In October, staff at Aldersgate United Methodist Church noticed attendance was dropping at the 11 a.m. contemporary worship service.
It wasn’t long before church staff met to pray about the situation.
“We found contemporary worship wasn’t working. The outreach wasn’t effective,” said Shelley Martin, the director of youth and young adult ministry.
The service was disbanded for four months while staff fasted and prayed.
This spring, they found their answer: 24/7, a new worship service for young Christians and families.
Its vision statement? “Equipping the Sons and Daughters for 24/7 Ministry.”
After more than 10 years in youth ministry, Martin said she learned youth were crying out for a more authentic experience.
There’s a whole generation of young Christians who have grown up under the “lights, stage and one-man show” style of services, she said, and they want more.
“We know from studies and experience that gone are the days wherein we can expect the ‘unchurched’ to walk through doors without an invitation,” she said. “While our desire to reach the lost is great, this service is not a service for the lost; it is for believers.”
It’s a place for them to encounter the presence of God, and then “go out and live a lifestyle throughout the week to lead the ‘lost’ to Christ instead of waiting for the pastor to do it in a Sunday morning environment,” Martin said.
Services still begin at 11 a.m. and include worship, a message and prayer. But they’re now slower and more contemplative, with room built in for silence, testimony and spirit-led prayer.
It is, at times, awkward or uncomfortable, and that’s OK, Martin
“The whole expression of the service is centered on honoring God’s presence,” she said. “There’s no one up front trying to gain the accolades of men. It’s simple.”
The response so far has been tremendous, said Kathy Beeson, a member who teaches college-age students at the church.
“It’s conversational. It’s new. It’s different,” she said. “It’s beautiful and intimate.”
God is, indeed, doing a new thing, Martin said.
“Instead of doing contemporary worship services as we’ve seen it done before, we’re putting God’s presence front and center,” she said.
“He wants to be the focus of our Sunday mornings, not the traditions of man, or man himself.”