worshiping God through music. Our goal is to lead young people into God's presence. Moving the band helps the band members remember what their role IS and what their role ISN'T in the service.
2. It's good for the crowd. One student asked me, "Well, what will we look at if the band isn't up front?" Well, the words on the wall -- if you don't know the lyrics to the songs. And if you do know the lyrics, you could close your eyes. Lift up your hands. Clap your hands. Kneel in prayer. Focus more of your energy on WHOM you're worshiping.
So, just as we entered that segment of the service, we explained to the crowd why we had modified the room. We asked them to not turn around and watch the musicians. We asked them to focus on the words they were singing and the reason we sing.
And then we led. And worship went better than it has in a long, long time. Our musicians felt freer. I felt free vocally. I didn't feel the need to "push" or "drag" people into worship. The students didn't turn around. Many of them lifted up their hands. Many of them really seemed to get what we were doing.
Only drawback? With no one up front, many people struggled to clap on the correct beat. You know what? If kids are more focused on the real reason for worship, I can live with that drawback.
It's a one-week experiment that worked well for us. We'll see how things go next week. Would I recommend it to others? Well, I'm not gonna write a book or build a whole theology around "band in the back." It's meeting a need in our group. A month from now, six months from now, a year from now -- at some point we'll likely switch back. When we're ready.