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How to Engage Your Congregation in Worship

Here are a few quick ideas to help engage your congregation in worship.

There are a few blog posts doing the rounds at the moment that focus on a problem many church worship leaders face: How to engage the congregation during times of sung worship. Unfortunately they often criticize or point out the mistakes rather than offer meaningful and practical solutions. So here is my attempt at the latter . . .

I love worship music. I love singing. I adore playing my guitar for Jesus. However, I do get disheartened when leading others in worship that they are just not joining in! Or indeed appear to not be joining in the worship experience the band and I have worked so hard at preparing. Recent blog posts have highlighted that this is not an uncommon problem. Indeed, watching many YouTube clips of church sung times of worship recorded ‘live’ everyone in the band is engaging. The musicians are on cloud nine. The vocalists are jumping up and down, hands raised. But the congregation are stood, looking on. Some with hands in pockets or arms folded. None opening their mouth to join in.

So what can we do about it?

Engage through Education

It may be a lack of understanding that is getting in the way of your congregation fully engaging with God during times of worship (sung or not).

  • Ask your church leadership for a teaching / sermon series to be taught about the different styles of worship expressed throughout the Bible
  • Unpack the Hebrew words for different ways of expressing worship to God – see this helpful post
  • Recommend a few good books about the subject of worship that can be made available in your church bookshop or library and encourage your team and congregation to read it. This could even form a topic of study for your church small groups?

Engage through Understanding (culture / preferences)

You may need to find out a little bit more about the church or national culture you are in.

  • Prepare a questionnaire inviting feedback about your style of worship / sung worship.
  • Ask a few key people about the culture of the church you serve in.
  • What about the nation? I know in Britain where I serve, self-expression is very reserved and a lot of this is down to ‘Britishness’. Coming from Africa where we used to dance around the room during church, the cultural difference was an adjustment I needed to make.
  • The physical or outward response may not be an accurate reflection of the inward or heart-response. Decide which is more important.
  • Has the sung worship changed radically and very quickly? Would they prefer some older songs to also be included – ones they know?
  • Are the songs you are singing too technically difficult for unmusical members of the congregation to catch?
  • Are the keys too high and out of reach? – think especially of songs with octave jumps.
  • Are you as a worship leader modelling the songs you sing in your own life?
  • Are you as worship leader inviting others to join in, or giving the impression that you are the start of the gig everyone is about to witness?

Engage through being Adaptable

Once you have gathered your information and identified a few problem areas, it is time to act and to respond.

  • You may need to change some of the keys you sing songs in. There are many transposing programmes online if you are unsure how to do this for yourself.
  • It might be a good idea to mix in some older songs people are familiar with as well as introducing the new ones.
  • Is there another way people may feel comfortable to express their worship? It may have nothing to do with music or singing, but as a worship leader, you should be seeking to facilitate this too.
  • Change the way you do the musical part of the service. Try cutting down the number of instruments you use, or if possible ask everyone to sit in a circle and sing together (like you are around a camp fire). Or rather than having a big block of singing at the start of the service, spread the songs out throughout the service – sometimes a change is as good as a holiday!

I hope you find some of these ideas useful. If you have got any good ideas of your own to add please leave a comment below.

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