A Former Pastor’s Perspective on What Makes a Compelling Worship Service

In a recent article I wrote for Churchleaders.com, 8 Surprising Insights from a Former Pastor, I shared 8 key insights I’ve learned during the last 18 months as a former pastor.

I’ve served 32 years in vocational ministry and took off the past 18 months to write, coach pastors, travel, and begin another master’s degree.

The Churchleaders.com article prompted many comments and one pastor emailed me to specifically ask about this point I made in the article.

Churches must plan and deliver a compelling, Spirit-filled worship service and sermon each Sunday. I’ve known this intellectually, but now since I’m on the receiving end I see even more its importance. If someone takes three hours out of their day of rest to attend church, they better feel that it was worth their time.

Having visited several churches during the past year and then joining one as a non-staff member, here’s what I believe can help make a compelling worship service that would encourage people to want to come back.

  • Transcendent: When people come to church, I believe they should experience what they wouldn’t have at a ball game or a movie. Those services that I attended that made me most want to come back left me with a sense that I had truly met God, that I had felt his presence and power in the service and that Jesus was elevated high.
  • Engaging: Many church services I attended didn’t engage me. They were either executed poorly, came across as rather ho-hum, or assumed that just because you sang some songs and taught the Bible that people would be interested. On the other hand, when it was obvious that the service planners had the listeners in mind when they planned it rather than just those on stage, I was drawn in and engaged.
  • Inspiring: When the pastor deeply rooted his message into Scripture and then inspired me to act upon it through challenge, story, or emotion, I wanted to return. I remember one sermon when my pastor, Kerry Bauman at Chain of Lakes Community Bible Church in Lake Villa, IL  challenged us to forgive our enemies. His words motivated me to perform an act of kindness to two people who had deeply hurt me in the past.
  • Authentic: When the speaker or the worship leaders came across as real and accessible, rather than far above me or far ahead of me in the Christian life, I was drawn into the service and wanted to return.
  • Learning: Although I have an MDiv and a DMN, I still have much to learn about the Bible. And since most people love to learn new things, including me, when it was obvious that the pastor had done his homework and then had brought fresh Scriptural insight into his message, he drew me in. Again I wanted to return.

I’ll cherish these past 18 months as a unique opportunity to learn what it’s like to be on the other side of the aisle.

What do you believe makes a worship service compelling enough so that attenders want to return?


“I just learned 5 components of a church service that compels people to return.” (tweet this quote by clicking here)

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