MUNCIE, Ind. – With shouts of “God is good all the time and all the time God is good,” Dr. Marcia McFee kicked off a teaching moment during morning worship June 9.

Speaking on “Life-Changing Worship,” McFee mixed music, media, stories and words during her presentation. “Worship is an honor and privilege to remember that we are not alone.”

Worship needs to be transforming, in the aspect that we ought to be different than when we came in, and we should expect something should happen. “Worship is powerful. Worship is an invitation to soar,” said McFee. “The more prepared we are, the more able we are to let go. Worship is our invitation to simply be.”

Worship should be meaningful and memorable. It is where our life story and faith story intersect. We should be capturing stories as a way to evaluate. “Worship is not about what we like and don’t like.”

Worship allows for three needs: the need for ritual, the need to engage and the need for symbol. “We have an innate need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves,” said McFee. “A good symbol will help us deal with difficult things.”

McFee provided the conference with five nitty gritty aspects to having life-changing worship. They include:

Authentic spiritual leadership: Transitioning from story tellers to story dwellers; move from presiders to residers; and providing a safe place where people can share.

Attention to the journey of worship: Moving from checking-off the to-do list to worship as an experience and encounter with the holy. Vitality killers, including forgetting, it’s all about the people’s “work” of worshipping; too much of a single medium (words, singing, etc.) back to back; the length of a single style of medium; the attention to transition; unclear/confusing/too many or too few instructions; no intervention if a liturgical disaster occurs; long sermons, long verbal transitions, short silence, long silence, dead silence, preachy prayers and inappropriate tempos.

Making ritual “rich-ual”: Going from guardians of religious practice to midwives of sacramental moments. “Every Sunday someone is going through a scary passage,” said McFee.

Making it sensory rich: Transitioning from “looking at it” to “steeping in it.” “The diversity pie is sliced in many ways,” said McFee. We are surrounded by music, symbols, sequence, words, environments, all of which can enhance the experience of the story. “It’s about doing more with what you have. People are yearning to go deep.”

Thematic/seasonal planning: Moving from “plug and play” to intentional design. We need help in becoming ritual artists and need to allocate time to study, plan and implement worship at least twice a year. Basing the planning on the percentage factor, we need to ask ourselves: What percent of people in the pews is this (worship service) the only connection to the church, the Bible and other forms of worship they will have this week? “It’s everyone’s responsibility.”