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June 11, 2014


Nine Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship

by Kenny Lamm
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en español

Worship leaders around the world are sadly changing their church’s worship (often unintentionally) into a spectator event, and people are not singing any more.

Before discussing our present situation, let’s look back into history. Prior to the Reformation, worship was largely done for the people. The music was performed by professional musicians and sung in an unfamiliar language (Latin). The Reformation gave worship back to the people, including congregational singing which employed simple, attainable tunes with solid, scriptural lyrics in the language of the people. Worship once again became participatory.

The evolution of the printed hymnal brought with it an explosion of congregational singing and the church’s love for singing increased.

With the advent of new video technologies, churches began to project the lyrics of their songs on a screen, and the number of songs at a church’s disposal increased exponentially. [1]

At first, this advance in technology led to more powerful congregational singing, but soon, a shift in worship leadership began to move the congregation back to pre-Reformation pew potatoes (spectators).

What has occurred could be summed up as the re-professionalization of church music and the loss of a key goal of worship leading – enabling the people to sing their praises to God. Simply put, we are breeding a culture of spectators in our churches, changing what should be a participative worship environment to a concert event. Worship is moving to its pre-Reformation mess.

I see nine reasons congregations aren’t singing anymore:

  1. They don’t know the songs. With the release of new songs weekly and the increased birthing of locally-written songs, worship leaders are providing a steady diet of the latest, greatest worship songs. Indeed, we should be singing new songs, but too high a rate of new song inclusion in worship can kill our participation rate and turn the congregation into spectators. I see this all the time. I advocate doing no more than one new song in a worship service, and then repeating the song on and off for several weeks until it becomes known by the congregation. People worship best with songs they know, so we need to teach and reinforce the new expressions of worship. (more)
  2. We are singing songs not suitable for congregational singing. There are lots of great, new worship songs today, but in the vast pool of new songs, many are not suitable for congregational singing by virtue of their rhythms (too difficult for the average singer) or too wide of a range (consider the average singer—not the vocal superstar on stage).
  3. We are singing in keys too high for the average singer. The people we are leading in worship generally have a limited range and do not have a high range. When we pitch songs in keys that are too high, the congregation will stop singing, tire out, and eventually quit, becoming spectators. Remember that our responsibility is to enable the congregation to sing their praises, not to showcase our great platform voices by pitching songs in our power ranges. The basic range of the average singer is an octave and a fourth from A to D (more).
  4. The congregation can’t hear people around them singing.  If our music is too loud for people to hear each other singing, it is too loud. Conversely, if the music is too quiet, generally, the congregation will fail to sing out with power. Find the right balance—strong, but not over-bearing.
  5. We have created worship services which are spectator events, building a performance environment. I am a strong advocate of setting a great environment for worship including lighting, visuals, inclusion of the arts, and much more. However when our environments take things to a level that calls undue attention to those on stage or distracts from our worship of God, we have gone too far. Excellence – yes. Highly professional performance – no.
  6. The congregation feels they are not expected to sing. As worship leaders, we often get so involved in our professional production of worship that we fail to be authentic, invite the congregation into the journey of worship, and then do all we can to facilitate that experience in singing familiar songs, new songs introduced properly, and all sung in the proper congregational range. (more)
  7. We fail to have a common body of hymnody. With the availability of so many new songs, we often become haphazard in our worship planning, pulling songs from so many sources without reinforcing the songs and helping the congregation to take them on as a regular expression of their worship. In the old days, the hymnal was that repository. Today, we need to create song lists to use in planning our times of worship. (more)
  8. Worship leaders ad lib too much. Keep the melody clear and strong. The congregation is made up of sheep with limited ranges and limited musical ability. When we stray from the melody to ad lib, the sheep try to follow us and end up frustrated and quit singing. Some ad lib is nice and can enhance worship, but don’t let it lead your sheep astray.
  9. Worship leaders are not connecting with the congregation. We often get caught up in our world of amazing music production and lose sight of our purpose of helping the congregation to voice their worship. Let them know you expect them to sing. Quote the Bible to promote their expressions of worship. Stay alert to how well the congregation is tracking with you and alter course as needed.


Once worship leaders regain the vision of enabling the congregation to be participants in the journey of corporate worship, I believe we can return worship to the people once again.

Are you experiencing STYLE conflicts in worship? more

[1] see David Murrow’s excellent post, Why Men Have Stopped Singing in Church.





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327 Comments Post a comment
  1. Chas
    Jun 25 2015

    Someone in the responses touched on the thing that is often missing in so-called worship music – the adoration of God! Many of the songs are more about the people who are singing than about God. Some of them leave me so frustrated, because they do not let me express the way that I feel about God. If we are to take on these new songs, they must express the greatness and love of God. One example from the past is ‘How Great Thou Art,’ and rather more recently, ‘How Great is our God.’ These two really touch the parts that many songs miss.

  2. Dwight Hasbrouck
    Jun 3 2015

    Just my 2 cents here. I began drum study in 1968-78. I was very lost at the time. I had high hopes of going pro and had the skills to make it in the world of secular music. Messy family situations caused me to give up playing/studying the drums. Jesus touched my spirit in 82 and His rescue of me was right on time. God opened a door of opportunity in 92 to drum for His glory & purpose. He taught me much about music both secular & spiritual. I did a major house cleaning and removed much of the music that I fed on when I was lost. 92-08 were awesome years of being blessed by God in allowing me to participate on 11 worship teams that presented pure worship. Pure being defined as being well focused about & towards God. Songs that invited/inspired the congregation to participate well in a true worship demonstration. Very sadly not seen to much these days. Bottom line is that there is not really any quality teaching going in most churches about music and or true/pure worship. I began teaching worship drumming in 94 to present along with teaching about media. Things really improve when wisdom is shared with others who really have no clue about a topic. God looks at the heart and desires that ALL who profess to be connected with His Son Jesus in a personal relationship to be fully surrendered in all areas of their walk. 2Timothy 2:19 is my favorite scripture that sets the standard for us to be following. There is no room for performance worship in a church setting either. All who are called to be true worship leaders and ministers need to be well focused on what God has to say about what we feed on. Garbage in garbage out. No room for the gray area. god spits that out. My advice is that a worship team must be well connected with each other and their lives transparent to each other as well. A worship leader NEEDS to really know his team members. God gave me a very simple and applicable system that works well to accomplish this task. WTC= worship team clean. Once a team and its leader are on the same sheet of music the power of the Holy Spirit will flow through each person on stage and then flow out to the audience offering encouragement and inspiration to all who are in that place of worship. I have seen this take place first hand when I was doing prison ministry. Beyond amazing. Prisoners being touched, healed and encouraged by God in many ways. Gods best to you all. JOHN 8:51

  3. angie
    Jun 1 2015

    These are all valid points. Sometime though the reason is because praise time feels more like a funeral service than jubilant praise. In our church most of the hymns are from 60′s through 80′s and they are the slowest tempo songs in the book and they intentionally slow the tempo even more. It is highly frustrating. I love the old traditional hymns (Amazing Grace, etc) just pick up the tempo!!

  4. Zach
    May 21 2015

    I believe that the lyrics are simply not true of everyone there. Often, people are hesitant to admit it, but they just are not humble enough. More often than not, when I attend church, people are not “considering the lillies of the field,” but focusing more on the style and social aspects of their fellow attendee. This attitude tends to rub off on elements of the service itself. People are focused on the wrong reasons for being there in the first place. I believe that God is more concerned with our understanding of His word than whether or not we sing songs. Furthermore, in order to have a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”, the ritual and schedule, not to mention, size and income of the church (note, income OF THE CHURCH, not the individual) are less important to Him than the solidity and validity of what is being taught.

  5. Richard Cook
    Apr 8 2015

    I am a catechumen in the orthodox church. ALL we do is sing. And chant. Its beautiful.

  6. johe
    Mar 19 2015

    We need to return to the Hymnal. I haven’t really sung since we abandoned, totally, the hymnal. I know a lot of people who feel the same way I do but don’t want to say anything. We really need to address this issue before it is too late. There is a lot to say about using it in our worship services. It teaches us to read music. The hymns have wonderful scriptural meaning. I am not saying you should abandon pop songs, but include hymns, sung in the traditional way, as well. I feel like I am going to a rock concert every Sunday. And I’m not that old.

  7. Mar 19 2015

    The presentation of a “new” song is one area I give a lot of attention, because our goal as Worship Leaders is to help lead our people to engaging in the worship experience. How can a congregation join in singing a song they don’t know? On a snow day recently, I watched a very well known ministry’s service. One of the Praise Team members said, “We have a new song for you. Stand and join with us as we sing.” Huh? I’ve found it helpful to use a “new” song in other than congregational settings first, such as having the choir (if you have one), Praise Team, ensembles or soloists sing the song as a “special”, offertory or something like that. Use it on several occasions so that when you put it in your set list, the folks will be more able to engage.

  8. Mike the Tuner
    Mar 12 2015

    It is sad that the singing portion of many worship services are nothing more than glorified karaoke. They sing words on a screen of songs they hear on Christian radio, which is really all that karaoke is. Reason 3 is also a biggie, especially when the worship leader himself can struggle with the high notes. My late mother, rest her soul in the arms of Jesus, kept saying that the people have to be able to sing it, and if it was too loud that she couldn’t even hear herself sing, let alone everyone else, that’s where she drew the line.

  9. Kelly
    Mar 11 2015

    As a choir member since 1958 (!), my knowledge and love of the hymns has been my strength during horrible times. Another benefit of singing hymns introduced me to my neighbors – I love to sing hymns while I mow the lawn :)

    I was uneasy but cooperative when successive choir directors increased the number of praise tunes, grudgingly putting in one hymn per sermon to appease the blue-haired set. When our last 20+ year old director began choir practice one evening by telling us we were worshipping incorrectly, then producing a textbook workbook page to prove it, I got up and left. He and I had a meeting about it, resolving the matter somewhat.

    The last straw was watching the preacher’s wife doing figure 8s with her hips, eyes closed, and clapping her hands way above her head..
    Lest you brand me old-fashioned, I am a former professional actress/dancer who has seen many forms of “normal and relevant”.. My point is that church should at least remain a sanctuary from all the societal stuff.

  10. Alicia
    Feb 26 2015

    Something else not mentioned is that music leading has many times been handed over to the armature band guy who plays guitar and a handful of chords but doesn’t read music and has had no training on leading anything.

    I find bands are alienating = too loud, they are the center of the focus (all about them), songs not appropriate or hard to sing, Songs that are full of LA LAs and whoa whoas and ooo ooo oos. Time for youth group and not Sunday morning.

    At some point many churches stopped hiring professional musicians that can lead choir or an orchestra/band of the people in the church. Instead they found a guy who can sort of sing and knows a handful of guitar chords and a few musicians. Voila – a band is formed. Singing corporately has been turned into a concert and musician worship takes place instead of Jesus worship.

    I have seen a new Christian who was on fire for God put in a place of leading singing but his lack of understanding of it all lead to really bad song choices lyrics wise, him singing everything in his key (high tenor) and it was a performance.

    Just because it is on the radio does not mean it is congregational singing because it moved you personally nor is it some great inspiration from above. Sometimes it is just someones story – fine for a concert but not church.

  11. Sandy Heisey
    Feb 17 2015

    In addition to all of these excellent reasons, with which I agree totally, even the position of the singer is all wrong. Being a singer, it’s difficult for me to “stretch” my neck to read the words projected on the screen, unless I want to sit way in the back of the church. We do, in our church, have printed sheets with the lyrics for those who either can’t see the screen or prefer having a copy to hold. I really agree with the “learning” the song first before including it regularly in worship. Our Praise Team has already rehearsed the songs and know them, so they’re ready on Sunday morning, but the congregation is getting them “cold turkey” and that makes it more difficult. Also, I know it’s important to attract young people to church, but it’s disrespectful and just plan rude to disregard the older members, who, after all, are the backbone and the founders of the church. Also, I’m not sure those more mature members aren’t that comfortable standing for three songs in a row. either. You can’t cater to one group and forget another.

    • Marianne Wrisley
      Feb 20 2015

      I totally agree. They sure don’t care about us older folks anymore and it’s a bit disrespectful.

  12. Joe Wingard
    Feb 4 2015

    In my experience worship leading for the last 15 years there have been many times when the congregation simply stares, like a congregation of mannequins. I think it would be beneficial to have an occasional sermon series on the importance or worship, the importance of praise. Pastors need to step up to the plate and teach the congregation. The Pastor is the primary worship leader whether he/she thinks so. The congregation takes their worship cues (engagement) from the pastor while the music is going on.

  13. Evan
    Jan 28 2015

    The sentiment “The Reformation gave worship back to the people” assumes several things, not least of which is the extremely popular but shallow modern notion that worship only happens when people sing songs.

    Further, music is an art form. All art forms are culturally informed. Each generation or group brings its own cultural lenses to the table. This spells communication breakdown. No way around that. Church music will always be too loud or too quiet or too high or too low or too lame or too progressive or too old or too hipster for somebody. Such is art.

    That said, the job of the worship leader/pastor is to lead/pastor the gathered church as best as he/she can by the power of the Spirit. This means relationships. I resontate with the #9 in the OP for sure. The rest feels like the venting of a recently frustrated reformed purist. We’ve all been there! (except for maybe the reformed part)

  14. Ryan
    Jan 22 2015

    I would add a tenth reason. We are a culture that values expertise and delegates tasks to trained professionals. This has led to a population of self-conscious people who think if they can’t do something on a professional level then they shouldn’t do it in public. This also contributes to church members who think they can’t share the Gospel because they aren’t Bible scholars, so they leave evangelism to the paid professionals.

  15. Steve hartog
    Jan 19 2015

    I agree 100 percent with those nine reasons. My key in planning a worship set is called something for everyone. I love the blended approach using CCLI’s top 100 songs and hymns. I feel if you are going to teach new songs to the congregation they must here the song at least twice prior to the week they learn it. Maybe it is a choir special or an opener then you teach it. Think about it.. The praise team has to go over it several times before they can effectively sing it with excellence and it is not fair if you pull it out of a hat and have them sing it first show. I believe it the becomes a distraction during the worship time and can come off as a concert. Remember, variety and style is a sign of a great blended service. I have been a worship leader for over 20 years now and have led all types of services. Traditional, contemporary, country, southern gospel, ext… Yes, blended is my favorite however repetition is the key in all those types of genres. Don’t think you burned out a song because you practiced it 50 times when they only sang it 5 times. Know your congregation!!! Keep record s, attempt to keep things thematic with the sermon, make sure your words and keys match correctly or make a tasteful transition between songs but Do Not preach a sermon! Mostly, listen to the Holy Spirit and ask God to speak to you on what song He would like you to worship Him with before you even start to plan. Use your gifts to the best off your ability so that you can give God your very best because He deserves nothing less! Last thing.. Make sure that all your band and singers smile, look at the congregation and train them the songs well enough so they can enjoy the presence of the Lord. Others will seen them worshipping and let’s face it. It is contagious! Be Blessed!

  16. Michael
    Jan 17 2015

    It’s really (sorry) larger then the professional worship arts, it’s the whole professional church leader, the professional leadership. The generic professional pastor for all departments. You somewhat qualify some as sheep, this is sad. Sheep should only be that for a time, but to be encouraged, and taught to serve, not to be served by a professional class. The professionalism in the church (“Church” which is a organism) has become a huge rut. Christian articles, and mag. have been overflowing with this same topic you now write. You have hit the nail on the head about the music I must say, it’s become to difficult for all.
    Lord bless you.

  17. Becky Buhman
    Jan 15 2015

    “Worship” leader is a misnomer, and you argued it correctly, however, it is definitely NOT worship the way “worship leaders” are doing it. We need to add worship back in with our wonderful hymns. We don’t know everything in this present time, though we think we may be smarter than the church leaders of old. They in fact were obviously smarter, because they got results. We’re too busy entertaining.

    • Keith Haines
      Jan 21 2015

      I agree with the 9 reasons as to why people fail to sing and I feel it goes a lot deeper than that. Singing is a part of worship only, not the whole of worship. Worship is a lifestyle of the Christian who loves the Lord; who loves to commune with Him and be with His people. Worship ‘leaders’ are, in many cases, song leaders and music directors. They play/teach/lead the music part of worship today instead of leading the people into true worship in Spirit and Truth. The heart filled with the love of the Lord comes to worship with reverence for the Lord and none for men. S/he comes with an excess of joy or, even, travail, outpouring at times, for God while discerning those around them. They can’t really be lead like sheep. However, when that sort of leading is provided, unfortunately, I feel, the less mature or new children in Christ are taught to become reliant on that style of ‘worship’ and rarely participate… until they realise that worship is Life in Christ and not just music, no matter how important music may be in it’s right place.

  18. Jan 14 2015

    I am blessed to have the opportunity to serve the church God called my husband to plant in many ways, among them as a member of our worship team. While I respect the author’s opinion, I agree wIth Scott Ivey’s comments. I grow weary of stylistic “worship wars”. When we build our churches upon the bedrock of prayer and create opportunity for the Holy Spirit to move in our midst, changing lives one by one, then we may actually become so overwhelmed by His weighty presence that we cannot utter a sound at all. ;-) Until then, as we worship, as “lead worshippers”, we encourage our congregation to do likewise. We are BLESSED at our church with a passionate, Jesus-chasing worship leader who by God’s gifting actually embodies the ideal of the author’s article. Thank you, Scott, for reading between the lines as you did to paint the bigger picture. It was freeing!

  19. Neal Glanville
    Jan 14 2015

    This is an interesting read but some of the comments below are even more interesting – Particularly Scott Ivey’s comment.

    I am a pastor in London, England and particularly have oversight of our worship team.

    I think this article raises some interesting points and they are things we as worship leaders should definitely be aware of and navigate but I think I would agree much more with the views of Scott Ivey.

    Take the discussion around what key we are using our songs in. Hay I have been in times of worship where the leader is singing in a range way outside of my own, whether it is a Chris Tomlin singing in the heavens or A female lead and Im singing ultra low…. never the less I worship – what definitely does not aid me in worship is watching a worship leader try and sing a song outside of there range – Again whether you can hear there voice breaking as they tear there vocal chords or there singing a song in such a low key its boring and lifeless.
    Worship leaders, sing in a key where you are comfortable and can actually lead from! If you are not comfortable then you won’t be able to lead affectively.

    My only other comment is on introducing new songs… Again I think Scott Ivey’s comments are helpful. Agree with your leadership what a healthy balance of new/old songs looks like – This can change in seasons btw. The strength of your musicians for instance can affect this. In our current season, we introduce a new song every month in general. But Scott is right, teach them properly – Some songs require more walking through than others. Also be sensible in what other songs you cushion around the new ones. When I teach a new song I put incredibly simple well known songs either side it… But be wise with the songs you choose… Choose songs that are manageable for your team and your congregation.

    As I say this article is helpful to raise questions and be aware of some things but be careful – One size doesn’t fit all. This article may be true for the church of the writer but my experience has lead me to believe more along the lines of Scott Ivey.

    There are so so many factors at play when we think of a time of congregational worship… If only our church congregation could turn up every week, utterly on fire to sing and dance and exalt our God but they don’t… People come from busy, crazy, hectic and often messy lives and they need to be engaged with and lead and often reminded of the truth of the bible – Who God is, whats he’s done, who we are now through his sacrifice. Engage your congregations, lead them, take them on a journey every time you lead worship of discovering more of God’s love, grace and majesty.

  20. Jan 13 2015

    So, I’ve seen different variations of this blog post over the past several months, and I guess I’m ready to stop ignoring it. I’m a full-time worship pastor, so a lot of FB friends or concerned members will forward me the article in a confused “I read this, so it must be true… but… what?” kind of way. They’re confused because it is in direct contrast to the experience we have every week at church. I don’t have any doubt that there are churches who are having a lot of trouble with passionate worship, and lack of participating congregants. I do, however; think that the “9 reasons” are a naive and extremely broad diagnosis for the modern Church’s passivity in general. I can say this confidently, as our church sings… and we sing loud.
    So, I thought I would take a little time to share my opinions… That is all they are. I’ll say, before I start, that I do agree with some of the actual bullet points to a… point. Some of the beef I have with the article is the apparent… almost (dare I say) arrogance that some seem to have found in using a personal and touchy, trending topic to steer people who don’t know any better than to listen to only one point of view…. Ok… Here we go…

    1. They don’t know the songs?

    If this is true then you may be leading too many songs… Not too many “new” songs. A consistent flow of new songs is a great way to bring fresh acclimation and adoration to God. What I mean is too many in a single service. If you only have enough time allotted for your music to sing 4 or 5 songs “as recorded”, then cut one or 2 of them, and take some actual time to teach and learn the new ones. For us, 3 is a great number. A new song is not always included in our set, but when it is… We spend about twice as much time digging into it… By the middle of that song, it is almost always sung the most passionately. The following week, we sing it again as a part of the set… They know it fairly well, and we only extend it if it needs it. After 3 weeks, it is a part of our catalog, and we’re most likely already teaching another one. It’s exciting.

    The other problem that could be happening is that you don’t have the talent on stage to help create an atmosphere of worship. That may sound harsh or fake and plastic, but it’s very true. If ANY of you went to, say, a leadership conference and the worship was lead by a tone-deaf screacher, then a distraction-factor has been established. This can (and will) cause every new song (and old one) to transform into something to tolerate for 5 minutes instead of something to help them engage in communication with their Savior.

    2. We are singing songs not suitable for congregational singing?

    I agree with this one. If you are singing a top 40 radio hit, then they will bob their head, and may even recognize them, but some of those songs are just difficult to follow. We rarely choose songs that aren’t “all-skate”, and when we do… it’s purposeful.

    3. We are singing in keys too high for the average singer?

    This one actually makes me laugh.

    There’s usually a good reason that songs a recorded in the chosen keys… Because the singer is able to achieve “excellence” in that key.

    I heard a joke once that went something like “3/4 of a worship leader’s time during the week is spent on changing keys in Chris Tomlin songs.” That’s funny because, of course, Chris Tomlin has a high range, and worship leaders believe that this is why people don’t sing when they lead his songs(it’s not, by the way) Chris not only has a girly, high tenor voice, he is also one of the most effective worship leaders of the modern era. He doesn’t change his songs to more manageable keys when he leads, and we all sing loud.
    Phil Whickham not only has a girly, high tenor voice, he is also one of the most effective worship leaders of the modern era. He doesn’t change his songs to more manageable keys when he leads, and we all sing loud.
    Lincoln Brewster not only has a girly, high tenor voice, he is also one of the most effective worship leaders of the modern era. He doesn’t change his songs to more manageable keys when he leads, and we all sing loud.
    There are so many more… I think there is a pattern here…
    In my opinion, the only time you should change the key of a song to be more manageable is when the leader of the song has a hard time singing it. If someone from the stage can’t reach a note, then that whole “distraction factor” has come back into play. In the same way… If a leader has a natural high range, and changing to a lower key steals his “umph”, then the potential moment has been robbed of excellence… (distraction).
    I will often tell people to sing, and sing loud… I have even called out friends in the congregation from time to time to say… “See, Eric is singing, and he can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Church… it’s not about you harmonizing with your neighbor, or hitting every note perfectly. It’s about you pouring your heart out to your Savior, and He tells us that it is a sweet, sweet sound in His ear. This may be the only place you ever hear that said about your singing, so take advantage… Eric knows what I’m saying. Now, let’s sing together, and lift up our God!” Their inability to sing well has become a teaching point, and a new comfort level has been established and even encouraged.

    4. The congregation can’t hear people around them singing.

    Good! I’m not singing to them. By the way, most people don’t want the person next to them to hear them… That actually keeps them from singing. I’ve had more than a big handful of people tell me that they love that they can come together with the Church and sing with abandon to God because they didn’t feel like they could at their last church… The music is powerful, and only God can hear them. I remember growing up in a very traditional church, and there was always that one guy who sang 10 times as loud as everyone else (usually in some operetic-esque manner). I would giggle, my mom would shush me, and then giggle a little herself. (distractions) There is no perfect volume, and I’ve come to understand that “too loud” means different things to different people. Sometimes volume can be distracting when it’s low, and sometimes when it’s high. We’ve managed to dial in the right levels that seem to set the right environment for our congregation… 88 to 93db for us.

    5. We have created worship services which are spectator events, building a performance environment?

    Musicians are performers. They use their talents as worship. Guitar solos are worship. Fiddles and drums and harmonicas and mimes are too. (yes… mimes). A sound man who makes it sound incredible is worshiping. The guy who takes pride in creating a visual environment with lights and smoke does it for God, and he is worshiping. The person communicating the message is worshiping too, and he took lots of time to make his (or her) points relate in a way that is relevant… There is a true art to that as well, and he is not only worshiping he is also performing. When we complain about it being a performance environment, we’ve missed the point entirely… It’s not about making it all about performances and the experience. It’s about making every experience and performance about God. If we’re afraid to do our best and shine where God has blessed us, then I would say we’re not truly worshiping to begin with.

    6. The congregation feels they are not expected to sing?

    I agree. You are the lead worshiper, so lead by example, and invite, invite, invite… lead, lead, lead.

    7. We fail to have a common body of hymnody?

    I view this with having about as much sincerity as the “book of common prayer”. I realize that liturgical practice can have profound meaning, and deep emotional response at times (usually when used to emphasize a point, not to BE the point). It’s just that it steals away creativity and relational value, and adds religiosity and confined structure. Church isn’t about having fun, but it certainly isn’t about celebrating our boredom with contrived tools that we’ve developed to make sure things become more predictable.

    8. Worship leaders ad lib too much.

    These really aren’t 9 different points. This is kind of like a sub-point. It could’ve been included in a couple others… I digress.

    I agree… If they are ad libbing.
    But where in the world have you been going to churches who consistently do this enough for it to make your top 9? I may have heard one worship leader ever who thought he was on American Idol. I just don’t see this as being that relevant. I could be wrong though.

    9. Worship leaders are not connecting with the congregation?

    YES! This, in my opinion, should be the entirety of your post. Number nine. This is the biggest problem. A worship LEADER shouldn’t be leading if they don’t know how to lead. Engaging is a giant part of that. Points 1 though 8 could all fit inside this one issue. Get rid of your charts on stage… If you can’t play without them, don’t lead until you can (harsh?) Talk to the congregation. Teach the songs. Plan your transitions well. If you raise your game and realize that you are performing for HIM, and teaching others to do the same, then true worship will happen (even with a lot of new songs) I promise.

    • Ginny
      Jan 14 2015

      THIS! This response is fantastic. Thank you so much for posting it. Above all, it is about heart and I think you captured that well with your response.

    • Josh Berry
      Jan 26 2015

      I think you bring up some very interesting points here Scott. I do have a few questions, if you wouldn’t mind maybe taking a look (or if anyone else has some thoughts).
      With regards to new songs, what do you think is an effective way of teaching new songs? I’m not talking about the simple songs, that can be learnt by listening to the worship team play them once, but some more complicated songs. Things that spring to mind are anything with call and response, or one particular example (which I would love to introduce at our church but have no idea how to teach it) is You Are Holy, we the 2 different parts of the chorus sung simultaneously.
      Whilst it isn’t one of his 9 points, you say you’re a pastor, so I’m interested in hearing your opinion on this. Do you think there is a place for a “behind-the-scenes” worship leader? I greatly enjoy, and get a lot out of picking songs, working with whoever’s speaking, practising through at home, working out what could/couldn’t work, but I don’t yet feel like a great, or the most confident on stage leader, but too often it feels like whoever is doing that behind-the-scenes stuff also has to be the person doing the on stage stuff?

      • Mar 4 2015

        I think what you are referring to as a “behind the scenes” leader is what I would call a music director or a creative director.

        A lot of larger churches have entire teams lead by a MD and while their job is to choose, chart out and in some cases, prepare the band, they are rarely the one presenting the material from the stage. It’s a system of playing to everyone’s strengths instead of bogging one person down with the weight of everything that has to take place in a service. I take on both roles by choice. One of my favorite aspects of implementing what God wants to do from the stage is seeing how the Holy Spirit guides and prepares those moments in advance. I love being used in that capacity.

        As far as introducing more difficult songs to the congregation, I would think that it falls in line with the concept of not ever speaking over someone’s head when communicating… What I mean is that scripture tells us to speak plainly so that everyone can understand the message. When it comes to songs that we expect a significant participation to happen within, I think we should choose songs that are easy to sing. It’s that simple.

        Now, when highlighting a point of a message, or accenting a feeling, or blessing a congregation with what God says to us in His Word? Then, I think the weight of responsibility is no longer on the leader to be a good “teacher”, but instead a good demonstrator. When I sing a song like that, then I honestly don’t expect anyone to sing, but rather to listen. Some churches have liturgy that is read altogether as a congregation. Most of the time, though; there’s a message, and God just wants you to listen. So… In the end you want to say that you’ve done all things with excellence, so never choose a song that challenges you beyond your abilities to pull off with any sort of grace… Like I said in my initial response to the “9 reasons” article… Anytime I choose a song that isn’t singable, it is always purposeful, and we don’t do it all the time… Only on special occasions.

        I hope I even came close to answering your questions?

        Let me know. God Bless!

        (ps… where are you from? I can nearly hear the accent with your usage of “whilst…” and “practising”. :) )

        • Josh Berry
          Mar 7 2015

          Thanks for your response. That’s all very helpful and I’ll try to bear it all in mind.

          I’m actually from Yorkshire over in the UK, but I try to use relatively formal English in writing.

    • Stark
      Jun 3 2015

      To your 3rd point about keys, and the joke “3/4 of a worship leader’s time during the week is spent on changing keys in Chris Tomlin songs.” Often worship leaders may be able to lead singing and play piano, but the dominant instruments in contemporary worship are guitars and many worship leaders know little or nothing about guitar theory and make poor choices of song keys without consulting the guitarists. For example, one thing that worship leaders often do not consider is if the song is playable or even sounds good in a certain key. Often a song that is originally in the key of A or B can be moved down to G and maintain the original chord shapes and sounds, instead of changing to F and forcing the guitars to use bar chords or capo’s which don’t sound as good as the original chords. A change from the key of G to F will destroy the finger picking patterns of a pretty acoustic song. Yes, worship is not for the worship band but for the congregation, and ultimately for God. But we destroy the beauty and playability of too many songs by changing to keys where the instruments can’t produce the original sound. Also, the congregation is not made up only of bass and alto voices, and likely has a good representation of tenors and sopranos too (who may have difficulty singing lower keys). I want to bring God the best sounding worship music possible. He is worthy of that.

  21. Stephanie
    Jan 12 2015

    Well here is my rant…I will understand if you delete it…in response to people/congregations not participating in worship…zero sympathy from me! I think they are being so disrespectful to the church they are in, to the worship leader, etc. Do you yell at hockey games? Do you sing the national anthem? Do you sing/cheer at sporting events? Do you sing in your car when traveling? Would it kill you to take your hands out of your pants and show some life? We sing to commercials, Disney songs, pop culture tunes, etc…YOU have no excuse as far as I can see!

  22. John Radice
    Jan 12 2015

    “Worship is moving to its pre-Reformation mess”. What ridiculous and ignorant propaganda: an insult to 1500 years of sacred liturgy. That was the worship which created a Christian culture, which integrated personal, social and sacred life together. Have the ‘Reformers’ anything to equal that? They were stalking horses for the triumph of materialist and secular attitudes which we are reaping now so bitterly in the complete disintegration of personal, social and sacred life

  23. Jon Jordan
    Jan 11 2015

    I think this has bigger implications that we would realize. If the local Body does not feel engaged in the worship and sees it as an event versus a group/family experience then they are more likely to disengage from serving their local body and community at large. When we create that non participatory atmosphere it spills over into all areas of how the Body functions.

  24. Keith Roman
    Jan 11 2015

    A big factor you are missing is the fact that nowhere else in American society are people asked to sing out loud in front of others, except maybe the national anthem. People are socially ostracized in every other situation for singing out loud, because that has become something that professionals do.

    Also, Christian radio is purposefully targeted toward soccer moms, so they are the only ones familiar with the songs. When you bring those artless wonders into the church, no one, especially men, knows or likes them.

  25. Jan 9 2015

    I think you missed a tenth reason. Multitudes of Americans that go to church are religious but not saved. They have never met or been transformed by Him. When this happened in Scripture, people fell to their knees, they thanked with tears of joy, and they sang.

    • Don
      Jan 11 2015

      Amen. The redeemed will say so


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