Last I mentioned that I wanted to do a series of posts dealing with various questions we often get asked around the Vineyard.  Some of the questions we get asked, the answers are more functional, and other answers are directly tied to the vision of our church (even things like why we serve really good coffee for example).

Sometimes however there are other answers… for example sometimes the reason is because, we think it’s fun.  For example we often get asked, “Why do we occasionally ‘flip’ our Sunday morning worship service?”

[if you put two & two together you’ll probably have an idea why we are dealing with this question this week!]

First off, for those of you who aren’t part of the Vineyard, let me explain what a flipped service is.  Actually, for most churches, our normal service would be considered flipped.  A typical week at the Ithaca Vineyard, starts with a worship song, a scripture reading, a brief welcome & a coffee break. Following the break, we have a message, followed by about 25 minutes of worship.

We actually started structuring our services this way, about 8 years ago.  We had a couple that had moved to Ithaca from a Vineyard in Illinois, where they had structured their services this way.  They suggested it, and pretty much everyone loved it!

For me, one of the key benefits was a major reduction in the amount of distractions during worship.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but people tend to come to church late.  A lot.  For us, the last time we checked, it was over 30% of people who arrived after the service started, for whatever reason.

But what we noticed was that when we started the service with worship, every time someone came in late, and attempted to find a place to seat, a large portion of people would turn to see who was just arriving.  And of course sometimes people would exchange pleasantries…that’s all great, except what we’ve done is made the time of worship in our service the most distracting time of the morning.  “We want you to focus on God, but we’ll ensure that there are a bunch of things going on around you to fight for your focus.”

Getting everybody to church on time seemed like a battle that was impossible to win.  But moving worship to the end of the service, when everyone who’s coming is already here, we’ve removed those distractions. At the same time, by having worship at the end,  we’ve also made it a time to respond to God based on He was saying to you in the message.  So for our money, enough positives that we’ve stuck with this style for years.

Alright, that’s our regular service…a “flipped” service is set up like this; worship, a scripture reading, a welcome, and then a coffee break.  After the coffee break, we have a message, and close with one final song.

Now, you might be wondering, based on what I just wrote, why would we make that switch back…even occasionally.

The big reason, is simply to change things up a bit.  Yeah, I’ve got no scripture reference to refer you to, we just like to mix things up a bit.   And part of that reason is, sadly, church people can be the most, “but this is the way we’ve always done it,” people out there.

There is this tendency for us to love formulas & models (in the church and even in our private spiritual lives…).  It’s part of the same thinking that had us, when we were in our last location we move the room around frequently.  While our tendency is to fall in love with models, methods & formulas, this whole church “thing” is about God, not about some specific type of model that we like.

At the same time,we’ve found that every time we flip the service, or even flip the room around, there is a bit of extra energy in the place…and that is always fun! So, even though we haven’t done it too often in the past few month, we are getting back to flipping a service every 6 weeks or so.

One final thought, I recognize there is one group of people who hate the flipped service.  Those of you who get there right around the time service starts, & think you’ve only 5 minutes to wait until you can get your coffee & a bagel, only to realize as the second song begins that, gulp, you have to wait about 25 more minutes before you can get that cup of coffee.  The only thing I can think of to help you would be to let you know that the coffee is out and ready about 10 minutes before the service actually starts. So if you can figure out when we are flipping the service, you could come a few minutes early those weeks, get your coffee & “ride out” the time until the break.

Of course, if you can’t figure out which week we’re flipping, you may have to come up with another plan!

Photo Credit: Tricking. Side Flip