How many of us remember the candlelight services we have once a year?
When we engage more than one sense in a learning environment, the chance of us learning what is being taught exponentially increases. In candlelight services, we are using the senses of sight, touch, and smell. Remembering these sensory experiences later can also help us recall the message we heard about God’s grace.
From early in church history to the present day, believers have wanted to use their skills and gifts to help others learn about God’s grace. In the past, artists used paintings, sculptures, mosaics, or architecture to tell stories and share messages. Today, in a world full of technology, what are high-tech and low-tech ways we can engage the senses and create an environment for learning?
Isn’t it true that we pull out all the stops for VBS to create an environment that is fun and sets the tone for learning? Isn’t it fun to see the kids’ faces when they enter? Sure it is. We’re pulling everything together and following a theme. Why do we think that since we are adults we can be fine with visual boredom?
Some churches decorate the sanctuary for Christmas or Easter. I think those two seasons are a great place for you to begin. It doesn’t have to cost too much money. In fact, some members of your church may donate items to help decorate if they know what you are looking for in advance. At a different time of the Church Year, ask the pastor what his next sermon series will focus on or what life application from Scripture he will discuss.
Consider decorating the children’s area at times other than VBS too. Think about what the children are learning in Sunday School or midweek classes, and let your ideas and creativity bubble up from there. Need help in this area? Pinterest is a great place to start to look for decorating ideas.
Some churches use projections to display Bible verses, the order of worship, announcements, or words from the songs. Be creative with the backgrounds for these. Depending on your church, you may be able to use a mixture of still-shot images or videos that complement the worship experience.
Here’s an example. If you don’t have projection equipment, play a sound recording of ocean waves as they wash up on a beach. Then have someone (who is not seen but is heard through the speakers) read Psalm 23. Imagine you are hearing the ocean and quieting your heart, then you start to hear the beginning of Psalm 23 being read. . . .
Try a combination of visuals and audio. Play some music that doesn’t have words, and run a slideshow of Scripture verses with beautiful backgrounds. Maybe you can have a video in the background instead. These types of experience may help some in attendance become more reflective and turn their attention to God. A few moments of silence is not necessarily a bad thing either.
The volume of the music can change based on the tone of the Scripture references. For instance, joyful references can have louder music and more reflective references can have quieter music. A pastor or teacher can use this same concept when speaking.
Lighting can help set the tone; think again of the dim lighting of a candlelight service and the reflective tone it creates. Lighting can also be used to help worshipers focus on certain things, such as the Scripture or background on a projection.
Vary the lighting during the videos or projections you show. If your church doesn’t have anyone who is skilled at shooting video, you can use a website that sells targeted and professional videos made specifically for churches. There are several websites like this out there, and most of their videos are very well done.
I hope this got you thinking about methods you can use to set the tone for learning in your church. The message of the Gospel remains the same, but the methods we use to share this message can and have changed over time. Try something new or different—and let me know how it goes!
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