A while back, I served as the Summer Intern at Cypress Bible Church. Part of my work there that summer was to develop a worship experience during our summer Beach Week. During the worship times, led by the impeccable Tom Edwards Band, the high school students and leaders would have free time to visit the different worship stations at the back of the room. We’ve done these for a few years now at Cypress Bible Church and I started researching and creating my own worship experiences in high school, and hopefully I will post them up here later.
The theme of the week was SIMPLE, building upon Luke 10:41-42– “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” We focused on what it meant to strip away everything down to the bare essentials. What is really important? What is fluff?
Along with the student ministry leadership, I came up with this very simple style that we could use through the retreat– Arial Bold and Brackets. Very [simple]. My special task was to create worship stations. At these worship stations, I created sensory experiences that would give people opportunities to reflect and think upon the theme and questions in a new way. Here are the five stations.
At this station, I placed the sign above next to two bowls of chips: one of Tostitos and one of Doritos. By each bowl, I had a sign signifying the chip ingredients.
This is all to illustrate the fact that sometimes, more isn’t better. A Dorito chip might be tasty, but a Tostito chip is also quite tasty, and it has ingredients that you can actually pronounce and identify. This sign gave the instructions for the students and some thoughts and prayers to reflect upon.
*I have to admit, there is a discrepancy in my numbers here– I say 32 ingredients, then 34. Truly, it is difficult to decide whether “red and green bell pepper powder” is one ingredient or two, and that same issue occurs a number of places. If you go according to the breakdown of commas, the right number is 32 ingredients.
This station focused on the idea that everything we come into contact with affects how we smell– and this idea can be applied to many other aspects of life. What we listen to, what we say, who we spend time with, what we think about, etc. At this station I had the following sign:
At this station I placed two containers. One was filled with trash
and the other was filled with fragrant oil, along with some strips of cloth.
Accompanying these items was the following sign, giving instructions, thoughts, and prayers for the students.
This was a tough station– I had many ideas, but eventually was drawn towards this concept.
I had the sign above next to two bowls, each containing a lump of clay. The first lump of clay (labeled “alpha clay”) was nice and moldable
but the second lump of clay (labeled “beta clay”)
The two consistencies of the two lumps of clay were quite different– one was pleasant and easy to mold, the other fought back and hurt your hands, resisted being moved. This represented our need to surrender to God, the Master Craftsman and Potter.
I also included some paper towels and hand sanitizer, which was especially important if the students were going to visit the “taste” station next. I’m pretty sure both the Tostitos and the Doritos could be ruined by some dirty clay on your hands.
This station was difficult, because the more technology you use, the more difficult it becomes. At this station, I gave people an opportunity to listen to different sounds and consider the idea of “noise” in our lives.
I cannot find these audio files in my records, but this is basically what they consisted of: noise sounds (traffic, construction, crowd at a sporting event), music sounds (classical music, acoustic music, simple vocal song), and calming sounds (rainfall, forest, waves). I had an iPod, a CD player, and a boombox set up, but that was just because it was what I had. No matter what, you need three sets of audio players with options for people to choose between the different tracks (switch from forest to waves) and three sets of headphones (not earphones, that’s gross).
I had quite a lot of fun with this station. I had seen this idea utilized in a worship experience I had read about online. The station had the sign above as well as the sign below
I had a regular light and a stack of papers, then a red light off to the side.
This is what the paper looked like in normal light.
In the regular light, this is just a jumble of letters and words, which I had taken from news stories, advertisements, and (funny as it is) the lyrics to the song “Boom Boom Pow” by The Black Eyed Peas (which itself seems like nonsense).
But if you brought the sheet to the red light and held it up with the light behind the paper, all of the red letters and most of the other colored letters seem to disappear. (A similar thing happens with red tinted glasses, but I couldn’t get it to work with my glasses prototypes). All of the letters, that is, except for the dark letters and the cool color based letters. Those letters suddenly stand out and God’s messages stand out in blazing light: LOVE, LIGHT, LIFE, YOU ARE LOVED, TRUTH, REDEMPTION, HOPE, GRACE, HOLD ON CHILD, I AM WITH YOU IN THE MESS.
That was it for the sensory stations. However, I developed a few more stations for specific nights. As we talked about SIMPLICITY, we focused on other things that humans tend to focus on instead of the bare essentials of life. First, there is PERFORMANCE, trying to do everything and anything– a big issue in high school and beyond as you become known for what you can or can’t do. Then there is POSITION, trying to be the best and most well regarded or popular person in school, at work, even at church– this also is a big issue starting in adolescence and getting worse and worse as students enter the workforce. Finally, there is POSSESSIONS, trying to build up a sense of security and pleasure from all the stuff you own– this is just a problem for all Americans, as we try to not be materialistic in a materialistic society. That being said, it is also a problem for people all over the world, as are the other two as well.
For three nights, we had worship stations developed around these themes.
Part of the mission of Cypress Bible Church is “Building Bridges” to try and reach people with the gospel and the love of God. “A relationship with God is more important than any sport, group, or activity” and “Any group I am involved in should be used as a witness for God.” I worked on that idea and reconstructed the problem of performance within the perspective of missions. I gathered a number of blocks (I can’t remember if they were Legos or Jenga pieces or something else) and placed them on one table. On another table I designated one side THE CHURCH and the other side THE WORLD. Here are the instructions we gave the students that evening:
Grab a handful of building blocks.
Go sit down and think of all the things in your life—activities, sports, clubs, relationships, jobs, hobbies, organizations, interests. Pick up each block, one by one, and picture each activity as you go.
We will go through the groups (9th-12th), and call each group to take their blocks and work on the bridge at the far end of the room. As you place each block, dedicate each activity to God, that He might use you and use that activity to His glory.
Once you’ve used your blocks, go to the end of the bridge and work on the wall—draw and write and express the possibilities, the dreams, the goals of what we hope God can do through us and all we do.
We also had some space and art materials for drawing, and this gave people a chance to represent what they were thinking and how God was leading them in this worship time.
Here were some signs to provide Scripture to the station.
This worship experience was centered on our identity in God, not trying to base our identities on how others see us or how the world measures success. It was somewhat connected to academics. “A relationship with God is more important than any academic honor” and “Any position I attain should be used as an offering to God.“ I had a number of signs consisting of white thick paper with string tied to two holes on one side of the paper so that a person could wear the sign. There were a number of markers and pens and pencils for people to write on and decorate their sign. Here were the instructions:
Write your name in large letters- then the positions you hold, the honors, the jobs, all your best efforts and accomplishments, adjectives that describe you, what you’re all about- And then put the sign on
Take some time and pray, thanking God for making you who you are, giving you opportunities, placing you where you are, leading you to this point. Walk around, and eventually reach the cross.
Once you reach the cross, kneel, remove your sign, flip it over, and use the red sharpie to write
Write down all the words that describe God, His positions, all His efforts and accomplishments, things He has done, in your life, in the world, who He is, adjectives that describe Him, what He’s all about
Take the sign and hang it on the cross, as your spiritual act of worship- Take some time to pray, and in your heart, offer up your life, dedicate each honor, position, characteristic to God, for His glory
This cross was a large wooden cross that we had set up in the room. People really responded to this experience, and I handed out the signs at the end of the retreat to anyone that wanted to hold on to it as a reminder.
We placed these signs up for further theme development.
The final theme that we touched on was Possessions, the third P-word. We talked about how when we turn to Simplicity, we need to have a better view of the stuff we own, the money we hoard, the things we want to buy. “A relationship with Gods is more important than any stuff we can own” and “Any possession I acquire should be used to bless others.”
This was the day that we also talked about Connecting with others, an important element for Cypress Bible Church’s mission. So this day we had a challenge for the students, a challenge to give up their cell phones and media devices in order to spend better times with others. This was a real controversial challenge, but I was glad we did it in the end.
To get to this idea, we had a display set up with treasure chests on the worship tables. In each the chests we had jewels and coins and other regular treasure objects, but also a few specific items: trophies and medals (to represent performance), crown and college photos/brochures (to represent position) and a purse and wallet and money (to represent possessions). This was the most simple worship experience, simply a time of reflection, simply because the challenge was such a big part of the experience. Here were some signs that we posted to focus the theme.
The whole experience of serving as the intern at Cypress Bible Church in the Summer of 2009 was filled with a number of other great experiences and empowering opportunities, but this chance to create Worship Experiences for a whole retreat was truly a joy. Thanks for the opportunity JJ!