9 Reasons People Don’t Join in Worship Singing

1. They don’t know the songs…. 2. We are singing songs not suitable for congregational singing…. 3. We are singing in keys too high for the average singer…. 4. The congregation can’t hear people around them” - Church Leaders


I help lead singing in the praise team at church, and #9 hits me hard. Not the only thing that matters, but it hits me hard. For my part, here are some of the things I try to do to involve the congregation:

  • Glance from side to side around the congregation and see if I can make eye contact.
  • Smile when appropriate. Kids often give a great excuse.
  • Figure out what sex one is, and make a point of singing in an appropriate range for that voice. It can help when the men/women model the male/female ranges.
  • If you know how to harmonize, and you're not leading, harmonize. (leader needs to generally sing the melody in his octave)
  • Sing in an appropriate way for the subject matter.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

As someone who is chorally trained, but not a music leader, I look at your 4th bullet, and I’m reminded that many times sheet music is not provided for the new songs not in the hymnbook.

I can sing parts, and I can do so when they come easily by ear, or if they are written down. On new songs with no music provided, I’m often just trying to figure out the timing and melody before I can attempt singing parts. Not to mention that the way many newer songs are written, they are not intended for harmony lines, or if they have harmonies, they are not really easy to sing by ear given the accompaniment.

I realize not many people these days read music (and I don’t claim to be any kind of expert at it), but not making music sheets available on new songs makes it harder for those who can and want to sing to do so well.

Much of that article rings true, but making sure there is a fairly standard repertory to be used along with occasional new songs definitely helps congregational singing.

I’m not saying we should all start using The Sacred Harp and only sing songs from that source, but the way that style of music tried to train congregations to sing certainly helped audience participation, and the fact that everyone who sings from that book regularly is familiar with the songs helps quite a bit as well. When I visit churches and every song chosen is an old familiar one, I’ve noticed that audience participation goes way up. Even at my own church, it’s obvious that the worshippers join in much more readily on the old standards than on the latest new songs (which thankfully at my church are introduced sparingly).

I understand that learning new songs is helpful when trying not grow stale, but I get the feeling that we’ve thrown out so much of the familiar that people just decide that listening is the better choice compared to trying to participate poorly.

Dave Barnhart