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Balancing the Contemporary with the Traditional

Scott Suskovic,Senior Pastor at Christ Lutheran Church offers five important considerations when looking to "modernize."

Striking a Traditional-Contemporary Balance

At his WFX session, playfully titled "Help! I'm in a Mainline Denomination, I Tuck in My Shirt, I'm Over 40, and I Can't Grow a Goatee," Suskovic shared the experiences of his church, which aims to maintain its liturgical roots while incorporating a contemporary, high-tech worship in a newly built worship center. "Many people in the mainline denomination think they have only two choices, two ways of adjusting to a new era of worship: they can either maintain their integrity or throw it all out of the window," Suskovic says. He asks, however, whether there's a balance that can be struck: "What about the middle?"

Suskovic points out, too, that pastors must be mindful of the audience. For whom is all the contemporizing for? "Pastors should be more concerned about what works for the setting than what works for themselves," Suskovic advises.

Five Considerations for Modernizing' Churches
Drawing from his own experiences at Christ Lutheran Church as well as those anecdotally shared with him by other pastors and churches, Suskovic explored ways of striking a traditional-contemporary balance. His own church, Suskovic explains, "created a 40 percent traditional and 60 percent contemporary setting, which is suitable for most of the visitors."

Below are five more important church-contemporizing considerations offered by Suskovic at WFX:

LITURGY Should It Stay or Should It Go?
Despite the reality that Christ Lutheran Church enjoys a diverse congregation with many different religious backgrounds, the church was "unwilling to truncate its liturgical flow of worship," Suskovic reports. While some may believe contemporizing means letting go of traditions, Suskovic is quick to point out it doesn't have to be that way.

COMMUNION Traditional vs. Casual
Suskovic tells the story of his visit to a "contemporary, black-box church communion." He reported that an on-stage singer finished his set by announcing communion as "the availability of grape juice and crackers."

"This shows a lack of reverence and dedication," Suskovic asserts. "At Christ Lutheran church, a traditional communion is held one week while a contemporary communion is held the next week."

SERMON How Long Is Long Enough?
Contemporary worship activities abound. With Sunday School and other church programming, Suskovic says his church has moved from a 40- to 45-minute sermon to a more succinct 25-minute sermon.

SUNDAY SCHOOL Still Viable or Old-Fashioned?
At Christ Lutheran Church, Sunday School is still occurring and quite popular. "It is another practice we were unwilling to give up," Suskovic says. "It is really important for attendance and spreading the practice of worship."

MULTI-GENERATIONAL WORSHIP Where Do the Kids Go?
In his experience, Suskovic finds many contemporary churches separate the children from the adults. He finds this concerning. "Multi-generational worship is a must," he says. "Children start to learn within a mixed congregation and adults do, too."

While some churches may find it difficult to adapt to the new era of technology, others are struggling to remain grounded in tradition and faith. With the primary aim of keeping the vistors' needs front-of-mind, however, Suskovic assured attendees they, too, will find the balance between contemporizing and respecting long-held values and tradition.

GEOFFREY OLDMIXON (Oldmixon.net) is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer and editor.

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