Follow me for just a minute. I’ll go slow because being a creative, math hurts my head.
Fifty-Two weeks in a year.
Even if you have multiple services on a weekend, most attendees make 1. Most worship experiences are in the neighborhood of 4 songs per service, give or take. That’s just over 17 songs a month that the average attendee has the opportunity to be lead in worship by your team. That is assuming of course they never miss a weekend service. Perfect attendance, probably not. So let’s say they make it every other week, or twice a month. That is about 8.5 songs per month the average attendee has the opportunity to be lead by your team. If you have even a 50 song repertoire, assuming you don’t repeat a song, they would have to attend almost 6 months before they heard the same song twice. If your repertoire is half of that, say 25, they would have to attend for 3 months before they heard a song twice. At a repertoire of just 13 songs, assuming you sang all 13 successively without repeating, using the above example the average attendee would have to attend 6 weeks before they heard a song repeated. Does your head hurt yet?
How well do you do remembering a song you only hear once every 6 weeks? Remember the chords? How about the verses? At best, the chorus may sound familiar, but at that rate it’s not likely you’ll know the song. Neither will your average attendee. The math posed here is obviously not perfect. There are a number of different attendance patterns, song selection frequencies, and volunteers that are there for multiple services, etc. However, I ask you to hear the principle driving the thought.
Most worship leaders battle engagement on some level
How do we get people to engage in worship and actually sing and worship God? Perhaps if you are asking that question, your problem is not one of technique or vocabulary, but one of simple math. Perhaps people are not engaging as you would like as a worship leader because they simply don’t know the song. Here are a few thoughts that may help.
1. Too much new gets old
I am not positing the idea that we reduce repertoires to 13 songs. What I am advocating is for you to take a look at your song frequency. Look at how often you repeat a song, as well as how often you are introducing new songs. Too many new songs and the available slots are gone for repeating new songs we learned a few weeks ago. This creates a reality where songs may be done once or twice and then fall off the radar, never to be committed to our corporate memory.
2. Fresh gets stale
The need to do new music is a strongly felt need for a worshiper. The Bible even says for us to sing a new song to the Lord. However, if in the name of keeping sets fresh we are not repeating songs frequently enough to be committed to our corporate memory, we may be working against our own stated goal of having people engage in worship. In order for people to worship freely, they have to know the song that you are singing. The way we learn as humans is through repetition. Absolutely, you need to do new music. But if you are facing an engagement problem with your congregation, it may be time to rethink the approach to how frequently you introduce new music.
New music and variety are both important parts of keeping worship engaging and interesting. Too much of either and we foster spectators. Too much of both and the math begins to disagree with engaging, God-centered worship for the average attendee. This is why good math engages people in worship.
Jeff serves as the Creative Arts Pastor at Horizons Church in Northern VA. He has lead worship and creative teams across the country, with an emphasis on creating environments that are culturally attractive and God honoring. He and his wife Patti have four children and live in the Washington D.C. area. Visit jeffcarsonmusic.com.