Worship Changes at Grace

Dear Church Family:

Earlier this year, as part of the Healthy Church Initiative, more than 100 Grace members completed an online survey. Here are the five biggest areas of strength and concern our congregation expressed.


  • Friendliness
  • Community involvement
  • Music
  • Preaching
  • Generosity
  • Aging congregation
  • Declining attendance
  • Volunteer fatigue
  • Finances
  • Lack of young people/Communications (tie)Overall attendance, 2000-2018
The numbers over the past two decades bear out what you've said: Grace has declined 40% on Sundays since 2000. The congregation has aged. There are many reasons  for all of this, and it is not unique to Grace.
Worship is the most important ministry any church offers. Worship is our primary function as followers of Jesus Christ. Here's how the Gospel of Luke ends: "[The apostles] worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem filled with joy. And they were continually in the temple praising God" (Luke 24:52-53). Despite the numerical challenges, there is a great opportunity to reach people in the mission field for Christ. As Jesus himself said, "The harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest, to send out workers for his harvest. Go!" (Luke 10:2).
Six months ago, our worship leaders began to explore worship from new perspectives. To maximize impact on those new to Grace, we re-ordered the service to offer our best things first, based on the congregation's feedback: music and preaching. Then we created a Worship Design Team to evaluate and reflect upon Sunday morning services. Members of this team attended worship in other places, shared learning from educational opportunities, and listened to you. We sent out an additional survey a few weeks ago to hear your thoughts on worship changes we've experimented with, like receiving the Lord's Supper on a weekly basis. Here are a couple of findings from the survey:
Forms response chart. Question title: How important is it to receive communion every week?. Number of responses: 53 responses.Forms response chart. Question title: How does weekly communion impact the overall worship experience?. Number of responses: 53 responses.
Both of these graphs use a 1-5 scale, ranging from "not important at all" [1] to "very important" [5]. Nearly ⅔ of you said it's important to receive weekly communion, and even more said it has a positive impact on worship overall (70%). Hearing your feedback and aware of the spiritual needs of our community, a vision for worship began to form. After many months of holy conversations, our Worship Design Team is ready to make the following changes to worship:
  • Weekly communion will continue at both hours through January 6, except for November 11 and 18. After that, 8:30 worship, since it is already a Traditional format, will continue in weekly communion. 11:00, our Blended service, will share communion on the 1st Sunday of the month and weekly during special seasons of the year, like the Sundays leading toward Easter and Christmas.
  • Staring November 25, the "greeting time" at 11:00 will no longer be part of the worship hour. Instead, we will encourage everyone at 11:00 to observe the 3-minute rule, greeting each other three minutes before and after worship. This means, yes, you need to be on time for church!
  • We will launch a Modern service, led by Anthony and Lori Hartman, on Saturday night, beginning in January. These will be monthly gatherings for most of 2019, with the goal of becoming weekly in September. The same sermon will be preached at all worship services.
Six months ago our Lay Leader, Tom Busby, and our Healthy Church Initiative clergy coach, Rev Edlen Cowley, led a vision workshop for Grace. The new vision was adopted by the Administrative Council and shared in worship May 20. Here it is:
Embrace All * Engage with Jesus * Expand the Kingdom
We believe these worship changes are in line with the new vision and priorities of Grace UMC. We want to address the spiritual needs and interests we see in our community and the realities we see at Grace. If we are going to face the challenges of bringing the gospel to lost people, we have to do things differently. As our vision unfolds, is embraced, and is executed over the coming years, I believe we will look back on these changes as time invested in the existing congregation to create enthusiasm and a renewed evangelistic passion to bless the city and community with the gospel. These changes build on the strengths we already see here at Grace: friendliness, community involvement, music, preaching, and generosity.