Augsburg Fortress
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Moving from traditional to contemporary (for lack of a better term) worship

July 20th, 2008 by Beth A. Lewis

My husband & I are on vacation in the Pacific Northwest. This morning, we worshiped with his mother at her congregation, Northlake Lutheran Church, near Seattle. It’s a small-to-mid-sized congregation (average weekly worship about 100). One of the things that impressed me was that there was a cluster of 6 or 8 teenage boys who were active worshippers. Even more impressive, they even stayed around in the fellowship hall after the service! As we look at the statistics of declining participation of youth and young adults in all mainline denominations, it’s always heartening to see groups like this.

I don’t know this congregation well enough to know how Pastor Marvin Jonasen and the good people of Northlake are attracting and keeping these teenagers, but one thing that I did notice was the way they are “bridging” traditional worship into a more contemporary (I know, I don’t like that moniker either, but haven’t a better one to use) praise-type style of worship. Many of the hymns that were sung this morning were very, very traditional. But, they used the traditional words with a much more contemporary musical style with keyboard & two guitars, plus a couple of vocalists leading the congregation. They didn’t print out a bulletin, but instead projected everything for the service….readings, prayers, liturgy, and lyrics via PowerPoint. Radical? Not really. But, a good way to provide a bridge for what has, in my experience in past visits, seemed to be a fairly traditional community of faith into the “brave new world” of contemporary worship styles. Not overly threatening for the traditionalists, but a move and inviting to a younger group of worshippers.

Another thing I noticed was the way Pastor Marvin talked encouragingly throughout his sermon about ministry in daily life. Living one’s faith (as he put it) “from the Safeway to Safeco Field.” He also talked about his own work in prison ministry. Not saying explicitly, “you should do this type of outreach.” But, living and leading by example. Nicely done.

So, why are these young people engaged in their faith at Northlake Lutheran Church? Probably not just one of these things, but all of them.

Are you interested in expanding the reach of your congregation by offering a range of worship experiences? If so, I would encourage you to join the 250+ people who are exploring, sharing, and discussing such ideas on our social networking site, Creative Worship Tour. It’s free and it’s fun!

Blessings to the people of Northlake Lutheran Church and to you!

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Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

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