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Why Your Church’s Worship Isn’t Working: 9 Reasons Congregations Aren’t Singing Anymore

Why Your Church’s Worship Isn’t Working: 9 Reasons Congregations Aren’t Singing Anymore

Editorial Team
Why Your Church's Worship is Failing: 9 Shocking Reasons Congregations Aren't Singing Anymore

Worship leaders around the world are increasingly turning their church’s worship services into spectator events, often unintentionally, causing a decline in congregational singing. Scott Connell also discusses this in his article, 10 Things I Didn’t Do That Improved My Congregations Singing:

I did not turn the lights down. Too often worship services look like concerts. The problem is that concerts are for listening and worship services are for singing. Keep the focus on the congregation, not only on the stage.

 A Historical Perspective on Congregational Worship

Kenny Lamm discusses a more historical perspective when looking at congregational worship engagement in his article, 9 Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship. Before the Reformation, worship was largely conducted for the people by professional musicians, often in an unfamiliar language (Latin). The Reformation revolutionized worship, reintroducing congregational singing with simple, attainable tunes and scriptural lyrics in the vernacular. This made worship participatory again. The invention of the printed hymnal further fueled congregational singing, fostering a deep love for communal worship.

Lamm continues on to discuss how new technologies have made an impact with modern day worship. With the advent of new video technologies, churches began projecting song lyrics on screens, vastly increasing the repertoire available for worship. Initially, this led to even more robust congregational singing. However, over time, a shift occurred. Worship services started to resemble concerts more than participative worship experiences, reminiscent of pre-Reformation practices.

Kenny Lamm details 9 reasons (that we will share below) but we think there’s a 10th reason that is equally important. So often people will leave Church and they will find themselves during the week still singing the songs they sung during worship. It’s important when making this setlist that we spend time choosing songs that are in alignment with the message. Choosing songs that will be remembered. Using tools such as Spotify to create playlists of the week that refer congregants back to the music that was sung on Sunday morning. When giving them this opportunity it’s important to remember that you don’t have to introduce new songs every Sunday. Tommy Walker shares ways to teach a new song to your congregation in his article, Teaching A New Song To Your Congregation:

Keep singing the song for the next few weeks. This will help them really own it. As creative people, we must remember that we get bored easy. Don’t teach another song too soon. Don’t give up on the last one too soon. Slow down and let the response that your congregation is giving be your creative guide. Click Here to Read the Full Article

In an article published in 2017 by Jonathan Mason, he shares how tools such as Spotify can be useful for Worship Leaders:

Streaming may be the newest way to consume music, but it’s not our enemy. As worship leaders, I would argue it’s our greatest ally. Streaming and all it offers is our friend. Click Here to Read the Full Article

We proposed a possible 10th reason congregations aren’t singing anymore. Now we’d like to hear from you. As you read through this list please ponder the following questions. What do you think is missing from the list? Why do you think congregations aren’t singing anymore?

Kenny Lamm’s List of 9 Reasons:

1. Unfamiliarity with Songs

With new songs released weekly and many worship leaders incorporating locally-written songs, congregations are inundated with unfamiliar music. While it’s important to introduce new songs, overloading the congregation can hinder participation. Aim to introduce one new song per service and repeat it over several weeks until it becomes familiar.

2. Unsuitable Songs for Congregational Singing

Many contemporary worship songs, though beautiful, are not suitable for congregational singing due to complex rhythms or wide vocal ranges. Choose songs that are accessible to the average singer, not just the vocal superstars on stage.

3. High Keys

Congregations often struggle with songs pitched too high. Most people have a limited vocal range, and pitching songs too high can lead to vocal fatigue and disengagement. Aim for a comfortable range that encourages participation, typically an octave and a fourth from A to D.

4. Imbalanced Sound Levels

If the music is too loud, congregants can’t hear each other singing, which can discourage them from participating. Conversely, music that’s too quiet can lead to a lack of enthusiasm. Find a balance that supports strong congregational singing without overpowering it.

5. Performance Over Participation

Creating an engaging worship environment is important, but it shouldn’t turn into a performance. Avoid elements that distract from worship or draw undue attention to those on stage. Strive for excellence, but prioritize participation over professionalism.

6. Lack of Expectation

Congregants need to know they are expected to sing. Authentic leadership, clear invitations to join in worship, and facilitating familiar and properly introduced new songs can encourage active participation.

7. Absence of a Common Song Repertoire

With so many new songs available, worship planning can become inconsistent. Establish a core repertoire of songs to help the congregation become familiar and comfortable with them, similar to how hymnals were used in the past.

8. Excessive Ad Libbing

While some ad-libbing can enhance worship, too much can confuse the congregation. Keep the melody clear and strong to guide the congregation effectively.

9. Disconnect with the Congregation

Worship leaders must stay connected with their congregations, ensuring they are facilitating worship rather than performing. Encourage participation through scripture, observe how the congregation is engaging, and adjust as needed to maintain their involvement.

Moving Forward: Reclaiming Congregational Worship

Lamm ends his list imploring worship leaders and pastors with ways to move forward. Once worship leaders regain the vision of enabling the congregation to be active participants in corporate worship, we can restore worship to the people. By fostering a participative environment, we can transform our worship services from spectator events back into powerful, communal worship experiences. By addressing these issues, worship leaders can create an atmosphere where everyone feels invited to lift their voices in praise, fulfilling the true purpose of worship leadership.

We’d love to hear from you. What was missing from this list that could help congregations sing more? Please share in the comments below with us!

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Suggested Reads

Webber on Worship Volume 1


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** This article references Kenny Lamm’s article, 9 Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship

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