The Rules of Engagement for Adult Worship Service Programming by Evan McLaughlin (Drive Conference)

Insights from The Drive Conference 2022 at North Point in Atlanta:

1. The Weekend Challenge

When I began in Service Programming, we would say that the win for a Sunday morning was for people to say or think, “I want to come back.” While this is still a positive outcome, we’ve nuanced the win.

• Our win for a Sunday morning is for people to say or think, “I connect with that.”

• The gravitational pull of the local church will always be toward insiders.

• How do you speak to a target audience that ranges from skeptic to saint?

• We believe our common ground is human emotion.

• We are drawn to people and environments that make us feel good and known. We resist people and environments that make us feel uncomfortable.

• To reach such a broad spectrum at every level of programming, we need to ask these three questions:

– How will this make people feel?

– What do we want people to feel?

– When is it appropriate to risk people feeling uncomfortable?

2. Navigating the Rules

• At the highest level, there are three segments that divide and define our

programming plan. – Engage

– Involve

– Challenge

• There are eight potential pieces to our worship service experience that fall into those segments. 

The Funnel:

Engage – Involve – Challenge

This is a modular framework that can be mixed and moved around.

8 Sections


1. Pre-service experience = everything from the digital footprint on the web to the parking lot to all of the way to what happens before the service starts

2. Opener = from a dramatic piece to a featured song from the culture to a

This is not a disconnected idea from the service. 

3. Welcome (not announcements) but connecting the opener or the host to those in the crowd. For example, 


4. Singing – Some worship songs can be odd for the unitiated. 

“Would love for you to sing with us, but if you are just reading the lyrics on the screen, keep eye on this phrase …. This means so much to me because….”

5. Baptism – On video a short story from the person being baptized that can help connect someone in the crowd with their story.

6. Special – Very rare at North Point – a spoken word or song that grabs people’s attention or creates tension before the message. 


7. Message – communicating God’s heart to those in attendance

8. Closer – create an emotional punctuation to connect the message to people’s hearts. 

3. Rules to the Exceptions

It’s okay to depart from the template on purpose but not by accident or because we are bored.

When we move outside the template there needs to be a good reason.

4. The Creative Quandary

Creativity always has constraints.

Our goal is to leverage creativity for the sake of our mission and vision.

People are not looking to be impressed. They are looking to be impacted.

Consider the Law of Diminishing Astonishment. People are increasing hard to impress. 

5. Inspect What You Expect

Evaluate at halftime (between services) and postgame (on Monday).

Celebration should precede dissection.

Go first.

Ask outsiders.

Leave the horse alone.

“Have courage in the face of affirmation.”

Free Consultation

If you're interested in a free 30-min consultation with me, simply fill out this form and I'll contact you!