We can argue about how people should really want to sing more, but every congregation has its saturation point for singing each Sunday. Most have not sung the rest of the week so Sunday is a vocal workout. If your congregation is singing well for 3 or 4 songs, but by the 5th song they are beginning to drop out, you may not be serving them by adding the extra song. Don’t criticize them, serve them and help them grow.
My congregation sings better than they did a year ago. I have been their worship leader for just over a year, and I have seen progress in their participation in worship through singing. They sing louder; they sing more heartily, and more of them sing than a year ago. This realization occurred to me as I was reading an article on the decline of congregational singing, and it caused me to wonder why we are not a part of the trend.
Here are 10 things that I did not do with my congregation over the past year that I think has helped our congregational singing:
1. 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.
2. I did not turn the sound up.
Loud volumes prevent the congregation from singing. If they cannot hear themselves sing they will not sing. If they cannot hear their neighbor sing they will not sing. If they can hear both, they will be more likely to sing.
3. I did not try to sound like the YouTube video.
These videos can be very helpful teaching tools to learn the melody and style, but then turn them off and don’t go back to them. They are generally produced as concert settings and they are not your musicians. Let your band members be who they are and make room for the congregation’s part.
4. I did not try lengthy or frequent instrumental solos.
I like a well-placed instrumental solo, especially if it is used strategically to help the congregation think about a Scripture on the screen or just “breathe in” the text they have just sung. A “Selah” moment can be very helpful, but too many of these and/or solos that are too long tell the congregation to check out. It is like telling the people “this is not about you.”