Here in the UK churches are now permitted to gather together for worship in-person. But this is only possible if certain rules and guidelines are followed to help keep everyone safe from the Covid-19 virus.
The church I got to and serve at has had many discussions as to how this would be possible – the way we do lots of things has had to change for now. One of the government rules is that singing indoors is only allowed by one, or two socially distanced people, up at the front. Those in the congregation would have to listen to the singing and not join in (yes – even if wearing a mask).
Our church highly values corporate worship, but corporate worship is together-worship, so this model does not work for us. We also recognise that if one person is allowed to sing and others not, this is unfair to the other worshippers gathered. If you hear your favourite song being sung, you just want to join in, so forcing people not to join in will also be extremely difficult.
One very important and helpful thing has arisen due to this dilemma – and I love it because I have been saying and teaching this for years – worship is NOT singing or music. It is an obedient response to an almighty God. Singing and worship form a small part of what the full expression of worship actually is – which is the way we live our entire lives, surrendered to Jesus.
Here are 5 ways my church has come up with to help us worship Jesus together without singing. I hope you find some of these ideas useful for your context.
1. Draw Near
Before the service, place clip boards with a piece of paper and a pencil (or ask those attending to bring their own pencil) on seats.
During the service, sit in silence (now that’s a novel and challenging idea), or if you can’t quite cope with that just yet, play some quiet instrumental music in the background.
Ask people to focus their hearts and mind on Jesus. What is He saying? What images or pictures come to mind?
Now either write, or draw what you sense Him showing you.
Once complete, one person with PPE (Personal Protecive Equipment) could collect these in from everyone. They could be held up at the front, or use a camcroder connected to a projector to display the words and artwork. You could also take photos of them and share them on your church website or social media channels after the service – just check with the person who wrote or drew the item for their permission first.
2. Sign Launguage
OK – so this is a type of singing, but singing that does not expel aerosolised particles into the air.
It is also a great opportunity for your congregation to learn a bit of sign language and for your church to extend the ways in which they are being inclusive to the wider community.
I would select a song that your congregation does not know, so their is little chance of them wanting to join in with the singing. Believe me, you end up concentrating so hard on copying the sign language that you often forget to sing anyway.
If you are blessed to have someone in your congregation who knows sign language, ask them to be the leader at the front for everyone else to copy. If not, use a song video that also includes sign language. A great example is this song from Doug Horley with his song ‘I Love You’ where he teaches the sign language before singing the song. We have used this in our church a few times with great success.
3. Memory Verse
Reciting scripture together can not only be very powerful, but can also help us to memorise parts of the Bible that we can recall and use at a later date.
I would most certainly have the small passage, or a couple of verses written down, either on paper or displayed on the projector.
Ask everyone to read the verses together. Perhaps now ask just the men to read it again, then the women, or how about the kids?
You could also try to include some physical actions with parts of the verse as this helps some to memorise things better – others find writing it down a few times helps with memory retention.
You could also try removing a few of the words from the text on the next slide on the projector, but when saying it aloud together again, the aim is to try to fill in the blank gaps with the word you have committed to memory.
There are also some videos that help with learning memory verses on YouTube that you could explore.
4. Get Lyrical
This idea still uses the songs your congregation may find useful in helping them to worship, but this time – kill the music!
Display the words of a song but do not sing it. Rather, read the lyrics together.
This could lead to people encountering songs in a new way and finding hidden depths to the lyrics as well as being drawn to God through the lyrics in a different way than if the words were sung.
A word of caution – be discerning with your song selection. A phrase that is repeated a lot of times while being sung can be powerful, but can just sound odd or even boring when read aloud. So select songs with rich lyrics that can work well with being read out rather than sung.
5. Lights, Camera, Action!
Well, OK, maybe not the lights and the camera, but most certainly the action.
You may have once reserved action songs to your children’s work or perhaps the once a month all-age service.
This may be a great opportunity to bring action songs into the main church service – you could even ask some of the children who know the actions to be the action leaders up at the front?
I know – I can already hear some reading this blog say ‘my congregation is so old this will never work!’ – but do not loose heart. I know many people who are advanced in years who go to seated exercise classes. This is where you do your exercise whilst remaining seated – so lots of arm and leg movements. Perhaps you could have some fun coming up with some seated actions to accompany recorded worship songs as a form of seated worship-ce-cize!
Over to you
If you have any other ideas as to how we can worship together as a church community in new and creative ways, please share your thoughts below in the comments.
I would love to hear from you.