How to make it happen: a beginners' guide

by Paul Roberts 2002 [edited 2012]

Putting it all together and doing it

Now you should have:

... a creative team of people ...
... a design for the environment...
... a service order ...
... a lot of resources and components ....

So the day is either drawing close, or has actually arrived:

Give yourselves time and space

Setting up the service, especially if it's the first time you've used the space, takes time. You may need to try out things like screens and projectors some days before to check the layout works.

Aim to keep the stress level low: during early days with alternative worship, people's adrenaline levels are running quite high, and they may not be used to seeing one another operate in this condition. So do everything you can to reduce stress.

Give yourselves a clear day to set up if you can. For this reason, it might be worth avoiding Sunday for your first service, if you're having to negotiate shared time and access with other people. Aim to eat together on the day, as this relaxes people into each other's company. Before the day, make sure that everyone knows what they're expected to do - don't keep the plan in the heads of just one or two over-stressed people. Delegate jobs for the day well in advance. Allow for last-minute problems you hadn't foreseen.

With care and attention to the stress factor, you should arrive at the service times without any distress, upset or falling-out. However, some awkwardness is surprisingly common in the early days (and sometimes in the later days!). It might be worth factoring-in someone who can catch the strain, and help when one person seems particularly stressed with some task which is taking longer than expected.

If it's your first service, it's probably a good idea to set-up with enough time to do a dry run-through without anyone there. This catches any drastic problems which you would otherwise have to face in the actual service. This would mean you'd need to set up in the morning, run-through during the early afternoon, and make any corrections between then and the service itself. I would strongly recommend you do this for your first service or two.

Aim to be completely set-up about 45 minutes before start-time. Then meet together for prayer and final run-through of the plan. Ideally, one person should be in the role of 'director' without too many practical jobs to do, but who knows exactly what everyone else is doing. People can then go to that person for some last-minute authoritative decisions, so that things remain centrally coordinated.

Giving it a human face

You may have overlooked some jobs! Check out:

  • People to act as stewards to welcome people into the building, give out any necessary stuff, etc.

  • Security during the service, to check the doors

  • People to help dismantle after the service

One common criticism of alternative worship services is that everyone is so involved in putting it on, that no-one speaks to people who come along who weren't involved in the planning or directing of the service. Make sure that you get a chance to talk with people who come along. Don't start dismantling until people have gone home. Having a drink and conversation after the service is very important if you want anyone to join you in what you're doing.

Make sure you have a way of contacting people who come along to receive publicity, information and cancellation notifications, etc. Make sure you have some non-service activities or events for people to come along to meet you when you're less hassled with putting on a service.

Reviewing what you've done

So assuming the service has 'happened'. When everyone has recovered, it's important to review the service as a whole. Make sure the review meeting has a scribe so that you can list and correct any problems which you identified in the course of setting up and planning.

Did you enjoy it?

Do you want to do another one?