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First Impressions

A lesson plan to accompany Living Worship curriculum that addresses expectations for worship


What are your expectations as you approach worship? Where do those expectations come from? In this lesson the relationship between worship expectations and the history of the congregation will be examined.


  1. Explain the relationship between theological perspectives, church background and worship expectations
  2. Compare worship expectations within RCC to those prompted by worshiper’s personal church backgrounds.
  3. Assess a worship service based on the theological perspectives and history of a particular congregation

Best Context:

This lesson is intended for students with an interest in deepening their understanding and practice of worship. The focus will be on ways the past shapes expectations for worship. They should be prepared for the personal challenge that comes from honestly assessing worship practices with openness to realizing areas which might be absent or would benefit from improvement.

Before class:

Have students read: From the Community section of the Living Worship DVD, read the “History of the Congregation,” the “History of the Denomination,” and “The Ravenswood Calendar.”

Have students write: Prepare a one page paper describing what you expect a worship service to be like at Ravenswood based on the church’s history and the community context. Highlight ways you expect worship to be similar to and ways you expect it to be different from your normal worship experience. Explain why you anticipate these similarities or differences.

Have students interact with Living Worship: Now listen to several of the church members discuss their expectations of worship in the participants section of the DVD. Find at least five different specific comments on worship expectations or preferences. Are these consistent with the paper you just wrote on what you expect to see in the service? Why or why not?

During Class:

Observe and discuss the “Sunday” service from the Services section of the DVD. As class begins review the “On that day…” section to see local and national news headlines. This will help provide a context for the time in which the worship service occurred. Have copies of the “Order of worship for service” available for class members to follow during the service. As the service is being observed encourage students to make notes on the following areas: Based on your pre-class assignment what do you observe that you expected to see? What things were different? What’s missing that you expected to see? If class time does not allow the service to be observed together, have students watch it prior to class and bring their written observations with them.

Focus class discussion on the reasons for their expectations. How did their understanding of the history of the church and the denomination’s theological perspective shape their expectations?

Probe further by asking: What are the strengths of this worship experience? What questions or suggestions might you have for this church to consider enhancing the worship service? As students respond, continue to ask them why they are responding this way. That is, how is their assessment shaped by their own theological perspectives and church experience? Would the suggestions made be appropriate for Ravenswood?

In the witnesses section of the DVD listen to the Matthew Lundgren’s interview related to the Covenant Church: “Distinctiveness of the Covenant,” “On the Covenant,” “Covenant origins,” “Covenant worship: history”, “Covenant worship: today”, “Worship at RCC”, “Blended worship,” and “RCC and the Covenant.” Discuss together ways that Lundgren’s comments have clarified student’s understanding and what new questions they have surfaced regarding the relationship between theological perspectives, church history, and worship expectations.