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Worship: Getting Your Congregation to Sing (Part 1)

As I’ve spent some time thinking about the first thing to write about, I’ve come up with a lot of decent ideas. However, I feel like this is the most important foot to start on. (Also, it's not likely that many folks will read this in the end, so I doubt I need to sweat over it this much.) I’d also like to lead off by saying that just like anything I’m writing and will ever write, this content isn’t anything new. These writings are just a compilation of ideas I think are worth something to the worship community.

For the past decade or so leading worship in churches, I've considered one constant question with other leaders and pastors: how do we get more participation from the congregation during the musical worship time in church? It’s been something that’s puzzled a lot of us and there are a lot of theories out there, including a lot of correct theories. The issue in solving this dilemma is that every church is different in some way from the next one. However, I think there could be one underlying solution that is the first step to solving this in any church: the model of worship.

Soren Kierkegaard wrote about congregational worship well before I was born and noticed that there was a pattern in churches at that time that I believe we still have today. He noticed that there were three roles in worship: “Performers”, “Prompters” that direct the performers in what to do, and an “Audience” that enjoys the product. In many of the churches he studied, it seemed that the role of the Performer was filled by people on stage (a choir, instrumentalists, etc.), God was the prompter (today I’d say that many people would say technology would also play a role in prompting), and the congregation takes on the role of the Audience that enjoys the performance from the stage. However, Kierkegaard thought this shouldn’t be so, and I’d tend to agree with him.

He then proposed a new model where these roles are shifted. In his model, the players on stage serve as prompters, the congregants serve as performers, and God serves as the audience. Rather than worship being something for people to be entertained by, it's redirected toward the One we're meeting together to worship.

When I first heard of this idea, it immediately had some repercussions. No longer was the worship leader or the band present in a church service to put on a good performance or show, but our job was now to prompt and aid the congregation in pouring out worship to the Lord, who was the only audience. When one thinks of worship leading or serving in a worship team from that angle, it affects everything - what songs are played, the key they’re played in, the stage presence, even types of attitudes toward folks who just don’t want to participate.

When we put ourselves in the role of helping others worship, how can we get upset when people don’t want to worship with us? If anything, we should look to ourselves and see how we can better help them, better build relationships with them so there’s trust between the leader and those they desire to lead. I believe that if we get this one thing straight, it could do wonders for our churches and help us to become better servants.

What are some ways this could affect the way you lead? What systems would need to shift in order to better help people participate in worship?

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