The BIG IDEA
AUGUST’s BIG IDEA
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. - Psalm 40:3
According to a study reported by the Pew Forum in 2008, an estimated 53 percent of African Americans attend weekly religious services. In order to increase this number, Fellowship of the Fountains Church, in Stafford, Texas, is seeking ways to proactively reach their community, especially young adults, through innovative and creative worship.
Under the leadership of Pastor Albert R. Tibbs, this 150 member church is drawing young adults through its Forever 21 ministry. Reverend Tibbs spearheaded this service and hoped it would appeal to people who might not typically attend church. The Forever 21 ministry began in 2008 and has since grown from 4 to nearly 50 participants.
Twice a month, Forever 21 meets for mid-week worship that consists of prayer, praise, poetry and preaching. Unlike traditional worship, these services have an urban coffeehouse ambiance. Dim lights illuminate the space as sounds of gospel jazz and neo-soul fill the room. Worship usually begins with concert prayer, where people pray in pairs or small groups while soft music plays in the background. Instead of sitting in rows, worshipers sit at tables or in a circle, and are invited to the stage to share their prayer requests with the group. People offer their gifts of poetry, music, and inspirational dance during the service, and worshipers sing Christ-centered lyrics that are often matched to popular hip hop tunes. Additionally, bible-based sermons are presented as conversational presentations or group discussions that address the needs of the group’s African American, Caucasian, and Latino members.
The Forever 21 services are open to all members of the community. Fellowship of the Fountain’s Forever 21 ministry has also partnered with other churches to present Praise in the Park, where young adults from the surrounding community gather for a picnic and interactive worship.
While some people are critical of a worship service that does not follow traditional liturgical formats, Fellowship of the Fountains believes that its innovative worship is inviting to both the churched and the unchurched. For many churches, such an endeavor could be expensive. However, this church expends very little to conduct the services because it has a space in which to hold the services and because of the dedicated work of volunteer musicians, artists, worship planners and others. Fellowship of the Fountains’ Forever 21 ministry is a shining example of how smaller churches can impact a community through a BIG IDEA.
If your church is interested in developing creative worship services, the following organizations may be able to assist with your project:
- Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (Worship Renewal Grants Program)
- The Chatlos Foundation, Inc.
- National Office of Philanthropy and the Black Church
Rev. Ernest C. Hargrove, Director
(601) 355-8167 Ext. 23
- Oldham Little Church Foundation
14090 Southwest Freeway, Suite 270
Sugar Land, TX 77478<
- Partners for Sacred Places
1700 Sansom Street, 10th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103
- US Department of Education Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives