Community Worship Night

by Melanie Cocalis, Community Development Manager

This summer was the very first for what we call, community worship night. As our staff reflected more and more on how the community can be a part of our worship services in the evening, as well as students being apart of the community during their weeklong trip, we knew we wanted to make some changes specifically in our evening programming. This takes on two perspectives: the community and the students. Being someone who lives in the community, joining worship in the evenings is enjoyable for the first week. And although each new group of students brings new energy, a different pace of worship, and unique testimonies, after the first week of programming, those evening services continue to look the same. The newness of seeing the video series for the first time or hearing the Emcee’s testimony, comes each week for a wave of new students. But those who joined each evening from the community began to see the same video and hear the same story… for 9 weeks in a row. Being a student coming on a trip, the evening worship time is incredibly compelling, but one may begin to realize they aren’t getting to experience the community much during this time. The evening programming was missing a piece as we sought to integrate the experience during the day with the time of worship at night. This is where the community worship night idea began.

What if we had an evening set apart without any programming, so we could worship alongside the community in the ways they typically worship? What if there was an open evening that allowed for a new and creative story to be shared? What if there was a night where Next Step programming was put on pause so that the gifts, speaking, music, and talents of the community could be played? What if students were able to see the community in a different light through this one-week mission trip, specifically in how the community worships and fellowships together?

This worship service looks different in each community. In some communities we group the worship service with a cookout. In other communities, there are weekly events our host church already facilitates throughout the year, so we simply tag worship to the start of a movie night or basketball tournament for families in the congregation. For others, this worship night sets a tone for the Bible studies and continued discipleship that will take place on that same evening, after all the Next Step staff and students have left for the summer. Each story is unique, but we have been humbled through the process. We have heard testimonies, listened to pastors, been a part of events, sang along to a local worship team, all to realize that this evening of worship both empowers those who are leading us from the community, and brings students, other congregation members, and our staff to understand Christ and His gospel in new ways.

Next Step Ministries