Part I: Would You Like Your Church to Sing More?
Have you ever been a participant in a worship service where—by taking in the people in the seats around you—you feel like you’re at a concert where no one knows any of the songs? Some churches have a culture where people merely gawk at the stage taking in the “awesome” on display. And there are certainly churches with less-than-awesome worship arts on display who are facing the same problem!
So can we fix it? My guess is that many leaders who serve at churches that don’t sing explain it away as a spiritual matter that can only be resolved by a moving of God’s Spirit. Certainly, it’s a spiritual matter and true worship will always emerge through the work of God’s Spirit. However, many of us just need to get out of our church’s way! Here are the first 2 of 4 tips (visit the follow-up blog post and read about the other 2) I’ll give on how to encourage your church to sing:
1. Stop using Chris Tomlin’s key signature!
Most male recording artists—regardless of how good a worship leader they are—record their albums in a register that the average human cannot aspire to sing in. Female artists are often altos and, thus, tend to write in more reasonable keys (though occasionally they fall too low). Few of our churches these days are blessed with parishioners who each know how to hear/sing the part that best fits their vocal range. Thus, most of them will only sing the melody and that makes it very important for us to place the melody in a reasonable range. Tools like CCLI’s SongSelect make it very easy to adjust keys to an appropriate range. Open a lead sheet and adjust the key until the melody generally falls in an octave range somewhere between C & C.
For many of us, this will mean setting aside our personal preferences—even at the expense of vocal quality. In another life, I sang bass in a collegiate southern gospel quartet and my comfort range falls lower than most folks’. So I always choose to place the song toward the top of my range so that it’s in a safe range for my church. Alto leaders, you may need to do the same. Tenors and sopranos may have to lead toward the bottom of their range to accommodate their churches. Can I suggest that it’s much, much more important for your church to feel comfortable singing than it is for you to sound your very best? After all, it is really all about them worshipping…not just watching us do it!
2. ASK them to participate. What a novel idea, huh?! Sounds overly simple but, if you commit to making strategic asks, I think you’ll be surprised at how well your church responds. Take advantage of songs they should know really well to step back from the mic and ask them to “take it away” for a verse, a chorus or more. Ask them to clap on a new song. Ask them to read scripture with you. Ask them to give a shout. Encourage them to lift their hands if they can identify with the message of the song. You get the idea, right? A lot of times I get GREAT results from just exclaiming, “Sing it out!” Be strategic with your asks, though. If you’re church is typically a bit less active than a knot on a log, you probably won’t make much progress by asking them to jump about or dance! But asking them to clap a little or raise a hand might just be appropriate. Finally, just make sure what you say is not a distraction from our purpose of worship!
Have you had success getting your church to sing? Tell us about it! Two more tips in this follow-up blog post…