For those of us who plan worship experiences, one of our biggest fears is that people will walk away unmoved, unchanged or unimpressed. We all wish that we were secure enough to believe that simply gathering the people of God together in worship is enough—but the reality is we want to believe that our efforts are effective.
And most of this is true for a reason—more often than not, people want worship to feel like it was worth their time. If something is boring, or difficult to understand, or just doesn’t connect, we don’t necessarily think it was worth it. We have all come to believe that if any boredom manages to creep its way into our worship experience, then the worship experience was defective in one way or another.
And don’t hear me wrong—if people are consistently bored or disconnected with worship, then either the context may not be a fit or we may have fallen into a rut when it comes to facilitating meaningful experiences. Consistent boredom is a problem. Periodic boredom is a reality—a necessary reality at that. The belief that every worship moment should be full of meaningful engagement is not healthy for a person or a community. Why is this?
Well, boredom is a reality of life—like it or not. There are periods in our life where we "just get by" or we "do the right thing," even if we don’t feel like it. We sometimes have to stick with things, even if we are not experiencing their value. Anyone who has been married longer than five minutes knows what I am talking about: You don’t just ditch your marriage because you aren’t connected to it—you stick with it, trusting that connection has ebbs and flows. Life has all sorts of boring things—making the bed, grocery shopping, paying bills, driving to work. These things, while not ultimately fulfilling, are very much real.
The reason we should not fear boredom in worship is because boredom is part of life. Worship is not something disconnected from the rest of reality—worship immerses us in the reality of God so that we might live faithfully in all areas of our lives, even the boring ones. We are not called to be faithful only when we feel like it—we are called to be faithful in all things—the small and the large. So, we say the prayers, even if we don’t believe them this week. We receive communion, even if we’re feeling skeptical about it. We sing along, even if the words mean nothing to us this go around. While we do not strive for it, we trust that even boredom is formational.
How can we not settle for boredom but find ways to welcome the reality of its presence? How might people be changed if we helped them lean into their boredom rather than alleviate it?