“We don’t want anything, no matter how small, to knock the worshipers out of the mood of the service,” explained Anderson, executive director of worship.
It’s a recipe for worship that has worked very well for Eagle Brook, the largest congregation in the state, which holds 10 services each weekend. No longer just a “megachurch,” Eagle Brook now qualifies as a “gigachurch,” the term for congregations of more than 10,000 members. It serves an average of 11,000 worshipers a weekend — and swells to 17,000 on Christmas and Easter.
Pulling off those massive services without a hitch, week after week, requires an elaborate infrastructure and precision execution. At Eagle Brook, the drill is plan, plan, plan, then rehearse, rehearse, rehearse — with the ultimate goal of making it all look spontaneous.
…among the first arrivals is Steve Duede, who leads the Christian rock music crucial to the megachurch experience. His T-shirt and faded blue jeans are emblematic of Eagle Brook’s laid-back approach. When frequent greeter Cindi Franer sizes up the crowd for first-timers, she often spots them because they’re overdressed. “A coat and tie is a dead giveaway,” she said.
Barry has spent the week developing video graphics to accompany the music. She and Duede will spend the next 90 minutes “working the plan” to achieve the desired effect.
“Our goal is that everything has a purpose,” Anderson said. “We want the worship service to be vertical, not horizontal. Meaning we want people’s eyes on the platform.“
(Pastor) Strand is holed up in a small rehearsal room going over his message. He wrote it two weeks earlier. In the interim, it has been critiqued by the other pastors, refined and critiqued again. According to Barry’s log book, it will run 28 minutes and 45 seconds, every word of it spoken from memory.
Strand spends his Saturday ensuring that his presentation comes off as conversational. That would pay off later, when worshipers laugh at something that seems ad-libbed.
After the first service, Barry, Anderson and Strand debrief. In addition to Strand’s use of a different word in the 23rd Psalm, there are two other glitches: A song introduction that Barry expected to be eight bars long lasted only four bars, and the hourlong service started a minute late.
As their meeting ends, the sanctuary has been cleaned from the first service, more coffee is brewing and parking lot volunteers have reconfigured the orange cones from the exiting pattern to the entering. People start drifting in for the 6 p.m. service.
One service down; nine more to go before the weekend is over and planning starts for next week.
“We do all this so we can get out of the way and let people focus on connecting with God,” Anderson said.
All emphasis added.