Understand the Bible is not a replacement for church, but I do want to help facilitate church. If you are in the situation of not having a church near you and you would like to start up a house church, then UTB can help. Every week, I produce materials to help house churches to get started – including a video sermon, some suggested songs, etc. You can feel free to use as much or as little as you’d like to.
The aim is to help you worship together – even if you don’t have someone theologically trained to lead. Because the teaching is provided by Understand the Bible, anyone could put the service together. My hope and prayers is that, over time, local leaders would grow up who are able to provide teaching and leadership themselves.
See my post introducing Church with UTB for more of my thinking behind this.
The easiest way to get started is to download and print the service template (PDF – print it double sided, and you’ll get two A5 sheets). You can then give one to everyone who comes.
All you need to do then is take the bits of the service that I suggest each week (I aim to get everything read by Friday afternoon and then post up here) and use them at the appropriate points. I have even made an online tool which fills in all the links for you to make it simple and straightforward. The songs and videos are all on YouTube, which should hopefully be possible for you to display on a bigger screen e.g. TV.
How to use – longer explanation
Each week I will post up the different parts of the service, which can then be adapted to your local needs and circumstances. This will be made up of different kinds of resources which I hope will be easy to use or adapt for your own circumstances.
Videos (such as the sermon) will be posted as links to YouTube. This is because YouTube is now ubiquitous and is accessible on Smart TVs and the like, so it should be easy for you to display a video on screen.
Bible passages will be posted as links to Bible Gateway. You could display these on screen if you have the ability, or you could print them out in advance. People may prefer just to read them in their own Bible / on their own phone etc.
For other resources (e.g. confession, children’s materials etc), I have made a compilation on the resources page. There you can find resources which you can use however you want to.
Explanation of the elements of a service
A service is made up of various different elements. There isn’t a right or wrong way to put them together – different churches do things differently. I have included a downloadable template you can use if you want to. But let me take you through the different parts of the service.
Songs are an important part of a worship service. The Bible says:
Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.Ephesians 5:19-20
We should want to express our thanks and praise to God in singing joyfully to him. That doesn’t mean we should sing in a particular style – e.g. we don’t have to sing entirely old hymns accompanied by a pipe organ! Old songs, modern songs, traditional style or contemporary – it doesn’t matter, so long as it is worshipping the Lord.
I will provide YouTube links to the songs with lyrics so you can sing along. However, if you have musicians available you may like to play live. Also, please feel free to not use some songs or add more – don’t feel you have to stick with my suggestions!
Some people like to put several songs together in one block at the beginning and end, others might like to intersperse songs throughout the service. It doesn’t really matter, it’s up to you.
There are two kinds of Bible readings: readings which you read all together (usually a Psalm), and readings to listen to. For the second kind, you will want to appoint someone to read, or perhaps use an audio Bible – you can get an audio reading of any passage on Bible Gateway.
It doesn’t matter whether you print out the readings, have them on screen, or ask people to use their own Bibles / phones / apps etc. (Of course, if you are reading together then you’ll need to make sure the words you are using are the same – so you might like to print these out or have them on screen.)
Many churches include a corporate confession – in other words, when the church comes together to confess their sins before God. These usually use a set form of words which are said together. After this the person leading the service can then say the words of an absolution – basically assuring people of God’s promise to forgive sins. You can find some words you can use on the resources page.
It’s important to include children in the service, in an appropriate way. It’s entirely up to you how you do this – you know them best. UTB doesn’t produce any children’s resources at the moment, but there are some suggestions on the resources page.
There is no right or wrong way of doing prayers. You can use formal, written prayers, or you can pray with whatever comes to you at the time. Everyone can pray, or only one person can pray. It’s up to you and your situation. I’ve included some prayer resources on the resources page to help you get started.
Catechism / Sermon
The sermon is an important part of the service, where people listen to God’s word being preached. A sermon is designed to help apply the Bible to our lives today. The catechism is similar but with a different aim – the catechism is designed to help you understand part of the Christian faith better. The two things are complementary. My aim is to provide a sermon each week, and a playlist of catechism questions that you can work through if you want.
I hope that the sermon and catechism will provoke thoughts and questions, and it might be a good idea to set aside some time after each one to talk about any questions they raise.
How to prepare a service
Although I hope that Church with UTB makes preparing a service much easier, there will still be some preparation that needs to be done.
Firstly, prayer: it’s important to be praying for the service and praying for those who will come. Prayer is fundamental. This is something which we always need to struggle with, because many of us find it easier to get on with practical tasks rather than pray! But we need to set aside time to pray and ask for God’s help and blessing.
Secondly, go through the elements I have put together and see which ones you want to include and which you think will work best for your setting. I would recommend putting together an ‘Order of Service’ (you can use the template if you like) which will help you to know what comes next.
Thirdly, make a note of anything you need to get ready. For example, is there anything that needs to be printed out? Do you need to prepare any children’s materials? Etc.
Really, all of this is common sense and it will come with experience. I just want to reiterate that the most important thing you can do is to pray.