Do you ever wonder why people don't participate in worship the way you would like them to? Have you ever been in a service where it was hard to worship? Do you know why? If the music is not distracting, and the style of music is to your liking, there should be no reason why you can't worship right?
If I came to your church tomorrow, I could put together two different worship services, and one would have more participation than the other. If I knew a little about your churches background, and had a songlist of the songs your people do, I could plan the two services so that one would have people singing out loud and the other, they would stand there frustrated and lost. You know what the answer is. You know how I could do this, and yet each week worship leaders around the country face this very problem.
Familiarity is the key to good worship participation. If you don't believe me, try throwing together songs that no one knows during a service. See how much singing and participation there is. Then, try using songs that everyone knows and you will see the difference. Simple, and yet I am guilty of it on a weekly basis. Partly because I want to sing the new songs. I get hooked on songs that I've listened to for months before anyone else hears them. I know them and can worship with them. The problem arises when I fail to put the people in the middle of my planning. The worship team may get tired of doing the same songs over and over, but keep in mind, they may sing a song for months before you use it in worship. When it gets to the people, it may begin to get old with the worship team. It's a hard balance to maintain. Also, there may be someone who is new to your church and doesn't know the songs yet. The influx of new people on a regular basis only adds to the frustration.
What to do as a worship leader? So many to please. You don't want to bore the worship team by beating a song into the ground, and yet, your people aren't musicians. They need more time to learn the songs before they can actually use it to worship. There is nothing more frustrating for a worshiper then to go to a church where he doesn't know any of the songs. The worship experience is shot as a participator. You stand there trying to learn seven new songs, and the minute you start to learn one, they are on to the next song. You may be able to worship, but it will be less than great if the words and the tunes are foreign to you.
Balance seems to be the key. I try to not introduce more than one new song on a Sunday. When I introduce a new song, I try to use it for four weeks straight. This gives the twice a week church attendee a few times to here it and pick up on it. I'll do it as often as I can in order to help the people pick up on it as quick as possible. I try to first introduce it as a special. I find that this helps the people to better become familiar with it if they can hear it once through.
Extra consideration needs to be given when a song is harder to learn. We need to remember that the average person in our churches, have no musical training or background. Besides that, we don't print the notes anymore for those who can read music. They are learning purely by rote. It is unfair for us as worship leaders to be selfish in our planning and use of certain songs in "worship". Save the hard songs for specials and worship concerts. Be sensitive to the masses in song selection and keys. If the song is too high, your participation will lack. The average person cannot sing above a "D" and yet the new worship songs are flooded with them.
If you want your people to sing out in worship, and begin to grow in worship, the material needs to be easy to learn, and done enough times for them to learn it. You may think you are running a song into the ground when in fact, the people are probably just now using it as part of their worship. The problem with some hymns is that they are so wordy, it takes forever to learn them. I grew up in the traditional church and I still need the words to most of the hymns. My memory is not the best. It tends to hinder my own worship when I have to refer to the hymnal every other line.
Be sensitive, make sure they know the songs you have in your present repertoire before you go on to the new stuff. Don't bombard the people with new songs each week. Let them grow with you as you teach them. Help them become true worshipers of the Living God. Sing to the Lord a new song. But remember, you and your people have a different understand of what that means. What's new to them may be old to you.
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