Sunday Nights at Granger Community Church: An Interview with Matt Adams

There’s enough emphasis on trying to get young adults and late teens into worship that many churches in many denominations are trying to create special "Gen X" services these days. What many are finding is that trying to get a solid definition of what that group is can be a derailing question. There doesn’t seem to be a firm profile. As taken from Douglas Rushkoff’s "Generation X Reader," "... It’s easier to say what GenX isn’t...."

At Granger Community Church near South Bend, Indiana, we interviewed Matt Adams, Performing Arts Director for Youth and Young Adults. An engaging young man in his mid-twenties, Matt shared insights into their "Second Alternative" Sunday night service which they’ve been developing for the past 18 months. The service starts at 6:00 PM and lasts about an hour and 20 minutes.

CS&S: What is GenX to you?

MA: "It varies from person to person. For us it ranges in age from those about to graduate from high school up to early thirties. It depends more on life experience than age. Certain shaping forces seem to determine how people see the world. To me the GenX mindset is frequently characterized by a feeling of searching for something. Sometimes some of our people seem to have had a harder time growing up."

CS&S: How would you describe the atmosphere and nature of the service?

MA: "It’s very informal - there’s a certain ‘rawness’ or ‘in the rough’ feeling about it. Dress is very informal. Jeans and T-shirts are common. In spite of the casual feeling, excellence and quality in what we do is important. We just strive to have as welcome and intimate a feeling as we can. Our atrium is converted from our usual ‘professional office’ feel to a ‘living room’ feel. More color and indirect lighting help with this. During the service, we avoid direct white lighting (spots). Our usual worship space is in a level-floor auditorium, with a raised chancel/stage area. For this service, we set up a slightly raised space in a corner of the room. It feels smaller and more intimate. Chairs are placed semi-circular, and disconnected from their usual ‘locked-in-rows’ setup."

CS&S: What is the role of music in your service?

MA: "Music is the most important expression of the arts that we use. It’s a language that every generation speaks, and it communicates worth and understanding. I know some people who spend more on CD’s than they do on food. It’s a shaping factor in people’s lives. We do all live music (not tracks), and we look for a lot of variety. It varies according to service, but we use folk, rock, punk, reggae, blues and classic rock styles. We start with a band instrumental prelude and lead into singing. We usually sing and worship about 15 minutes, toward the beginning of the service. Our ensemble has keyboard/synth, bass, drums, acoustic and electric guitars, and two to three singers. We also use congas a lot. The music is amplified. We project lyrics on a screen for participation. We try to keep it fun and upbeat. We often end with a presentational song."

CS&S: What other media forms do you use?

MA: "We often use drama and video. We have ‘non-linear’ video editing tools, which let us do a lot of video cutting and pasting. We produce our own ‘man on the street’ Letterman-type segments that help people know us better. This seems to connect with people really well."

CS&S: What are perhaps some of the most important lessons you’ve learned?

MA: "To be more deliberate about everything we do - from planning content to making all the components of worship fit. Tell stories - people need to hear stories. Jesus taught primarily through stories. We try to do that in music, drama, video, testimony and pastor’s message. When we share a special song, we talk about it - what it means lyrically to the singer. Sometimes a slower, reflective song can really illustrate the point of worship that day."

CS&S: Are there things it’s wise to avoid in this kind of service?

MA: "There’s a huge tendency to go to extremes in doing something new. What we do isn’t different in function from the rest of our church - we’re trying to bring lost people to Christ. There’s no need to recreate the wheel. We got lost for a while in trying to figure out who we were fishing for. Now we’re seeking to know who God has us wired up to be, and to honor that, ‘cause everybody’s unique, and is in a unique place and time."

Matt Adams can be contacted at

madams@grangercc.com

219-243-3500 x 304