Establishing a great atmosphere of faith and expectation for what God is going to do in a service is such an important component. It’s not about hyping things up, but it is about being genuinely engaged in moments that are happening, and sharing this engagement in such a way that will make others feel welcome, connected, inspired and challenged.
A great atmosphere will result in people thinking: Is there something going on here? Why are people so excited? I should come back for more of this.
Here are three simple ways to kill the atmosphere of your church services:
1. Start Building Atmosphere Once The Service Starts
The level of expectation and lean-in in the service can be raised before people even walk into the auditorium. It starts when people first arrive to park their cars, or begin to walk into church.
Are people being welcomed as they come in? Is the team friendly and smiling? Are people chatting with one another, or are they standing in the corner by themselves on their phones pretending to be busy?
Be intentional with your carpark, the foyer and how the auditorium is set up as people begin to arrive. How does it look? How does it feel? How does it sound? How does it smell? If a new person walked in through the doors for the first time, what would their experience be? Will they feel at home, anxious or confused?
Yes the service is going to be amazing, the worship will touch heaven and we trust that the Word of God will change lives, but the experience actually starts as soon as someone arrives on the property, not when the first chord is played.
2. Put Out More Chairs Than People
The way in which you fill any space is essential to building atmosphere. Have you ever been to a sports match or a concert when great swathes of the stadium or theatre are empty? It is so different to attending an event when perhaps tickets sold out in minutes and everyone has arrived sometimes hours early to soak up the occasion.
Whenever we go into a new venue for church we are always asking ourselves how can we make this place feel full. We’re certainly going to pray that everybody comes, but realistically how many people do we expect to be there five minutes before the service starts, and how may 20 minutes later when the worship time is nearly finished. Yes its not just your church with that problem!
It is striking the difference that a full feeling room has on the atmosphere, so that’s why we take great care when deciding how much space to allow between rows. That’s right – wherever we have the ability to move seating we will. In flying terms, sometimes we may need to offer our congregation a “business class” experience where their feet can’t touch the chair in front, but other times it might feel like more of a “budget economy” flight.
Neither is right or wrong – you just need to match your choice of room, layout of chairs and expected congregation size and it’s amazing what sense of expectation and community you can create.
3. Keep The Front Row Empty.
Atmosphere doesn’t just happen ‘out of the blue’ because it’s 9am on Sunday. It cannot be purchased and it cannot be borrowed from another church. Atmosphere has to be led, and one of the most influential ways to do that is by encouraging your key team and volunteers to lead and carry the atmosphere from the front row.
Anyone who has led worship or spoken from a stage knows how awkward and difficult it can feel bridging the distance between the stage and the second or third row. Therefore every week our Hillsong Events team in each service ensure that all seats on the front row are filled by the time the service is starting. Atmosphere travels, so if the first few rows are excited, it’s going to travel to the back as well.
Who are your atmosphere drivers? Is it the youth or young adults ministry? Utilise their natural enthusiasm in order to create a greater sense of anticipation in the service. Your leadership team should be the most ‘present’ and engaged people in the service, leaning in and encouraging what is being shared, setting an example and giving permission to respond to everyone else in the auditorium.
Find a way that your team can do their tasks before and after the service but still be present, ‘front and centre’ for the service itself – that responsibility is just as critical as any task they may do for that service.
This thought was from a webinar entitled ‘Transformational Atmosphere’ hosted by Chrishan Jeyaratnam during Online Open Week in February 2017. Online Open Week is your opportunity to receive impartation and leadership training direct from the Hillsong team through live webinars.
If you would like to watch the full recording or find out more about future events from the Hillsong Leadership Network, click below.