Apr 132014

We the Chuang family have a tradition of multi-churching during the 2 biggest Christian holidays of the year, Easter and Christmas. Here’s a schedule of church worship services around Orange County, California, that I charted out with 18 churches that had multiple service times for Easter weekend::

This is our proposed agenda for the Chuang Family 2014 OC Easter Tour (with 8 stops):

  • 4/17 Thurs 7pm @ An Easter Together
  • 4/18 Fri 12pm @ St. Andrew’s Episcopal Irvine + 2pm @ ROCKHARBOR Costa Mesa + 6pm @ Ev Free Fullerton
  • 4/19 Sat 4pm @ Saddleback Lake Forest + 6pm @ Mariners Irvine
  • 4/20 Sun 7am @ Saddleback Rancho Capistrano + 11am @ Saddleback Church UCI Venue

Please join us on this special tour if you’re in the area, we’d love to meet you! (I’ll provide color commentary, for free, upon request.) Or build your own schedule using the spreadsheet.

An overview map of the 2014 OC Easter Tour
Aside: wondering what percentage of Southern Baptist Churches have Good Friday services. Can anyone help me find the answer?

Feb 142014

More churches are asking how they can reach the next generation (some for its own survival, some for the mandate of reaching more people in their community as part of its on-going mission.) Recently I got this question from a pastor of a church wanting to reach the next generation, and he texted it to me this way: “what are best days/times for worship services for Emerging adults (20s) aka post-college?” I could rephrase it as: what are the best worship times for reaching young adults (to be friendlier to search-engines.)

I checked with Benson Hines, the best expert I know of that’s thoroughly researched  college ministries (chronicled at exploringcollegeministry.com), and thus the subsequent post-college stage of life after the inevitable graduation of most college students. Here’s his reply, posted with permission:bensonhines

Do you mean a church worship service that serves as one of the “weekend worship services” (seen as a regular church service, just targeting that group)? In that case, Sunday night seems to be a favorite in some places, but there are probably plenty that do Sat. night or Sun. morning.

It’s probably more contextually about what people will do in a given city (and how else the church is structured for the other parts of its discipleship – for instance, if there’s a Sunday morning activity, then most young adults would probably only want to come once, rather than once in the morning and then again on Sunday night).

But I would tend to think Sunday night, all things being equal.

If you’re asking about a general “citywide worship service” that isn’t meant to replace the weekend service, that’s even less clear – I haven’t run into enough of them to say, and my best bet is that it’s highly contextual based on the city. Tuesday, though, seems like one good option (especially if the city’s “nightlife” starts on Thursday); Tuesday is when our church’s big young adult gathering (2,000 sometimes) happens. [ed.note: Benson's at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas]

But I think Sunday night, Monday night, and Wednesday night would all be viable. 

And I’d add that for a weekend service, I wouldn’t assume that later is better – in some cities, young adults would prefer an earlier service and having their whole day remaining.

Getting to know one’s city will provide a lot of insight. What are its “rhythms”; when do other groups do things with the same crowd (for ministry or otherwise)? It also depends on where the church is geographically – how long it takes to drive there, how “easy” it seems, etc., matters a lot. And if there are already young adults around, you should simply ask them. Maybe try some one-off gatherings and experiment.

BUT if we’re talking about mid-week “citywide” services… I’d add for those generally thinking about starting something: The general “citywide” service can be an excellent tool but is a terrible “default” or “go-to” method. Lots of churches start these as attempts to draw new people to a non-existent ministry, draw people to the church (even though they present it as for anyone), OR to jumpstart an ailing ministry. These moves are common but don’t tend to work out well. When I’ve seen these citywide services be truly successful, they seem to be either highly strategic (someone has very clearly discerned that THIS city needs this at THIS time), or organic (someone starts something small and it simply grows and grows).

What has your experience been with effective churches reaching & ministering with young adults? Would love your input. Add a comment.

Dec 182013

Merry Christmas! What better way is there than to worship God in Jesus Christ during Christmas week? This year I’m in the metro Washington DC area with family; and it’s become a family tradition to worship at as many church services as possible during Christmas week. Here’s my working spreadsheet, as I prepare my itinerary. And, for all year round, here’s a list of the most popular (aka: largest) churches in the metro DC area, that would include Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Do you love singing Christmas carols and celebrating this way too? [see my spreadsheet]

And, then after Christmas, I’ll be up in Baltimore for #CMC2013, a Chinese Mission Convention hosted by AFC Inc.

Dec 122012

Today is that magical numerological date in history 12/12/12 and at 12:12:12 I was sitting down for lunch at a place called Chef Chen because a friend suggested it via Yelp. Where were you?

As Christmas 2012 draws near, the Chuang family (my dear wife and sharp son) are preparing for the 2012 OC Christmas Tour where it’s our family tradition to worship with the extended family of God at as many worship services as we can get to. Last year we made it to 10. We love Christmas!! This year we were aiming for 12, but because of how it falls on the calendar, the odds are against us. Here’s the spreadsheet of Orange County churches with multiple Christmas worship services we know of — add a comment if you know of another one.

Aug 202012

Conferences are kinda of a big deal, even in the 21st century where the internet can deliver content nearly instantly globally and hundreds of digital platforms for online meetings are available, but not yet the norm in most circles. And, it’s big business: RCMA (Religious Conference Management Association) member meetings drew more than 5.3 million attendees last year.

As conference season kicks up this Fall, worlds are colliding, even in the niche area of church leadership in which I swim most often. (Though as the consummate conference junkie, I’m more than happy to attend any kind of conference where they’d invite me.) 3 of them are running during the very same week this October:

National Worship Leader Conference – NWLC California October 9-11 in N. San Diego for worship leaders and everyone who makes the worship service happen

iMinistry October 10-11 in Dallas for online churches and internet ministries

Resurgence 2012 October 9-10 in Irvine for pastors and church leaders

How does anyone choose from 3 great events when we’re physically limited by time and space and are forced to have to choose just one? I’m so torn! One way is to look at the topics; another is location. Then you could look at the roster of speakers.

I’m choosing to attend the NWLC California, because I will be leading 2 workshops: both on social media, one basic and one advanced; and, because it’s part of my work with Worship Leader Magazine. I’d love to meet you there if this event fits you best – do add a comment and I can get you a special discount code to pay less.)

How will you choose?

Jul 102012

Next week in Kansas City (Leawood, to be exact) is the National Worship Leader Conference, where 1000s of worship leaders will be coming in from almost every state in the US of A and probably a dozen countries or more around the world! Follow the conversation via the twitter hashtag #nwlc12 .. I’ll be there!

For those who’ll be there, who are you happy to see? And for those who aren’t able to make it, you can get a Virtual Pass to livestream all 3 general sessions with some of these worship leaders below, 3 select workshops, and more! Who would you be happy to see – click on the thumbs-ups (powered by Ranker) [if you see an error message, go directly to poll>> ]

NWLC KS 2012 Worship Leaders

[disclosure: I work with Worship Leader Magazine, host of the NWLC]

Jul 022012

With less than 2 weeks before this BIG event, if you live and worship within driving distance of Kansas City, you’ll find the National Worship Leader Conference (NWLC) a most valuable training for your worship team. Looking on my online map of choice, that’d be cities like St. Louis, Wichita, Topeka, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Lincoln, Omaha, Des Moines, and Springfield too, both Missouri and Illinois. And for the ambitious, especially those with hybrid cars, you can drive it from Little Rock, Memphis, and even Peoria.

The National Worship Leader Conference is touted as the biggest worship leader conference of the year and it’s less than 2 weeks away! Get to Kansas City on July 16-19, 2012 for a great road trip. 2 big highlights for why you need to be there:

Unique Workshop Experiences

You will have more than 60 unique learning experiences to choose from; and with an added workshop time slot this year, you will be able to attend 9 different workshops. It’s like squeezing a year of training and experience into only days. Lead wiser, plan better, play or sing more expansively, offer the prayers of your congregation with more authority and humility–play, present or perform with greater passion, devotion and skill. And ride the edge of technology without falling off.

Song DISCovery Listening Panel

Get your latest worship song in front of a panel of experts, which will include songwriters and major publishers, for critique and the chance to get your song on an upcoming Song DISCovery CD. Bring your song on a CD along with 5 copies of the lyrics. Songs will be chosen at random.

Worship leaders who’ll be leading worship leaders in times of worship and training include: Israel Houghton, Crowder, Paul Baloche, Elevation Worship, Laura Story, Rend Collective Experiment, All Sons & Daughters, One Sonic Society, Brenton Brown, Travis Ryan, Aaron Keys, Gateway Worship and many many more! Oh, I’ll be there too, leading 2 workshops: basic social media and advanced social media.

And 1 more thing. This year’s special pre-conference SING! covers every aspect of congregational singing: starting with the individual voice to the multi-voice choir, the “HOW TOs” of getting your congregation singing, the biblical reasons we sing, and the transforming power of worshiping together. Good? Great!

[disclosure: I work with Worship Leader, the host of NWLC]

Mar 182012

The 2 most powerful things about the Christian faith get celebrated year after year: Easter for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death to life, and Christmas for the incarnation of Jesus Christ born as a baby from a virgin. Both supernatural and miraculous. And being raised from the dead is a far bigger miracle than a baby’s birth, and so much so that The Apostle Paul rightly argued that the Christian faith is practically null and void if not for the reality of the resurrection: “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

So why does it seem like Christmas is a bigger deal than Easter? I have my own speculations and theories as to the reasons why, but I sure want to hear from you. Add a comment. Is it the presents? Is it the snow? Is it the holiday movies?

From this unofficial tally of worship services at 20 larger churches in Orange County, California, there were 99 for Christmas vs. 113 for Easter. So maybe Easter is bigger than Christmas for church-goers, and Christmas is bigger for American culture at large?

My family joyously celebrated Christmas at 10 churches this past December. Not sure how many churches we’ll celebrate Easter with just yet. But I am putting a spreadsheet together to begin scheming…

(cf. List of Popular Churches in the OC and Southern California)

Dec 272011

We had a most memorable Christmas this year as a family, having family time together _and_ family time with the Family of God, as we took an OC Christmas tour all over Orange County to attend Christmas week worship services at a total of 10 churches. (Couldn’t quite make it to 11, as originally proposed; kept the family a priority and not the events.) I’m happy that my family (wife and 14-year-old son) could enjoy these times with me – I know that many people don’t enjoy so many church worship services as I do (if any at all). Here’s my video about the OC Christmas Tour, with on-site debriefs compiled together into one:

Thanks to all the staff and volunteers at each of the 10 churches for celebrating Jesus’ birth and making our Christmas all the merrier:

  1. Harvest OC, Irvine
  2. Eastside Christian Church, Fullerton
  3. Friends Church, Yorba Linda
  4. NewSong Church, Irvine
  5. ROCKHARBOR, Costa Mesa
  6. Saddleback Church, Lake Forest
  7. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach
  8. Mariners Church, Irvine
  9. Kingsfield Church, Aliso Viejo
  10. Coast Hills Church, Aliso Viejo

While I won’t name any one particular church service as a favorite or as the best, I will list these highlights and comments:

  • Biggest Surprise: big-band-style concert band at Friends Church
  • Most creative production: shadow-puppets retelling the Big Story at ROCKHARBOR (Journey of Joy video) [probably over 1,000 pieces cut-out & painted and every performance live!]
  • Best Christmas gift: family portrait photo-shoot at Eastside Christian Church
  • No more room in the inn (full-capacity crowds): Harvest OC, ROCKHARBOR, Saddleback Church, Mariners Church
  • The more popular Christmas songs: Silent Night, Angels We Have Heard on High, Joy to the World, O Holy Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  • Don’t recall hearing: Away in a Manger, O Come All Ye Faithful, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Deck the Halls, Jingle Bell Rock
  • Most consistently-presented theme: Eastside Christian Church [paper-mache Christmas trees and paper snowball as physical prop for responding to sermon to "let go"]
  • Most comfortable seating: Friends Church, Coast Hills Church
  • Screen with the widest aspect-ratio: Kingsfield Church
  • What we didn’t see: a Gospel Choir, Handel’s Messiah, Christmas musical cantata, live Nativity with live animals, drama/skit
  • Quietest worship time: late-night 11pm worship in the chapel at Mariners Church (very cool to hear the chapel bells ring at midnight of Christmas)
  • Best-dressed choir: St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (actually, the only choir we saw, and they sounded great!)
  • Children singing: Eastside Christian Church, NewSong Church

And the memories that stay with me about the OC Christmas Tour 2011 and a few learnings about churches: Christmas has inspired people all walks of life, not just churches and those who follow Jesus, most obviously through the arts and movies. We love a wide variety of expressions of worship in different churches. Churches really do produce their best worship services for Christmas, and that takes a ton of planning, preparation, and volunteers. It takes a lot of planning of logistics to get from one church to the next — gotta tip your hat to itinerant speakers/preachers who travel a lot. I can sympathize with those who go to church for the first time (or rarely), and how being in a strange place not knowing where to go or what to do is quite daunting.

And, for us, you can never get too much of Christmas!