guest post by Jennifer Shaw:
As a full-time Christian speaker and musician, I visit many churches of various sizes and denominations each year. I often seem to have the same conversation with frustrated pastors and worship leaders, and even with members of the congregation. It starts with a question like, “Why aren't our people singing in worship anymore?”
I've observed several trends in contemporary worship services that are contributing factors. Here are the top five reasons I give worship pastors about why their congregations may have stopped singing:
1. Your worship team isn't worshiping. That may seem basic, but you can't lead people in worship if you aren't worshiping yourself. Many times I see teams who are under-trained and overly concerned about making sure they know their notes and words, or they are performing and hoping everyone will notice how great they are. We need to have the right motivation for being up front, and that is to serve others with humility and lead them into a place of worship.
2. They cannot hit those notes. Most singers are taught to find the best key for them, and many leaders are trying to do radio songs in the radio key. The vast majority of people in a congregation can't hit those notes, so they end up switching octaves constantly which is frustrating and causes people to stop participating. The most comfortable range for most Americans is between middle C and the A above (major sixth). This may not be the best range for you as a worship leader, but we make sacrifices because our goal is to lead others in worship, not just to stay where we're most comfortable or in the key that makes our own voice sound the best.
3. They feel disconnected or extraneous. Having spent years in the theater, I totally appreciate how much lighting can set an emotional mood, and as a musician, I know that excellent sound is very important. However, church is different from a performance. If lighting or sound is taken to the extreme, it can make your congregation feel as though they are watching a show. Lighting and sound should feel inviting and inclusive, bringing people into this corporate thing we do called worship.
4. They don't know that song. It may sound silly, but so many churches do brand-new songs with no introduction whatsoever. I've been to many churches where the worship pastor got excited about new music and every piece on the entire worship service was new! This is just discouraging for your congregation because they have no idea what's going on. When I was the music director at our church, our band had over 300 songs in rotation at any given time and introduced new songs often - but you should introduce it first, either by playing it one week as an opening or offertory, or by teaching them the chorus so they can at least join you for part of it.
5. You broke the mood. Transitions between songs are so important. Try to move on seamlessly, and if you need to change keys and/or tempo between songs which happens often, find a musical segue or give a Scripture or a short prayer thanking God for what you just sang about or are about to sing while your band transitions. Making the worship flow through the entire set allows people to enter worship and stay there.
May we all seek wisdom and vision from God so that we can worship with excellence and lead our people to sing again.Jennifer Shaw is a Telly Award-winning singer/songwriter, speaker, author, and five-time Billboard Top 40 recording artist. She holds a Masters Degree from the Manhattan School of Music, was a former professor of music at Cedarville University, and served as the music director at her church for over twelve years. She has been privileged to lead worship in congregations on four continents now, and loves bringing people into God's presence. Please visit www.jennifershaw.com.
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