Coming This Fall: Thursday Nights

We’re excited to announce Eastminster is launching another worship service alongside our Sunday morning offerings, Thursday evenings at 6:30 in the Student Center, beginning September 5.

by Matt Jaderston

There are moments in ministry when the Holy Spirit begins working years before his plan comes to fruition. About two years ago I approached Pastor Stan about the possibility of a new worship service, and he mentioned that he and Pastor Hank Lederle also had similar ideas about this happening. Due to various reasons, the timing wasn’t right for this to happen then, but in the past months the idea was brought up again to much excitement in our executive staff meetings. Pastor Stan continued to ask our staff a question as he often does, “is the Lord in this?” to which we continued to seek the Lord in prayer. As we began to discern God’s will for Eastminster and began to see a vision for what this service could look like, we began to feel the excitement in the room and a plan began to form. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself— let me first begin by sharing what prompted this idea in the first place.

Why Another Service?

Pastor Stan has emphatically called our leadership to aim our goals around growing younger, and for good reason. According to an extensive survey by the Pew Research Center, between 2007 and 2014 mainline Protestant adults slid 41 million to 36 million. According to 2015 US Census Bureau data, adults ages 18-29 comprised 17 percent of the adult population, and yet that same group represents less than 10 percent of church attendees nationwide. In other words, churches aren’t growing in the United States and young people are leaving the church. Our session has been reading a book from the Fuller Youth Institute called Growing Young1, which speaks into this very problem of churches aging out and shrinking. One of the authors of the book, who also happens to be one of my professors at Fuller Seminary, said this in her lecture I attended in Cincinnati, “Churches that aren’t just shrinking and aging, but are growing in involving and retaining young people, brings overall life and vitality to the whole church.” Growing your church young not only prepares an aging congregation for the future, but also creates excitement and momentum in the life of the church now.

When you look at our church demographics, it is clear we have an aging congregation. The hard reality is that if things don’t change, we will fall into the trappings of the majority of mainline churches that continue to decline. Stan has made reference to wanting this stretch of his career in pastoral ministry to be a sprint to the finish line. He is not interested in coasting, and he has inspired us as a staff to join him in this mission to grow younger and bring people to Jesus. With that mission in mind, we are thinking outside the box to do things a bit differently, and trusting the Spirit to guide our hand as we continue on mission.

A Modern Liturgy

Dr. Thom Rainer, former president and CEO of Lifeway and church leadership expert, makes the claim that Millennials don’t think in the “worship wars” paradigm. In other words, it’s not traditional vs. contemporary, organ vs. electric guitar, or bells and smells vs. lights and lasers. Instead, Rainer suggests three values of the younger generation in worship.

1. They desire the music to have rich content. They desire to sing those songs that reflect deep biblical and theological truths. Their music reflects those deep and rich theological truths.
2. The Millennials desire authenticity in a worship service. They can sense when congregants and worship leaders are going through the motions. And they will reject such perfunctory attitudes altogether.
3. This large generation does want a quality worship service. But that quality is a reflection of the authenticity noted above, and adequate preparation of the worship leaders both spiritually and in time of preparation. In that sense, quality worship services are possible for churches of all sizes.2

Along with these values, we believe young people will be quick to embrace a Spirit-filled worship service that embraces mystery and sacred liturgy. With our worship leader Joseph Wimer’s leadership, we plan to create a service with contemporary songs and liturgical reflection. We are not doing a massive light show and stage production, but rather a stripped down and sacred space to worship with traditions both old and new.

Built Around the Table

In a recent interview from an article titled “Why Millennials Long for Liturgy,” Jesse Cone made some profound comments, “If you ask me why kids are going to more liturgical services, I’d say it’s because the single greatest threat to our generation and to young people nowadays is the deprivation of meaning in our lives,” Cone says. “In the liturgical space, everything becomes meaningful. In the offering up of the bread and wine, we see the offering up of the wheat and grain and fruits of the earth, and God gives them back in a sanctified form… We’re so thirsty for meaning that goes deeper, that can speak to our entire lives, hearts, and wallets, that we’re really thirsty to be attached to the earth and to each other and to God. The liturgy is a historical way in which that happens.”3

We believe a Thursday night service that is built around the sacrament of Communion will bring forth something unique and powerful, so we plan to serve Communion every Thursday evening at this service. Our hope is the coming together of music that speaks to a younger generation and the tradition of liturgy and sacrament will cultivate a unique worship experience here at Eastminster.

Not Just for Young People

While we certainly hope this service will be attractive to younger generations, we want it to be intentionally intergenerational. The table makes no distinction of age, and by participating together we are coming together as a family of believers in solidarity over what truly unites us—the precious blood of Jesus. Another distinction is that we are intentionally not branding this evening service as anything other than one of several services of Eastminster. Our desire is that people would view this gathering as another service offering along with the 8, 9:30, and 11 o’clock services. Our discipleship strategy is built with worship at its core, central to all we do. We may have multiple expressions of worship, but we are one church united with a common faith and mission. A fourth service does not dilute this, but adds to it.

Teaching Team

One of Eastminster’s great strengths is the number of staff members gifted in preaching and teaching. To both lighten Pastor Stan’s load and to give voice to our younger staff members, Thursday nights would have a rotational teaching team made up of Ben Marquez, Mike Jaderston and myself. We’ll work with Pastor Stan to teach from the same text each week. The details are still being ironed out, but we would ask you to join us in prayer as we embark on this journey together.

Initially, when the question of adding a service was posed to our staff it was met with some trepidation and many questions like: Will this be too much work for staff? How will we do child care? Is the Student Center the best location? But as we continued to dialogue it became clear the consensus was that this service was where God is moving us, and the details would come together in time. We believe that God is doing a new thing here at Eastminster, and when the Spirit moves we want to sprint with him.

1Powell, Kara Eckmann. Growing Young. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, a Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2016.