Gathered Worship Without SingingA Guide
Below are two key resources that have been shared for use within NSW & ACT Baptist Churches and related ministries.
1. A video reflection on alternative ideas to worship by Ty Soupidis from Church on the Hill in Glouster. This contains specific ideas that are for all ages of ministry. There are particular suggestions for young people and children.
2. A resource from Nic Cassar and NewCity Baptist Church. It looks at a variety of alternative worship activities and provides a framework for you to explore what this could look like in your local context. .
The following is a rational and list of practices used during times of corporate worship without congregational singing. Most of these practices come from NewCity Baptist’s face to face gatherings, (NewCity is a small church plant in Newcastle’s CBD). A number of these have also been used in other church/ministry contexts such as; online, home groups, conferences & spiritual retreats, park gatherings, cross cultural trips, and medium to large congregational settings.
Reminding & Anchoring
Not singing during church gatherings often gets mixed reactions. Most of us have been shaped each week by this, experiencing times of intimacy and spiritual renewal, while some find it hard to engage during singing & welcome a change. Either way, reminding the congregation of the why behind the what can help this transition.
“Attention is the beginning of devotion” – Mary Oliver
Essentially the aim of any corporate practices (singing or otherwise) are to draw our attention to the truth and reality of God. This distinction is helpful; although the practice might change the intention is still the same. Also making the point that people’s feelings or response may be different to what their used to helps in managing expectations. As your community starts to try these practices you are creating potential to experience God in new ways, and widen your community’s theology of God’s presence during corporate gatherings.
Another key factor is anchoring these practices in a framework. Usually practices can be shaped around the main theme of the service or bible teaching. Another helpful framework that NewCity found was the ACTSL prayer rhythm (Adore, Confess, Thank, Supply, & Listen) which will be used on the following pages.
Visual Prayer Icons by JustinMcRoberts & Scott Ericksonin their book: Prayer, 40 Days of Practice
The ACTSL Prayer Rhythm
The ACTSL prayer rhythm is a modified version of the traditional ACTS prayer (prayers of Adoration, Confession, Thanks & Supplication). At our gatherings all or some of these prayers are practiced. Other times only one prayer is focused on. This rhythm can be done as individuals, in pairs, small groups or large. We’d often practice this rhythm as a prelude to the preaching/teaching part of the gathering or as a response after if appropriate. We also found that keeping these practices simple were most effective and easy to follow week to week. For example; reading specific scriptures & praying aloud or in small groups, writing down individual prayers/proclamations, using contemplative silence, open sharing, or listening to a particular song. The more elaborate and creative attempts were saved for special occasions such as Easter, Christmas, Pentecost, justice prayer nights and so on.
Below is a list of the more experimental practices of the ACTSL rhythm, with some relevant scriptures & a brief rational (the rationals would sometimes be read aloud at the beginning for guidance).
We start by recognising that it’s God who is the focus of our prayers. By declaring the scriptural truths about who God is — loving father, creator, holy, just, saviour and friend, we are reminded who we are praying to, we can get rid of any distorted images of Him in our minds, and we can develop genuine affection towards Him, without being fake. Sometimes we may not feel that God is any of these things to us, but we can rest in the assurance that He isn’t defined or limited by our current situation or headspace.
Scriptures: Ps 19:1-10, Is 40:30-31, Is 46:9-10, Duet 7:7-9, Jn 14:6, Rom 8:38-39, 1 Cor 1:9
- • Nature Picture Share – Invite a number of people to show a picture of their favourite natural landscape (preferably a place they have visited). Get people to briefly share about the picture including how they see/experience God. Finish in prayer & recite Psalm 19:1-5 together.
- • Slow TV – Invite your congregation to reflect on Is 40:30-31 while watching the ‘Flying Eagle slow TV’ YouTube video (either in silence or using backing music). After an appropriate time conclude with open prayer (you can also use other nature slow videos with relevant scriptures in this practice).
- • God’s Character Reflection – Give a list of God’s character traits to the congregation (on cards, or on the screen etc..). Invite the congregation to discuss in groups which character trait of God they identify with most (and possibly give an example). Bring the group together, allow one or two to share & pray as a whole congregation.
- • Walk Outside – Invite your congregation to walk outside the house or church building and look up at the sky. Read aloud Gen 15:5, or Ps 19:1-5 (or another relevant passage). Allow some time to look and listen in silence. Finish with prayer together.
- • Contemplative Silence – Sit in silence with eyes closed together, inviting people to focus first on the sounds around them, then on their breathing, and then on God’s presence. After an appropriate length of time replace the silence with a scripture reading or song. Having a solo singer or musician play/sing in a far part of the room can be effective.
- • Candle in the dark – Turn the lights off and light a candle in the room. Invite the congregation to stare and reflect on the candle in silence. At an
We recognise that none of us are complete and often (knowing or unknowingly) pursue our own ways over
Gods. Through Jesus we are forgiven and made right with God, not by our own efforts, but by His grace. We experience this truth afresh as we keep turning our focus back to him. The art of confession allows our sins to be forgiven and the destructive elements of our lifestyle to be broken. Confession also includes asking for God’s grace and mercy on behalf of our neighbours, our city and beyond, that all may be renewed in Him. Through confession to God, the spirit may also prompt us to repair broken relationships in our own lives, which isn’t always easy, but an integral part of following Jesus and loving others.
Scriptures: 1 Jn 1:9, Js 5:16, Ps 32:5, Ps 19:12-14, Ne 1:4-7
- At the Cross – Set up a cross/alter in the room. Lead the congregation through a time of personal confession. Allow time to write down confessions on a post-it/card. Invite the congregation to individually approach the cross & place their card at the foot of it. Conclude in prayer.
- Intercede for the Neighbourhood – Set up a cross in the middle of the room. Set up a number of ‘stations’ around the room highlighting different needs/injustices in the neighbourhood. During a time of silence/background music invite the congregation to walk around and observe the different stations. Then invite the congregation to write a personal prayer on a post-it note on behalf of the community to God, and then prayerfully place it at the cross in the middle of the room. Close in prayer together.
- Candle Blowout – Set up a number of candles at the front of the room (not lit). Lead the congregation through a time of confession & contemplation. Invite the congregation to individually walk to the front of the room to stand before the candle and confess before God. After this, invite individuals to light the candle as they are reminded of their forgiveness, & the gift of the Holy Spirt alight inside them. (NB plan to have enough matches, the right lighting, and a number of ushers on hand to help with logistics).
- Celebrate Communion – Celebrate communion together while paying attention to the joy of forgiveness through the cross. While being COVID safe, experiment with different types of bread & ‘wine’.
- Open Hands – Dim the lights or invite the congregation to close their eyes while they sit & reflect on their short-comings/sins before God. Invite them to place their hands on their knees with their palms open facing upwards. Invite them to slowly raise their arms and imagine handing over their short-comings to Jesus. Once their arms reach shoulder height instruct them to stop & receive Jesus’ forgiveness. Finish in prayer or listening to an appropriate song.
- Forgiving a friend – Lead the congregation through a time of silent confession before God. After this invite them to bring a relationship that needs repair or forgiveness before God. Invite the congregation to write down this prayer to God on paper or their phone. Then invite the congregation think of some next steps with their friend (pastoral sensitivity is advised).
We recognise that everything we have is a gift from God. We thank Him for everything, from Jesus giving his life for us, to the warm cup of coffee we enjoyed earlier. This helps to remind us of everything good we have in our lives, particularly relationships and favourable circumstances — or even hard circumstances that build our character. Giving thanks steers us towards a posture of gratitude and away from attitudes of entitlement and comparison. It’s also an opportunity to thank God for our neighbourhood, our beautiful city and beyond, as well as for the people we’ve come in contact with.
Scriptures: Jam 1:17, Duet 8:17-18, Mt 6:21, 1 Chr 29:14, Ph 4:15;18-19, 2 Cor 9
- indful Silence – Invite the congregation to close their eyes and sit in silence. Invite them to practice prayerful gratitude, by first listening to the sounds around them and thanking God for them. Then invite them to walk through their day in their mind and thank God for various things. Close in prayer/reading scripture aloud together.
- Thankful sharing – Invite the congregation to share with each other things that they are thankful for. After, invite some people to share with the whole congregation what they discussed. Close in a prayer of thanks to God together.
- Thankful tree/Jar – Place a large Jar or decorated box in the centre of the room. Invite the congregation to write down on cards things they are thankful for. Then invite them to individually walk to the jar, say a silent prayer of thanks and place the card in the jar. (You can do the same practice by using a thankful tree)
- Journal Applause – Invite your congregation to write down a list of all the things they are thankful for. Then invite them to share one or two of these things with the person next to them. Finish by clapping in applause together as a sign of thanks to God.
- Go Outside – Invite the congregation to walk outside of the building/house or to a window. Invite them to prayerfully thank God for the things they see. Return back together, to pray as one group.
God supplies all our needs and responds to all our requests no matter how big or small. We bring before Him our hopes, questions, burdens and physical needs knowing that He is the great provider and healer. We acknowledge that His ways and timing are not always as we’d like or expect, but because He loves us and knows us intimately He always responds in a way that is working all things to an ultimate good. We not only pray for ourselves, but also for our neighbours and those in our city and around the world, that their needs would be met, injustice would be reversed and that Jesus would be discovered as King.
Scriptures: Mt 7:7-11, 1 Pe 5:7, Phil 4:6-7, Ps 143:1, Pro 15:29, Hab 3:2
- Prayer Wall – Set up a ‘wall’ in the worship space to be written on (you can use a sheet, butchers paper etc..). Lead the congregation through a time of prayer. Invite people in their own time to write (or draw), their prayers on the wall in the room.
- Prayer List at the altar – Set up an altar or a cross in the room. Invite the congregation into a time of quiet prayer and supplication, writing down their requests to God on card or a post-it note. Invite the congregation to bring their list to the altar as a symbol of bring their requests to God. (It is helpful to inform the congregation that no request is too small, & to invite God’s perspective into their requests).
- Open Sharing – Have a time of sharing people’s prayer requests in small groups or together. Invite some individuals to share about times of answered prayer, and times of waiting (normally these people would be identified & briefed before the worship gathering).
Listen & Respond
God’s Spirit speaks and connects with us through the Scriptures, our own impressions, as well as the people and world around us. God always responds to us in His ways and timing. Listening is at times more of an art than a science, and can involve periods of waiting, silence, extended discernment, and consultation with others of faith. There are also times where we need to act in response to what we believe God may be saying to us. His voice always lifts Jesus as King, doesn’t contradict Scripture, and builds the church up for its mission. This can sometimes take the form of encouraging others, being convicted of personal sin, praying for healing and restoration for individuals and or situations, speaking the truth in love, and taking faithful risks.
Scriptures: 1 Ki 19:11-13, Hab 2:3, Rom 10:17, Jn 10:27, 1 Sam 3:10, 1 Cor 2:12, Acts 5:29
- Silent Journaling – Invite the congregation to sit prayerfully and reflect on God’s presence in the room, with them in the moment. Invite the congregation to journal/write down the things that come to mind during this time, (pastoral care and follow up may be required after this practice).
- Prayer triplets – Invite the congregation to break into triplets and to pray for each other with the intention of recognising God’s presence and inviting Him to speak. Encourage groups to pray words/themes of encouragement or scripture passages to each other as they come to mind (pastoral sensitively advised).
- Guided questions – Lead the congregation through a time of listening & focusing on the questions; What could God be saying to me now? & What am I going to do about it? Invite people to write this down, while encouraging them to not over think (this practice is particularly helpful after a bible teaching time).
Keep it Simple – Most of your group will being doing these practices in a church setting for the first time. Give clear & simple instructions. Planning ahead helps this.
Know your Context – Appropriate the practices to your worship context. The type of space, number of people, and worship culture in your community will impact how the congregation responds. Some of these practices can be done online and in person.
The Power of New – Participating in alternative worship practices for the first time can be spiritually refreshing and or confronting for people in your community. This is normal. It’s important to support and be pastorally sensitive to those who may feel uncomfortable. Framing these practices as an opportunity to learn and connect with God in a different way can help people’s engagement. Also, trying and experimenting with new practices encourages a culture of flexibility and prototyping that can pave the way for trying other new things in the future.
The Power of Habit – Regularly doing alternative spiritual practices as part of the worship rhythm increases opportunity for your community to engage and become familiar with the new habit. This also allows time to make adjustments in your context, and opportunities to invite others to contribute and lead these practices as they become more familiar.