It’s a dilemma as old as time…well, maybe not as old as time, but definitely as old as congregational singing.
How do we as leaders encourage our congregants to join in singing when it seems like participation is at an all-time low?
First things, first we do need to establish that congregational singing is good and beneficial. We know from the Psalms that singing praise to the Lord IS good. We know that the Lord inhabits the praises of His people. We know that according to the New Testament that singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is good for building up the Body of Christ.
Congregational singing IS a good thing. Here are ways to encourage it:
Pray and research what songs ARE the heartbeat and pulse of your congregation. Believe it or not, they might actually be songs that are NOT ones that are on your radar. Feel free to poll different people in your congregation and ask them what songs they love! Be specific, ask them which old songs they love, but don’t neglect to ask them which NEW songs they love. You might be surprised!
Be intentional about planning your setlists so that there are moments where people can just throw their heads back and sing heartily. For many churches, that looks like a chorus of drums and vocals. For others, it might look like an a cappella arrangement of an old hymn. You don’t have to modernize every old song to make it singable. Sing it with just an acoustic guitar or piano accompaniment. Contrary to popular belief, many times when people CAN hear the whole room singing, they are likely to join in!
Carve out spaces in your setlist that promote and encourage group singing. Choose songs that are either very familiar or that are very simple and singable. Or choose both!
Don’t neglect this important step. This should be happening as you ASK and as you CRAFT. If you desire an environment of hearty singing in your musical worship, ask God to move. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate leader of worship and when He move on hearts and minds it’s better than any human step we can take. Ask God to inspire your people to gratitude and thanksgiving (which is a great springboard for worship).