Ever wonder why your congregation isn’t singing? Your songs may be the culprit.
Find a congregational praise song with a great melody and lyrics and you’re set, right? Not quite. Many new worship songs only sound good when sung by professional singers, not average congregations. I believe this is one of the biggest problems with today’s music, and why your congregation might not be singing like you think they should.
Right now, pick up a songbook with the latest cutting-edge worship songs. Just look at the typical melody — it’s a syncopated frenzy, and probably way out of your congregation’s vocal range. How can the average person sing that? They can’t, at least not with any confidence. And isn’t one of our goals as worship leaders to encourage our congregations to sing, and sing with all they’ve got?
The next time you sing one of these hot songs in your church, listen closely to the congregation (or record the service.) You’ll probably be shocked to hear your congregation struggling to keep up.
One time at my previous church I led worship from the keyboard for a small prayer meeting of about 20 people, and my eyes and ears were opened. One chorus in particular was a complete train wreck — no one could follow the melody because almost every note was on the off beat. I hadn’t noticed during church with the band blaring, but the problem was quite obvious in this casual setting. The song had great words and a nice melody, but the extreme syncopation was nearly impossible for the average person to sing. From then on I tried to select songs that were reasonably simple to sing and within a normal vocal range. Maybe that’s why hymns are making such a comeback – they’re full of quarter notes!
Size up your congregation, too. A church body filled with 20- and 30-year-olds can handle much more adventurous songs than an older congregation. If your congregation is rhythmically challenged, find songs that, while still contemporary, can bridge the gap. “Our God” and “Here I Am to Worship” are so popular because they come from the more contemporary world yet can cross over to more traditional settings – they’re simply singable.
Bottom Line: Choosing worship songs that are singable by normal mortals will create a more unified, participatory worship experience for your church.