Biblefresh is an initiative we're excited to be partnering with for 2011 - joining over 100 organisations to inspire and resource thousands of churches for engaging with the Bible in fresh ways. They're encouraging churches to sign up to four pledges - the forth of which is to "Provide and opportunity for people to experience the Bible in new and creative ways." That sounds really up our street, especially in the context of church worship.

How can we make Sunday services a place where people don't just think cerebrally about scripture, but experience it with all of their senses and emotions? Research into Neil Flemming's VARK learning styles model seems to suggest that around 15% of people are primarily Visual learners, 22% primarily Aural learners, 31% Reading/writing learners and 30% Kinesthetic (tactile) learners. Whilst in the church we may have focused on teaching in an Aural and Reading mode, the Bible has always given us a much wider scope to engage with God. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life" says John in his first letter. How can we follow in this rich heritage of planning worship which facilitates an entering-in to the biblical story, touching it, tasting it, feeling and living it?

In Times of Sung Worship
Scripture can often come to life when included in a time of sung worship - getting a team member to read something appropriate over a microphone, or encouraging the whole congregation to read from a screen or handout. We've posted some PowerPoint resources like a Praise Shout and other scriputure based liturgy, and a fantastic responsive version of Philippians 2. Also check out our Psalms Praise idea as a way of including the congregation in leading scripture-based worship. You can keep music going underneath to create a flow amidst songs, or fade to silence to allow space for reflection.

Singing scripture or a paraphrase is also a great way to engage with and remember God's word. has a number of songs which spring directly from passages like Philippians 2, Psalm 121, Psalm 139, and Numbers 6, with free sheet music and mp3s for download. Simply reading out the scripture a song has been inspired by can also be very powerful, eg; reading Isaiah 40:28-31 as an introdction to Brenton Brown's Everlasting God, or setting the context of Great is your Faithfulness' trusting praise in the midst of the harsh reality of the book of Lamentations (3:22-24).

Engaging the Five Senses with the Bible

  • Taste - if your passage mentions food (bread, honey, bitter herbs, water) why not pass around dishes of it for people to taste? Or have whole meals to explore Passover, or the verse 'taste and see that the Lord is good'?
  • Touch - is their a physical object mentioned in your reading (stones, nails, mustard seeds) which people could hold in their hands or pass around as it is read? Is there a craft activity, like making something or moulding clay which would be a tactile route into the text?
  • Smell - is there an appropriate smell you could waft into the space as scripture is read - hay, incense, purfume? How about setting bread-makers going during a reading about the bread of life, or some rotting rubbish when reading about sin?
  • Sight - a group of actors could be arranged to pose in freeze-frame tableau's for various key moments of a narrative reading. You could put up images of situations mentioned in a reading on projector screens. Or check out Kore's graphical presentations of Bible passages for a unique way to view texts.
  • Sound - experiment with sound effects (feet walking, cocks crowing, water lapping etc) as scripture is read. You can buy CDs of these, download from the internet, or have someone create them live. Keep it simple to avoid distraction or hilarity! You could also experiment with having the person read into an off-stage microphone, and/or playing instrumental music to enhance the mood of the passage.

Getting Techie
You can use computer and video projection as another way to help people engage with scripture in worship. We've produced a number of Motion Graphics videos which communicate texts like Luke 4 and Acts 2, or engage with issues from the book of Esther. You can also used free web-based programs like Prezi and Xtranormal to create innovative Bible readings, whilst others have used Flash creatively, like Richard Lyall's Unforced Rhythms of Grace. There are of course movie depictions of biblical scenes, but why not also use other films to help people experience a passage? For example, our friend recently used a clip from Master and Commander to help us feel real empathy for Jonah and the sailors caught in the storm.

Meditation, That's What You Need
There is great untapped potential in church for helping people engage with the Bible in ways that they can take home and use on their own - teaching people to digest the Bible for themselves rather than spoon-feeding. Including simple Bible meditation techniques in services like imagining the scene, using creation and Lectio Divina can really empower people to chew-over God's word for themselves. Prayer stations are also a great way to create space for biblical reflection - we've posted a number for download including a whole set themed on the word of God.

Being Intentional
As someone who leads worship in church it is easy to fall into ruts, and quite often people's engagement with God's word is what suffers when we stick to our default settings. Ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who makes God's word 'living and active' in people's lives, but somehow he graciously uses us as tools to help him do that, drawing on the gifts, skills, technology and community we have around us. If you have any thoughts, stuggestions and ideas you've used please post them below!