Yesterday I had a conversation with a pastor friend and he mentioned a truth that I have been advocating for years: blended worship doesn’t work in churches today. With the continuation of worship wars and with the unsettling truth that the younger generation is walking away from the faith, many churches are attempting half measures (blended worship) to appease the few younger families left in the church. The problem is blended worship rarely works. Here are five reasons why:
1. Blended worship is too contemporary for the traditionalists. Churches with a large older population have a real struggle embracing modern worship. Now, to their credit, they’re having to overcome decades of a consistent message that fast drum beats and loud guitars have no place in church. If you start adding those elements to a service, you’ve already alienated a significant portion of the congregation.
2. Blended worship is too traditional for the contemporary crowd. Most attempts at blended worship is nowhere near the style of music that the contemporary crowd longs for. Getting sister Martha to speed up on the organ to keep pace on a Chris Tomlin song is not contemporary worship. You can’t rock out a Hillsong power ballad with an orchestra. In the end, many traditional attempts to sing contemporary songs are just awkward.
3. The instrumentation doesn’t work. If you want to have a truly blended worship service, the instrumentation would be a nightmare. Traditional worship is primarily led through a piano and organ. Contemporary worship is primarily led through an acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, possibly keyboard, and of course drums. Switching from drums to organ is impossible. Most worship services avoid this by trying to play one genre with the other genre’s instrumentation, which will always leave a good portion unsatisfied.
4. There is no target demographic that loves blended worship. I have yet to find a demographic that loves and embraces truly blended worship. I have (of course) seen two distinct camps that want either traditional or contemporary music. Most church folks put up with or tolerate blended worship. It’s tough to build a worship service where the vast majority of participants merely tolerate it.
5. Blended worship leaves both sides vocally asking for more. The contemporary crowd will see blended worship as an opening and will ask for more contemporary songs, better instrumentation, etc. The traditionalists will see blended worship as only a half step away from full rock concert mode with lights and a fog machine, and will do whatever they can to stop the progress. In my experience, blended worship doesn’t solve the worship wars. It’s a band-aid, not a solution.
So what’s a solution? If you can swing it, I’ve seen a ton of success with churches that have gone to multiple services and have made one unashamedly contemporary and one unashamedly traditional. By and large, the younger generation craves contemporary worship. We need to do everything we can to reach them. The older generation genuinely worships through traditional music. We need to honor that and honor the people that have carried the torch of faith for so many years. If you can do both, do both. If for whatever reason you can’t do both and have to choose, pick one and stick with it. Just don’t try blended worship. It will only frustrate you (and most people involved).