I attended four churches this weekend, but I attended nine church services this weekend. Find out how in THIS edition of Exploring College Ministry…

Yesterday, I mentioned my first foray into experiencing a newer church phenomenon, extensive “worship service specialization.” Beyond just “Contemporary” and “Traditional” services, some churches are customizing even further.

In some cases, it’s much, much further.

North Coast Church, one of the most influential and most innovative churches in America (according to people who figure that stuff out), sits about 45 minutes north of San Diego. I wanted to visit Sunday, so I checked out their site to get worship times. When I did, I discovered something surprising.

If you click here, you’ll see it, too.

That’s right. TEN unique worship venues each weekend. Not just different service times. Ten specific, specialized service types that actually account for 18 different service/time options each weekend! Wowzers! Double wowzers!

I can get my big subwoofers at “The Edge,” or I can get my bluegrass at “Country Gospel.” If I wanna mingle, they’ve got “Encore 4 Singles” Sunday nights; if I wanna paint while I watch the sermon, they’ve got “Canvas” Sunday mornings; if I need to be in the same room as the preacher, “North Coast Live” is the venue for me. And there are 5 more options I haven’t mentioned. (Click here to see them all – and the times each is offered.)

Sunday morning, I actually made it to all 5 venues available in the 9am slot. It wasn’t easy, but I am a church visiting champion.

North Coast service venues - Traditions and Video Cafe

The venue options surround an outdoor plaza, where guest info and other booths can be found – like the lobby of other churches. Meanwhile, each doorway is specially themed for the service taking place inside. Just like at Skyline (which I discussed yesterday), everybody’s sermon is the same (whether live, piped in, or recorded). All the other items – decor, refreshments, setup, the venue emcee, and especially the worship style – are customized. (You can see a couple of the venues by clicking on the picture the the left.)

Some might call this “segregated specialization” too consumer-driven. On the other hand, if you have multiple services anyway, it was kind of cool to be able to pick the crowd that “fit” me best for this one aspect of church, the weekend service. Regardless of the venue I choose, I’m still tied to the entire church body through announcements, common events, small groups, and sermons.

And there’s one other thing you’ve gotta admit – North Coast is way past any timidity here. There’s no aiming to “please everybody” through some sort of “blend” (which can be tough to pull off). There are no contemporary service attempts ending up rather quasi-contemporary or downright cheesy (as sometimes happens).

No, as churches like North Coast and Skyline have customized their worship services (as so many churches do in some way or another), they’ve done it to the hilt! Traditional is truly traditional; I even saw a wooden “hymn number board” at NCC’s “Traditions” service. Contemporary is truly contemporary; “The Edge” was dark and loud and pretty stinkin’ cool, as was “The Cause” at Skyline. And the Early Bird Cafe at North Coast is truly… early. 7:30 in the mornin’, to be exact. (That might not be the venue for me.)

So chalk one up for “innovation,” at least! Those crazy Californians… Since I should be on the West Coast for a good couple of months, I guess there’s more to come!

(And if you’re scoring at home, the 9 worship services I attended included the two at Skyline Saturday night and those five at North Coast early Sunday, plus worship services at Shadow Mountain Community Church and The Rock Church on Sunday.)

written from the motel, El Cajon, CA

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