What to Expect
Coming to a church for the first time can be intimidating. Here's a list of common questions people have about worship services at St. Johns and answers. If you don't find an answer to your question here, please send us an e-mail or give us a call at 218-732-9783.
We are located on the west edge of Park Rapids at 803 First Street West, which is also State Highway 34 West, right across from the Hubbard County Fairgrounds. Click here for directions.
Overall most people are dressed as nice casual. Some members wear suits or dresses but many wear pants and nice shirts. Summer brings some shorts and t-shirts as well. "Clean" is the primary word that comes up in the Bible for what people wear in the presence of God (i.e. Ex. 19:10). During the summer we keep the air conditioning at 72°.
As you come into the parking area, you will see a carport to the left which passes by the front entrance. We also have entrances on the east side and the north side (the "back" entrance). If the front and back parking lots are full, i.e. a large funeral or Christmas Eve, there is a gravel overflow parking lot behind the trees that line the back parking lot. When we are expecting to use this space we cone off two parking spaces so the overflow is accessible by driving straight. We may also have a parking attendant when expecting large crowds.
It's probably easiest for first time visitors to come in the front entrance to the lobby. Coat racks are to the right after you come through the entryway. To the left is the short hallway that leads to the worship space (sanctuary). Also on your left is the door to the fellowship hall (right of the stairs) where we gather for coffee and snacks, fellowship and Bible study between the services. Bathrooms are up the hall on the right that leads away from the lobby. Click here for a building map.
As you move toward the doors of the sanctuary, the ushers will greet you and hand you a bulletin. The bulletin lists the order of service being used, the hymns/songs being sung, news and announcements. If we are using a special printed order of service that will also be in the bulletin. There are usually a couple of inserts in the bulletin as well. The white insert has the Introit, Collect of the Day and the Scripture readings for the day (called the "propers"). We use this during the service.
If you have young children with you, feel free to grab a "busy bag" hanging on a wooden rack by the staircase. Inside the bag is activity sheet and clipboard, a book, sewing cards, crayons, sticker scenes and more.
If you've arrived early enough that you are seated for a few minutes before the service starts, we invite you to use this time to prepare for worship. Many people pray silently, read the bulletin or look up the readings or the hymns for the day. Others chat quietly with friends catching up on the week and encouraging each other. Some simply listen to the pre-service music. There are also Bibles available for reading in the hymnal racks at each end of the pews as well as booklets that describe parts of the worship service. Our hope is that any of our members sitting near you will introduce themselves to you and offer to be of assistance to you if you need it.
We are a liturgical church, which means that we follow established orders of service. We use a number of different orders of service most of which are out of our hymnal - Lutheran Service Book.
The first Sunday of every month we have "blended" worship at the 8:00 a.m. service (and also at the 10:30 a.m. service every "even numbered" month - February, April, June, August, October, December). The blended service has a more contemporary sound and is accompanied by the Cross of Christ Worship Team.
The other orders of service we use are are filled with passages drawn from Bible and use a structure that traces its roots back to the early church and even into the Old Testament. When we worship we are joining our voices with the saints of the past.
Our pastors preach using one or more of the readings for the day. The sermons usually last 10-15 minutes depending on the preacher and the subject. Our preaching is based on the full council of God found in the Bible. We speak of what God says is right and wrong in His Word and apply it to our lives today. But even more importantly, we focus on Jesus Christ and how He is the fulfillment of every one of God's promises of grace and mercy. You will always hear the good news of Jesus, the forgiveness of sins and the salvation He won for us.
We love having children in worship and we do not expect that they "should be seen and not heard." They are invited to sing the songs, pray the parts of the service they know and listen to God's Word. There are the "busy bags" mentioned above to help the younger ones (found on a rack by the stairs). We also have a nursery for those important moments like diaper changes and if the service gets just too long. The nursery is not staffed, but you will find a changing table, some toys and a comfortable place to sit. There is a speaker in the nursery so you can follow along with the worship service. You can find the nursery by going through the fellowship hall to the first door on the right in the hallway. Click here for a building map.
As you enter into the sanctuary, there is a plate for offerings. As a guest, you are welcome to support the ministry of St. Johns with a gift, but please don't feel compelled. We believe it is the responsibility of the members to support the church, pastors, staff and the various ministries we are engaged in.
During the announcements after the sermon, the congregation is invited to sign the black friendship registers alongside the center end of the pews. This is a great opportunity to leave contact information so that we can follow up on your visit. There is a box to check if you would like a call from one of the pastors.
Holy Communion is given at the 10:30 a.m. service on 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month and at the 8:00 a.m. service on 2nd and 4th Sundays. We do not have communion when there is a 5th Sunday in the month. Holy Communion is also served during some special worship services such as Christmas Day.
This is probably the most delicate subject with guests, especially guests who do not come from another Missouri Synod congregation. We practice what is commonly called "Close Communion." This practice, common in nearly every church until 50 years ago, simply asks that guests who are not from the same denomination as us would refrain from receiving communion. We know it feels like we are saying "Come, come we're friendly" and "No, no, stranger danger." We are not trying to be unfriendly to guests and we hope you don't take it that way.
This practice comes out of a great respect for what Jesus offers us in His Supper. We believe that when Jesus says, "Take and eat, this is my body ... this is my blood" He means it. Jesus actually comes to us with His resurrected body and blood "in, with and under" the bread and the wine. Not all church bodies teach this. Many teach that the bread and the wine represent or are a symbol or reminder of Jesus' death and resurrection. Some churches teach that this meal is just an ordinance - that we are obeying God by doing this and that is the "reward of faith".
Among the other passages that we consider with this practice is the warning that St. Paul issues in 1 Corinthians 12:28-29, "Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves." (NIV).
Please talk to a pastor if you have concerns or questions about this practice.
We end most services with a final hymn or song. The pastors walk down the center aisle to greet people as they leave. Many people gather their things and leave either by the center aisle or side aisles. Again, we hope that any of our members nearby will take the chance to introduce themselves if they haven't already and welcome you. After the 8:00 a.m. service many people go to the fellowship hall for refreshments and conversation. Starting about 9:30 a.m. one of the pastors leads a Bible study on a variety of topics. We also have one or two other Bible studies going on at the same time.
If you have children with you, they are invited to participate in Sunday School. Classes are held from September through May 9:15 a.m. - 10:15 a.m.
If you have left us contact information, we will be mailing you a postcard simply thanking you for joining us for worship. If you are interested in more information about St. Johns or becoming a member please let one of the pastors know or you can email us.
We look forward to your visit and pray that we can be a blessing to you as we gather around the Word of God!