7 Tips for Increasing Congregational Participation

Kevin Cook says church members passively observe as the church leaders put on their worship service.

One of the biggest issues with church culture today is congregational participation. Church members walk through the doors, find a seat, sit back, and passively observe as the church leaders put on their worship service. They stand and watch the worship leaders perform their songs. They sit and watch the new trendy video message that somehow plays into the morning message. Then they listen to the preacher give his talk, stand for a closing song, and go to lunch.

Every good pastor and worship leader wants to find ways to engage their congregation more effectively and to get people to participate in worship. We need to go back to some basic principals in our worship planning. So here are 7 tips to help get your congregation back into participating in worship.


Every contemporary worship leader wants to play the hottest new song. New songs are great, and trust me, I know what Psalm 96 says. But the truth is, your worship leader is going to have far more knowledge of new music than your congregation. If we want our congregations to sing along in worship, its a simple matter of practicality – they can’t sing what they don’t know. 90% of your worship music should be songs that your congregation is familiar with. Do not introduce a new song every week – at most, if you go through a lot of songs, a new song every two or three weeks.

Further, when introducing a new song, make sure it is something that any non-singer can sing along with. Just because Chris Tomlin can sing high G’s all day long doesn’t mean everyone in your congregation can; it’s okay to change the key. Same thing with melodies: if the tune jumps around more than Aaron Neville, it might not be a good song for congregational worship.


Music is a language. It is simply a means to an end, the means being a mode of communication and the end being glory and praise to God. Whatever language your members are comfortable with, be it Charles Wesley on the organ or Hillsong United on the electric guitar, that’s how they know and prefer to communicate in worship – it’s their worship language. Make sure you are all on the same page. And if there legitimately are multiple pages within your congregation, well that’s when its appropriate to have multiple services with different styles. It’s not about the music – God doesn’t care about the musical style. It’s about the people and taking away barriers that hinder them from worshiping Jesus.


There’s one theory that says if you turn your volume up loud enough for people to not be able to hear themselves, it will encourage them to sing out more because they won’t be self-conscious. Then there’s another theory says that if you keep your volume low enough so that people can hear their neighbors, they will be encouraged to sing more by the congregational chorus of voices. Well then, what do we say about this?

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