Jump directly to the Content Jump directly to the Content

Engaging Women and Men in Worship

A balanced approach to planning
Engaging Women and Men in Worship

Crafting worship is a relentless task. Meet, pray, plan, finesse, download, upload, sing and praise, then feel a sense of relief when Sunday is over. With 52 Sundays a year, every week we do this. Worship planners and liturgists constantly ask, “How can worship transform the heart of God’s people?” “What can we do to move people toward Kingdom action?” And “How can we be sure that everyone who comes regardless of age, race, socioeconomic status, or gender can connect with God?”

Every Monday, with laptops open, coffee in hand, and a four-pound jar of Jelly Bellies, our worship team wrangles ideas into liturgies. On our best days we imagine ourselves Jimmy Fallon or Tina Fey, brains exploding like the writers at SNL: “Somebody order a pizza!” But mostly we wonder how it is that the grace of God keeps slipping past our generations unnoticed. How do worship planners help a concept stick? Maybe a video? Maybe a Franciscan prayer? What about that latest Hillsong release? And do the elements this week speak to all our demographics? Will men and women alike feel met by God?

As the church maintains her divisive infighting over the roles of men and women in leadership, we must be all the more diligent in preserving a balanced approach to gender in worship. Wonderfully, each week I hear comments from our team like, “We cannot use that video, the guys will hate it” or “That prayer has too much macho, all the women will check out.” Worship teams must be sure they are engaging both genders. Regardless of which end of the complementarian or egalatarian spectrum you find yourself on, churches are filled with a near-50/50 gender split. God speaks to and moves in the lives of men and women alike, so we must involve both genders in the worship-planning process. How does a gal know how a set of lyrics trigger a guy’s heart? And how does a guy know what speaks to the mind of a woman? Stereotypes overshadow our decisions when both genders are not in on the planning process.

Our team involves male and female leaders who work to transcend stereotypes. We’ve created a team approach to planning without animosity or fear. It is the women on our team who most often say, “Do we have enough this week to connect with our guys?” And then men on our team are most likely to ask, “What does this resource say to women?” Of course, the reality is that most songs, ideas, and resources speak of God in a way that moves both genders but there are so many hidden nuances. Videographers and artists create from their unique perspectives, and this can bring harmful subtleties to worship that we may miss.

Like the time our male worship leader suggested a video to illustrate a Psalm. It was a resource featuring families, and both men and women had equal “screen time.” At first glance it hit the mark, but a guy on our team pointed out that every female in the video was at home with kids while all the men in the video were out of the home. The video dismissed working moms and at-home dads and alienated singles and families without children. It was the multi-gender team approach to planning that revealed this.

Every week newcomers show up skeptical, wary, and wondering if anything in church will intersect with their lives. When we fail to meet the real life experiences of both genders, we fail both by ignoring one or placing undue burdens upon another. We also misrepresent the God who created both as image-bearers. How do we create worship for both? Some suggestions:

  1. Create a team with both genders. You must involve both in your planning! At our church we have an open-door policy. Volunteers know they can come any Monday on their lunch hour and join our meeting. Men and women drop in to offer opinions and ideas.
  2. Consider your resources. What organizations or ministries create most of your resources? Do they have agendas of ministering to just men or women? (It’s not a bad thing if they do, but when you draw from that well each week, it gets lopsided.)
  3. Solicit feedback. Ask trusted congregants what they think of your services. Are the songs in a key too high for most men? Do stereotypes dominate your videos or prayers?
  4. Empower both genders. Helping one gender feel safe in worship should not come at the detriment of the other! When a teammate says, “This resource is offensive to me,” seek understanding rather than respond with an overcorrection or dismissive behavior.
  5. Involve both genders. When worship leaders are all male or all female, we send messages that God is mostly concerned with one gender and we leak subconscious messages. A young female CEO hoping to grow in her professional sphere while attending a church where only men are up front will eventually ask questions. She may question her career or, more likely, leave the church in search of a place that embraces her contributions to the world. In the secular world our people inhabit, both genders lead across spheres ranging from medicine to politics, from law to astrophysics. Involve both in song, prayer, Scripture readings, and if your church allows for it, sermons too.

Consider what a blessed testimony of God’s goodness it is for peace and understanding to transcend our broken culture by following what Jesus modeled. We worship a God who seeks to bless both men and women. Together we bear the image of God. So blessings to you as you seek to plan for both together.

Tracey Bianchi is pastor for women and worship at Christ Church of Oak Brook in Oak Brook, Illinois.

September04, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Recent Posts

When Your Calling Is Challenged
As hardships come, you have 1 of 3 options.
What Is Calling?
Defining this “super-spiritual” word
Cultivate Your Calling in Each Stage of Life
Angie Ward discusses cultivating leadership amid ever-changing responsibilities.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
How to know whether to leave or stay in your ministry context.

Follow us


free newsletters: