The Church DoctorŽ Report
Worship that Engages
 VOL. 7 NO. 2 March/April 2011
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Kent Hunter leads Church Doctor Ministries. Having worshiped in thousands of churches on six continents, Kent has a passion for engaging worship that connects. Kent is the architect of the Healthy Churches Thrive! Spiritual Pilgrimage and SEND North America, a discipleship training movement for young adults.

Featured Service 
Healthy Churches Thrive! Spiritual Pilgrimage

This 18-month guided pilgrimage is for those who are weary of "just another program" and want to see spiritual health increase in their churches. The Healthy Churches Thrive!field test among forty congregations throughout North America shows consistent, measurable results: spiritual growth, more involvement in Bible study, increased financial giving, volunteerism, and outreach. The pilgrimage is not focused on what you do, but who you are and what you become. Healthy Churches Thrive!is financed by a Vision Team of internal champions, not through the church's budget. Listen to podcast teaching shorts on the web: 26 Big/Biblically Different Ideas: paradigm shifts to recapture New Testament Christianity. They are part of the Learning Community teaching for Healthy Churches Thrive! "This is not another program. It is a movement in your church," says Pastor Dave, whose church is in month five of the Healthy Churches Thrive! Pilgrimage.


Chism, John. The Five Keys to Engaging Worship. Engage Press LLC, 2008.


Church Doctor Ministries. Worship Audit Consultation. 


Church Doctor Ministries. Worship Consultation. 


Hunter, Kent R. 10 Ways to Improve Worship. Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 1994. (Audio resource.)


Hunter, Kent R. Fifty Ways to Improve Your Worship Bulletin. Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 2001. (Audio resource.)  


Hunter, Kent R. How to Start an Alternative Worship Service. Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 2001. (Audio resource.)  


Kauflin, Bob. Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008.


Kimball, Dan, David Crowder, and Sally Morgenthaler. Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.


Rognlien, Bob. Experiential Worship: Encountering God with Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2004.

Sharp, Michael and Argile Smith. Holy Gatherings: A Leader's Guide for Engaging the Congregation in Corporate Worship.  Parker, CO:  Outskirts Press, 2009. 

June 2011 UK Immersion Experience  

A movement is caught as much as taught. This move-of-God experience leaves no one the same. "It is like a visit to the Book of Acts, in 21st century clothes."



June 1-10 2011                         Team Limit: 20



This experience includes prior preparation, briefing in the UK, debriefing each day, and personal coaching and consulting along the way, as well as after you return.

Watch the

Fill out our online application: 

or e-mail Jason for more information (

SEND North America

Are you twenty-something? Want to go deeper in discipleship? Want to be empowered as a missionary to your own culture?


Announcing SEND North America: Servants Equipping New Disciples.


The adventure begins Sept. 2011.

Limit: 25


SEND is a ten-month, in community, hands-on ministry experience that includes teaching, on-the-ground exposure, mission excursions, and an out-of-country mission trip. You are trained as a missional 21st century networking Christian with revival DNA. Choose a second year of training to become a career SEND leader, deployed to a SEND-ready church. Join the movement! - a division of Church Doctor Ministries

Join Us in Helping Churches Thrive

Church Doctor Ministries (CDM) has been helping churches, pastors, and ministry leaders become more effective for the Great Commission for over 30 years. We have helped literally thousands of Christians and churches with free and discounted resources.

We are committed to continuing to underwrite our ministry services and offer assistance to churches that need a little extra help to reach the place in ministry where God is calling them.

We are asking for your partnership to help more churches thrive. In 2010 CDM has set in motion plans to help 40 churches and 10,000 ministry leaders experience spiritual transformation with two new ministry services that combine the best tools and resources we have developed in over 30 years of non-profit ministry work.

We are also seeking the Lord's guidance in other areas of ministry expansion for CDM. Specifically, in the area of post modern, young adult leadership development and ministry network development.

We ask that you prayerfully consider joining us in prayer and financial support as we continue to help churches thrive.

Healthy Churches Thrive! Support Partners will receive updates on these new ministry initiatives along with access to all of the new tools and resources being developed for these initiatives.

If you are willing to become a Healthy Churches Thrive! prayer partner please email Tracee. 

If you are interested in supporting these new initiatives financially, please make an online donation by clicking the "Make a Donation" button below or by contacting Jason for other giving options.
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Janice was leaving the church after worship, when she bumped into Julie in the hallway, "Hey, Janice," Julie smiled. "How's your weekend going?"


"Pretty cool," Janice said, as she gave Julie a hug. "Last night, Jon and I went to a Keith Urban concert. It was awesome!" At that moment, Jon joined the conversation, "Talking about the concert?" he asked. "It was great! You know, you pay sixty bucks for a seat and everybody stands. I wonder why they even bother with seats."


"Yeah, it was really awesome," added Janice. "Everyone was really into it. They had their hands in the air. Some were waving their cell phones - it looked really cool. Some girls in front of us were dancing in the aisle. At one point, Urban came into the crowd, down our aisle, playing his guitar and singing the whole time."


Jon and Janice made their way to the car for the short trip home. Jon was thinking about worship...and the concert. "I wish our worship service was like that."


Janice came right back, "Jon, it was a concert, not a worship service!"

Worship Is Not A Concert

Janice was right. Worship is not entertainment. However, Jon had a point, too. What he was feeling was engagement - or the lack of it, in worship.


In many churches, worship could be more engaging. Why? Because that's God's style!


For creation, God just spoke - and it was created. Yet, when it came to Adam and Eve, God moved to hands-on engagement. Hands in the dirt for Adam and a rib transplant for Eve. For Salvation, God chooses incarnation - Jesus in the flesh, engaged as a part of the culture, interacting, modeling, leading. This is God's nature. Engaging worship is a vehicle God uses for greater impact among worshippers.


Years ago, churches were often built with balconies in the back. Choirs would sing from the balconies. Somewhere along the journey, people started turning around in the pews to look at the choir. Ultimately, in most churches, the trend moved the choir to the front. Most recently that choir has, in many churches, been replaced by a worship team. It's a form of biblical leadership!



During that same journey, church leaders began to think more with the mission side of their brains. They had the right goal, but picked the wrong strategy: they developed seeker-sensitive worship services. This thinking was beyond engagement and visitor-friendly levels. Worship became more simplified - "dumbed down," as some called it. It also became passive: sit, listen, and sing along, if you want.


The strategic error behind this whole trend lies beyond worship altogether. It reflects two of (what I call) the Big Different Ideas - or Biblically Different Ideas - we teach in the Learning Community DVDs used for the Healthy Churches Thrive! Pilgrimage. They are both related to one another. We have drifted so far from the New Testament culture of the church that we have lost sight of these key New Testament paradigms.


  • (1) We have developed the church as an institution and lost sight of the reality that it is a movement. Therefore, we have reduced so much of what we do to programs, when, in fact, the essence of Christianity is relationships.
  • (2) We have made the institution a destination even for missions. Consequently, our outreach program is primarily to invite someone to church. This "y'all come" approach is Old Testament and Old Covenant: come to the temple in Jerusalem where you will find God. The New Covenant, for New Testament churches, turns the church inside out: "Go make disciples...."


Getting that straight, at the causative level, paves the way for the freedom to focus on engaging worship that is interactive.


What Does It Look Like? 


Does the leader still welcome everyone at the beginning of the service? Sure! Is there opportunity to greet one another? Of course! And it will go longer, as the worship leader recognizes the value of community over the agenda to "get on with real worship."


A good example of engagement in worship is prayer. Here are two examples:  


  1. There is often prayer for someone who is installed as a leader, or someone leaving for the mission field, or who has just been baptized. Does the pastor or worship leader speak the prayer? Do they invite the worshippers to extend their hands toward the front to "lay on hands" from a distance? That would be engaging!
  2. Often, there are those who are ill, have lost a loved one, etc. and want prayer. Their names are often listed in the bulletin or prayer requests are collected during the service. In common practice, the leader (pastor or worship leader) prays through the list of people. A variation of this approach is when churches provide "prayer warriors" stationed around the worship space, where people go for prayer. The most engaging option I've seen is practiced by my friend, Mick, at his church in Sheffield, England. Mick announces: "We are going to provide prayer for those who need it. The worship team will play music. There will be words on the screen to sing along, but anyone desiring prayer, just raise your hand - no one will be put on the spot, called forward, or required to say why they want prayer. Now, those nearby, gather around them. Pray for them." Those who are led to pray lay hands on and pray for the person. It's engagingly chaotic in a powerfully spiritual way! It's the priesthood of all believers in worship.


Another dimension of worship is singing. To stay seated during the worship songs leads to passivity. To sit through an occasional contemplative song is fine, but a whole service of sitting reinforces a consumer mentality. It is not engaging.


What do you do with your hands? I was at a worship service where the worship team played the song The Stand (Hillsong United, written by Joel Houston, 2006). Before the song, the leader reminded those in worship that the chorus says, "So I'll stand, with arms high and heart abandoned...." He encouraged people to raise their arms in worship. However, the pastor, who was also up front, stood through the whole song with his hands folded at his waist. This amounts to mixed worship signals. It seemed like schizophrenic leadership. All worship leadership needs to be on the same page of engagement.


What about clapping? Some would connect clapping to entertainment. However, in our interactive culture, I think this could be, for many, a worshipful expression of giving thanks to God, a modern expression of "Amen!" When people clap, worship leaders should clap also, signifying they don't receive it for themselves, but see it as praise to God - like in the Psalms. Also, leaders can model "worshipful applause" by raising their clapping hands higher, lifting praise to God.


Leaders Lead


Worship team members do more than sing and play musical instruments. They lead. I was at a church not long ago where one of the singers had her hands in the pockets of her blue jeans. That leadership modeling visually encourages the worshippers to disengage in a passive stance.


Pastors often sit unengaged until it is their turn to lead preaching, announcements, or prayers. However, the way they look, at any moment, is an act of leadership: good or bad! They are cheerleaders for worship - "leaders of good cheer," also known as praise.


We live in a highly visual, interactive world. The church through the centuries has employed whatever was available to engage people for worship: from stained glass to worship dramas. Today we have screens, video clips, a variety of instruments, and a highly interactive group of people in every aspect of their lives. Help them to engage in worship!

Ten Elements of Engaging Worship   

  1. Approach worship as a flat environment, rather than hierarchical. We are a royal priesthood!
  2. Focus on participatory aspects of worship.
  3. Raise the bar: expect worshippers to be active, involved.
  4. Get worshippers involved from the Hebrew perspective of Jesus: right behavior leads to right thinking.
  5. Conversely, move away from Plato's perspective: right thinking leads to right behavior.
  6. Clearly distinguish between engaging and entertaining. The former is more active, the latter is more passive.
  7. Utilize worship leaders who lead, model, direct, and guide worship. Being musically gifted is not enough.
  8. The pastor's self image in worship is that of a visible coach/leader/cheerleader.
  9. The pastor and worship leader model and set boundaries for worship engagement: dress code, activities, enthusiasm, joy, sorrow, engagement.
  10. Practice interactive worship: between leader and worshippers, among worshippers - with one another. Why? We live in an interactive world!