Because we have multiple services at SSCC, margin isn’t something we seem to find. Despite our many efforts, we typically end up with a worship service that is around 1:15 and is FILLED with outflow.
That’s not such a bad thing. After all, we gather corporately so that we can express ourselves in worship to God (typically, through songs) and be taught and built up (sermons). Since the body is gathered, it makes sense to do some communication to inform people about what’s going on. (announcements).
So, let’s think about that. If you have 5 songs averaging 5 minutes each, that’s 25 minutes. If you have a sermon averaging 35-40 minutes, now we’re up to 60-65 minutes. Add in announcements and any kind of transition, you’ve hit your time expiration and there’s no margin.
Now before the zealots start flaming us about the clock, you have to understand — if we don’t try to wrap things up in 1:15 max, we have a logistical nightmare in the parking lots.
This Sunday was one of those rare Sundays where we had “margin”. Our Discipleship Pastor was preaching and he came to be Sunday AM and said that his sermon would be shorter than he anticipated. SHORTER? Are you KIDDING ME? He even suggested that we have some last-minute planning to allow for more worship at the end of the message. I was totally cool with that.
The beautiful thing about margin? You aren’t forced to use it (though we usually do) and you can choose where it comes from.
When I have margin and I know I’m entrusted to steward it, I become a different leader.
It’s not about getting through the setlist on time.
It’s not about avoiding the discussion about going over time.
This past Sunday, as I led through the song we’d selected to happen between the Announcement Break and the Sermon, that margin became invaluable.
We’d just concluded singing a beautiful worship ballad, “Waiting Here For You” from the Passion 2011 album. Even though it was a brand new tune for our church, I could discern that the people had genuinely engaged in worship. As the song came to a close, I couldn’t bring myself to just say a snap prayer and move on. I knew the Holy Spirit was telling me to “wait”.
So I waited.
I played a light, consistent progression slowly.
I took my time. I asked the congregation to wait. To pray. We seldom stop and make time for this. It wasn’t just a dude on the stage leading a prayer for a quick Amen. We were waiting in God’s Presence, praying, seeking, crying out.
Knowing we weren’t pressed for time, I took this a step further. I asked the tech guys (who responded immediately and graciously) to bring up our house lights slowly.
“Who is struggling? Who just needs a touch? Who needs prayer? Slip up your hand – and if you’re around someone raising their hand, just touch them, maybe on the shoulder, to let them know you are there, that you support them, and that you care. Pray for them. You don’t even have to ask what it’s about – just lift them up.”
It was beautiful. I believe we could have stayed in that pause for a long time. But it was like we stopped the motions for a while and God smiled and said “glad to see you”.
So I took the margin earlier than later. We concluded our entire service without my adding another song.
In many cases, I’d rather add that waiting time, for prayer, for seeking … instead of yet, another song.
This makes me desperate for margin. In my life. In our worship services. You don’t get it unless you work for it.
How much margin is in your worship services? Do you feel pressed for time to squeeze everything in, or do you have ample time to wait and see what God may be doing in that moment?