In my last post, I began looking at an insightful article written by Mike Harland the director of LifeWay Worship. I will conclude by looking at more of the article today and then make some comments. You can read the entire article here.
They Can’t Sing The Song.
Often newer songs have rhythms that don’t lend themselves to congregational singing and rather than struggle, the worshipper will just quit. They may love the song – they just can’t sing it – especially if they barely know it. As they become more and more familiar with a song, they can handle harder rhythms. But we often don’t give them a chance before moving on to a new song. If a certain song is vital to the worship because of a unique message you might make an exception and use the song. But the reason many of our people have stopped singing is these type songs have become the rule in many places.
I’ve said it before at this blog and many other places and I will say it again: If they ain’t followin’, you ain’t leadin’! There may be a song that I deem as a “can’t miss” congregational. But I’ve got to consider the musical aptitude and ability of the congregation. It may be that a particular song is best suited as a special where the congregation worships through listening rather than singing.
I rarely, if ever, ask a congregation to sing on a new song unless they have heard it as a special 2-4 times. The heart cannot be engaged in worship if distracted by trying to learn a song. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to teach new songs—God forbid! Mus Min just must be very considerate and strategic in how a new song is integrated and then kept in the song list.
They Can’t Hear The Room Singing. The typical person in the pew is not in love with their own voice. But if they can be part of something larger, where their individual voice is not distinguishable they will sing their hearts out. In today’s rhythm driven worship so dependent on sound reinforcement the decibel level often gets pretty high. When that happens the individual worshipper can hear only two things – the sound coming through the system and their own voice. They cannot hear the sound of the congregation singing – the part they can “hide” their voice inside. So, they stop singing.
I’m not sure that totally agree with Harland on this point. I do believe that an individual will sing out even if the sound system is at levels that some would consider “high”. However, if a individual never gets to hear the congregation during a song service then something is wrong. Why have corporate singing if each individual is isolated by sound levels?
There’s also another element to this: sometimes the sound levels can be so low as to isolate a congregant to where they also feel exposed and will withdraw from singing. Balance in this area is key. Again, it is our philosophy at GLC to give a wide range of experiences. We
might sing one song that thunders the choir and orchestra (and any soloist that may be fronting) and then follow that up with a song sung a capella.
Be keyed into how your congregation engages. Be observant of times when the Body seems to “punt” on singing and when they seem to engage wholeheartedly. A Mus Min’s job is to encourage singing not to stifle it.