When you’re on stage every week, it’s hard to get a feel of what it’s like to experience your weekend services from the seats. So a few Sundays ago, I took the day off from leading worship just to be a church attender. We have a great church. Both of our campuses provide an incredible experience executed with passion and excellence. The worship sounded awesome and the teaching was relevant, but something bothered me. As I looked around, I noticed that so many people were just standing and watching during corporate worship. I started asking some questions. Are other churches experiencing some of the same things? I asked dozens of ministry leaders around the country what they were seeing and I found out they are noticing the same things.
We have more great worship music today than in the history of the church. We have better technology in our churches than ever before. We have more apps and tools to enhance our worship experience, but less people are actually participating. How is that possible? It’s an epidemic that must change. So I wanted to share with you some steps we are taking at Stevens Creek Church to convert worship watchers to worship singers.
1. Make sure songs are singable
So many of the worship songs out there today are simply not singable. The melody isn’t memorable and has too many variations. They have five or six different sections making them more than 10 minutes long. I have about fifteen minutes for my entire setlist so I can’t sing a ten minute song. These songs can also be very wordy and the lyrics can only be interpreted by a Bible scholar.
What we’ve decided to do is to make sure we are singing songs with a melody that is simple and catchy. We want lyrics that make sense to people. We also try to sing it in a key that the average person can sing. I’m a professional musician, so if I have a hard time singing it or feel the song is too high, how can I expect the average singer to join in?
2. Limit the Amount of New Songs
I would love to introduce a new worship song every week, because I’m a worship music junkie and listen to it all of the time. But so much new music is hurting us more than it is helping us. The average churchgoer comes to church about 25 times a year - half the time. So some of our people might go months before hearing a song repeated at church. That’s not good.
We’ve decided to limit the amount of songs in our repertoire to 25. For six months we will only use those 25 songs in our services. I’m hoping this will help keep the best, most singable songs in our set lists and make them familiar to everyone attending.
3. Create A Worship Playlist
To reinforce this limited number of songs, we are creating a worship playlist of the songs on Spotify and Apple Music. Through our social media and from stage we will encourage people to listen to this playlist all during the week to help them become more familiar with the songs. Most people don’t listen to worship music during the week, and this is one way to help change that.
4. Create Teaching Moments
Set aside time in your worship sets to teach the congregation about worship. When else will they learn? Very rarely do we have a sermon series on worship and yet we expect people to know how to do it. I’ve decided to try and put a teaching moment in every service., usually between the second and third song. Now, I don’t mean you need to preach a sermon. That is not our job. However, we can have a quick story or a scripture that will encourage people in their worship.
5. It’s Not About You
This is a big one. Those of us who lead worship every week stand on a stage with fancy lights and cameras focused on us. Our images are magnified on giant screens. If we’re not careful, we can make the worship set all about us. And I’m afraid many times we do. Here’s what I do and what I encourage my team to do. Before the first note plays, we take a deep breath and take a step forward and simply pray like this: ‘God, I’m stepping out of myself and stepping into Your Presence. Allow people to see only You in everything I do. ‘If we can all genuinely come to that place of surrender, our worship time can only become better and better.