Why Don't We Sing In Worship?

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Below is an online article that caught my eye a couple of weeks ago.  Since then it has received numerus comments and thoughts on congregational singing.

We go through spells on what is good congregational singing and what encourages our particular congregations to sing in worship.  If you are like me, you are always striving to strike a balance between familiar, new, Biblical, thematic, liturgical, and pastoral when we plan worship for our congregation.  

Looking at the article there seems to be a trend that men don't sing because they are unfamiliar with new songs, and women half-heartedly mumble the words.  What does that say for worship planners?  And how does that bring glory to God?  What is your approach to new songs?  And are we glorifying ourselves and not allowing God to be glorified through the congregation?

The article seems to point at a contemporary worship style, but let's not kid ourselves, some hymns aren't exactly "user friendly" either.  So it goes both ways, a "new song" doesn't necessarly mean contemporary.

I invite you to read the short article and give your thoughts and feedback.

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Participant

i concur with a lot of the sentiments in this article. Of course, I personally like singing and am a choir member, and have been most of my life but young men and boys as well as women are not being encouraged to sing. Many churches overwhelm anyone who would like to sing along with amplified singers up front, loud instruments, and singers who may be so good they intimidate or discourage congregational singing. the worship leaders should have as a goal, increasing congregational participation, and what they say and how they present their musical offerings can help to achieve this. I feel that their mandate should be to encourage and enhance this participation, not to stage a concert.

Interesting article. It is really nice when a new song is repeated over several weeks so that everyone has the chance to become familiar with it.

Community Builder

As you said, we try to balance our song choices between familiar and new, while keeping all our songs Biblical, liturgical, etc.

As you noted, there's sometimes a tendency to point fingers at contemporary worship style singing but I would question that. We definitely got resistance as we introduced a praise band and new songs, but slowly we learned to acknowledge when a song was new and to try to help the congregation learn it by playing/singing it through first, and so on.

I don't think that amplified singing has to necessarily mean the congregation won't sing. Even if it feels like a concert to some of us, look at all the singing and dancing along that concert-goers do! I think the leaders, no matter what the style, can work on intentional ways to encourage congregational participation in the singing.

I have noticed the men-not-singing phenomenon myself, even with my own sons. For my sons it seems like it took a certain maturity level. I think it also helped that my husband and the rest of the men in our families set the example by always singing. Maybe we can be more intentional in our churches about that, too.

Participant

I heartily agree with most of your comments. The inappropriate use of bands and worship leaders could lead to problems, but could also be solutions. The song leaders should have as a goal increasing and encouraging congregational participation and learning of unfamiliar songs and tunes. I wish that other men would be moved to participate in singing and so express their feelings in worship. Your idea of participating yourself to encourage your sons is a good idea, and we need to find the key that unlocks that desire to get involved this way. Worship needs our response to God, and this can be done in song.

Has it occured to anyone else that something as old fashioned as four part harmony means there is a place, and a need, for everyone in the music?

Participant

Yes, I appreciate 4-part music as well.  The deisre to read music and to sing in 4-part harmony is not encouraged much.  But I do give credit to contemporary musicians that they do write a 4-part harmony now for choirs, etc. so that it can be realized in today's music.  I just wish that it was made public and encouraged to sing in the public forum and in worship.

 

Some months ago I recall an article on why Millennials are leaving the church, especially the megachurch, in droves--something I see happening right in our neighborhood. One comment among others by a respondent was "they will not tolerate any longer going to services where the platform team worships on their behalf." It seems like that's right on the money: very little of this is about style or genre of music, but rather about taking the voice of the congregation away from them. 

I've been a church musician for over 35 years (organ, piano, praise team) and have sadly observed the decline of congregational singing.  I agree with the majority of the online article.  In addition, however, I wonder why we've overlooked the fact that many of our congregants can actually read music or can at least understand the basics of how musical notes show us how, what and when to sing.  The lack of viewable musical notation restricts our ability to learn a new song (or remember a forgotten one).  When only the words are posted on the screen, it often makes for nice poetry... and confused singing.  

As a musician, I used to be able to stop playing in the middle of a familiar song and listen to our congregation sing acapella in 4 part harmony and, because the notes were in front of the members, the 4 parts were 4 parts.  We didn't have 8 versions of an improvised tenor line, with 6 "guesses" as to what the alto should sound like.  The absence of notes restricts our ability to learn new music, to sing harmony in harmony, and places far too much emphasis on the leadership of the musician or music team.  As a result, our teams/musicians are forced to "perform" as opposed to "accompany" -- a big difference!  I believe that worship would be enhanced  if churches project the actual musical score (even if it's only a melody line) or, when appropriate, refer to a hymnal.  Teams  can teach new songs and musicans can "lead" congregations through unfamiliar ones but, without the common map that notes provide, chaos, confusion, frustration and apathetic singing are more likely to occur.

Participant

There is someone who does this very thing as a service to churches, etc.  www.digitalsongsandhyms.com They incldue the notes and the words to songs in a legible and easy to follow PowerPoint.  

It is possible, and it does encourage 4-part when the music permits.

Participant

Thanks for this note. Some of our screen operators use this, but I was wondering about the website.

Community Builder

Did you know our own new hymnal, "Lift up Your Hearts," provides materials to project both music and words? Take a look at this web page with examples. We're planning a hymnfest in the fall to introduce this new hymnal at our church. I'm looking forward to exploring the new songs and resources such as this. (I know it sounds like a shameless plug, but I'm not on the editorial staff or anything. Just a participating worship team member. :))

Participant

We don't yet have the projection version of the new hymnal, but are starting to use and teach the new hymnal materials. Thanks for the website

Participant

Correction to the website:  www.digitalsongsandhymns.com.