The Wall of Silence:
6 Reasons Your Congregation Isn’t Singing
Here’s the scene: You’ve faithfully attended rehearsals, you’ve written out a rocking guitar part, you’ve worked hard to sing on key, and you were really feeling the worship song; and then a quick glance across the church pews reveals a bunch of mouths shut tight.
Ah, yes, the bane of the worship leader: the non-singing congregation. Well, it should bother the worship leader, right? I mean, you are there with the purpose of leading the people into praise and worship. And — as bold as this might sound — singing is an integral part of worship. (And I would make the case that 1) singing has a very special place in worship in the Bible; 2) God created singing, and He intended it to be used for worship; and 3) God loves it when we sing — out loud — from a heart of worship. But all that’s for another article, another time).
Here are some things to explore as you examine the lack of participation. The good news is that each of these has an easy fix:
1. There’s no clear melody line to follow. “Well, of course there is, we’re singing a song.” If the leader is going all Mariah Carey on the chorus, you’re going to lose people. A talented singer/performer at a concert can do all the fancy swooping and playing around with fun vocal trills, but a worship leader is leading other people, most of whom have limited musical experience. Sticking with the melody line can make all the difference.
2. The worship team is so involved in worship themselves, that they forgot to lead. If your eyes are closed in thoughtful sincerity for the entire song, can you really effectively lead a group of people? Be conscious of the people in front of you. Read their body language and develop emotional intelligence — that keen awareness of others — and use it as you led.
3. The songs aren’t singable because the notes go too high or too low. The range of the melody that the congregation has to sing should stay between Bb in the 4th octave (the Bb below middle C) and Eb in the 5th octave (the Eb an octave above middle C, near the top of the staff). That is a general rule of thumb. So when you’re writing worship songs or picking worship songs, take note of where the melody goes. If you don’t read music, play the melody line by ear and observe the range of notes you play.
4. The rhythm is too complicated (excessive syncopation, anyone?). It’s not that complex, unpredictable syncopation — or complicated rhythmic figures or odd-time tempos — are bad; but remember, your congregation does not play in the band Radiohead. You might enjoy 7/8 meter as much as the next math rock musician, but if it produces a rhythm that your congregation can’t sing, you’re not serving them.
These next two reasons are a bit more complicated to fix, meaning they will take more time, but there is still hope!
5. The pastor isn’t singing. I’d like to cover this one in more detail in the future, but for now, if this is the situation you find yourself in, pray. It’s worth it. Having a pastor who is a worshiper and “gets it” is worth all the time you can put into it.
6. Your worship team isn’t worshiping during the week. Ouch. There’s no hiding behind a great voice or guitar riffs. We all have room for improvement, but if worship isn’t even on your radar screen for the week, it’s not a priority, and that will show on the platform on Sunday morning (no matter how hard you try to fake it). People in the congregation — believe it or not — can tell when there is authentic worship before them versus performance art. And congregations tend to mirror behavior (like we all do). If they see a group of people on stage performing and not worshiping, what will they do? They will likely stand in silence and watch, as any audience would do at a concert. If they see a group of worshipers worshiping, they will be more likely to mirror that behavior and enter into worship themselves.
But, even more importantly, God knows if you’re faking your worship on the platform — i.e. performing out of a religious routine that is far from your heart — or if your actions on the platform are flowing from a deep well of worship that you dig during the week. The Book of James promises this: “If you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you.” Nothing prompts worship more quickly and powerfully than the presence of God. If the people on the platform have been drawing near to God all week, that shows, and it’s contagious.
So how about your church? Do you find a good percentage of faithful attendees participating? What do you think is holding them back?