people of the text

Today, I wanted to tell you about one of the most intriguing methods in “big church” (church worship services) I’ve seen all year. It’s a very intriguing (and easy) method being used in some contemporary church settings.

However, this is also one of the most generationally-relevant methods I’ve seen all year, reaching Millennials and other young adults in a way I think they find extremely attractive.

So, this method is also going to be this week’s “Fridea,” because I genuinely believe college ministries can (and in many cases might want to) introduce this method into their own Bible study settings.

Plus, like I said, this one is easy to pull off.

Here’s the method: Text Messaging questions to the pastor!

In a few of the most major, influential churches I have visited, I discovered pastors now allowing for “Q&A” after the sermon. While plenty of “Sunday school” or other Bible study settings have allowed for questions during or after the teaching, these churches are now making this the norm for at least some of their worship service settings.

But there’s a technological twist to this Q&A in some of these churches: text messaging!

First, the churches doing post-sermon Q&A I’ve seen this year:

  • Erwin McManus uses it at the Mayan campus of Mosaic.
  • Mark Driscoll uses it in the final service at Mars Hill Seattle.
  • Leith Anderson (President of the National Association of Evangelicals) uses it in “The Gathering,” Wooddale Church‘s Sunday night service.

Importantly, in each case, these are the most Young Adult-oriented services at the respective churches. As far as I know, this isn’t the method for all church services in these places, and I’m not sure Q&A would be as well-received within those other constituencies.

However, I do believe this may be a “Best Practice” for ministry with younger generations. (I already noted Wooddale’s particular success at the whole traditional-church-does-Millennial-service thing, back in this post during the TRECC. I briefly mentioned the texting thing there, too.)

Here’s how this Q&A looked during my visits to Mars Hill and Wooddale (which handle this a little more “smoothly” than Mosaic did*):

  • Throughout the message, worship attenders ask questions – via text message – about anything that comes up. These aren’t just questions thought-up post-sermon, then, but can come to mind anytime within the message. Questioners simply text their question(s) to a phone number that had been provided prior to the service.
  • While I obviously didn’t see the exact process, text messages were received by somebody behind the scenes. (I imagine a shadowy stranger like the Banker on “Deal or No Deal.”) This person also vetted the messages, choosing questions based on relevance and appeal to the entire crowd. Messages could also be edited for clarity – advantages over even traditional hands-raised or come-to-the-microphone question sessions.
  • Following the message, selected questions were provided to the preacher, and he answered them off-the-cuff. (I think I remember Driscoll and Anderson both being really good at this.) The delivery method at Mars Hill was sending the questions to a screen Driscoll has up on stage. At Wooddale, Anderson and the service “emcee” fellow went up front after the post-sermon worship time. The emcee then asked those Qs directly to Anderson. (It is possible that Anderson had a chance to review those questions very briefly in the interim, I guess.)
  • Some of these questions got DEEP. Driscoll’s message that night was on the Trinity, for instance, and you can imagine what kind of questions came outta that one!
  • This Q&A time period might differ in length, but I think the nights I went to these churches, they were somewhere around 10 minutes.

*As for Mosaic, they instead used notecards, which allowed people to write down questions anytime and pass them in at the end. I think all questions might have gone directly to McManus, allowing for less “vetting” or editing of the questions.

Texting your questions to the preacher. Can you imagine? You’ve got the opportunity to ask the pastor that nagging question right now – without waiting to write an email once you get home, without trying to flag him down and annoy him in the hallway.

Now, I said this was easy to do – and it is easy to do. It may be a little bit harder to do well. For instance, it does take skill at delivering “off-the-cuff” answers – especially if the teacher isn’t the one “vetting” the questions. But that’s true for any Q&A sessions, right? We better make sure we’ve got the experience to answer Qs… the wisdom to say, “I don’t know – I’ll get back to you”… and the commitment actually to do the research and bring back answers on those toughies.

But there are all kinds of benefits to this, too, once you get the hang of it!

Clearly, I’ve seen all kinds of methods this year. And I know it’s cliche to talk about this being “an idea whose time has come.” But really, I kinda think it is. I think college ministries – and others – should seriously consider allowing for some sort of direct-response questioning within their services.

In another post soon, I’ll discuss the benefits of this that I happen to see – as well as how it ties in to the Millennial generation. For now, take this Fridea for what it’s worth – and think about it! Remember… summer is a GREAT time to try crazy new things!

Written from Columbus, Ohio

4 Comments

  1. Amanda

    Just saying that I think that is really sweet. I would love to have that opportunity–not as important when you attend a congregation of about 100, but it would still be handy.

  2. Erin Lamb

    You probably know this, but the latest podcast from Seattle Mars Hill (taken from 5/25) is a “best of” Q&A text message question and answer session with Driscoll. Very interesting.

  3. Just me thinking out loud here, but even in our intimate house setting, I think some of the Millenials might like the anonymity of the Q&A text message. I’ll try this out in the following month or so and report back on its value in this venue vs. the mega church. It’ll be a good “trial by fire” test.

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