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Jun 30

How we got the church singing again.

I have read quite a few articles on why people have stopped singing in church lately.

Recently we experienced a transition. Well, really, it seems our church has been in a 5 year transition. In 2009 the church survived a split. A driving factor in the divide was worship. It came down to worship and power. These are usually two terrible problems when they come to the boiling point of exacerbation leading to hurt. When I came to the church, FBC had gone from two services to one.  Most in the contemporary service left with the previous pastor. What was left in the contemporary service combined with the traditional service. A precious sweet lady at the church was leading it all. She did a great job. The church went to two services again, but we did not have a strictly contemporary or traditional style. We blended with a lean. I knew the Lord had prompted me to design worship with a “blend of music.” Some church growth experts would say “don’t do that but target who you want to reach.” That sounds good, but it no always the answer. Yet the blend did not work as we wanted. How did we know it was not working?

Our people were not singing. They were not clearly meeting God in our worship services. One way of saying it is “we knew something was missing.”

How did we fix it? In the past 4 Sundays our services have had the clear presence of God. People are singing. On June 22, I had the best worship experience I have had at FBC.

What changed? How did we get our church singing again?

1. Prayer. Over a year ago we began focusing on praying. A sense of the Spirit was not overwhelming in our services. I knew it. I read of Spurgeon’s boiler room. Then I started a boiler room. And our people began praying. We are experiencing the answered prayers of over a year ago.

2. Planning. We have rearranged our approach to planning.

  • We admitted something was wrong. 
  • We had too many people on the stage at one time. This made the sound hard to manage.
  • Harmony in vocals was almost useless. Our instruments were to many and too loud.
  • We moved from an opening prayer in rehearsal to a season of praying prefaced with scripture.
  • A new leader stepped up and prayerfully selected songs that we knew people would sing. We pick what the Spirit prompts. If a song does not work, then we scrap it and seek God’s direction.
  • Prayer permeates the rehearsal. We have stopped coming in with a plan, running through songs, then going home. Our team now will stop and pray in the song or the leader will pray through the song or during the song. It’s great.
  • Our team plans together. We are not two or three separate teams. Our vocalists, our media team, and our band are all one team. We ensure each part complements the other. No one is left hanging. We walk through it all.

3. Purpose. We have embraced a principle – excellence honors God and inspires people.”   Any pastor will tell you managing worship can be a headache. Pleasing people is tough. It can’t be exactly done. Yet at FBC I have come to the place where my burden is this: God’s people must meet Him in worship at FBC. I’m committed to that. And in doing that here is how we design worship.

  • Start with hymns done so that people tap a toe, clap a hand, sing out because they know the song, and are motivated with a “softball song” at the beginning. I’m in a resort area. So we have many older people. The way to get them to embrace new music is the do the hymn music first. Do it with vibrancy. When that happens, they will be more receptive to the new. We are seeing it work.
  • Get a song list of 20-25 songs they know and use those for awhile.
  • Turn the volume down so the people can hear themselves sing.
  • Use a rotating team and tell people you are doing that.
  • Use new songs, but use them with excellence and wisdom.
  • Be Spirit led. Pray in the service with a sense of “we are approaching the throne” and “we are seeking God’s face.” When people know the Pastor and the team have been with God, they respond.

A large church does not have the same challenge of a small or medium size church. If you are struggling in worship, THE PASTOR MUST LEAD.

Do you agree with what we have done? Can a blended worship work? Or not?

  • Teresa Barnett

    I’m very excited about your approach in sincerely seeking the spirit of God through prayer and blending that with wisdom and doing what works. As a worship leader I don’t know many hymns, but I believe they have been and can be an important medium for blending worship with the gospel. We are careful to pick songs that resonate with the gospel and not just an awesome experience. We want both; to awesomely experience the depths of the gospel. I really appreciate and needed to hear some of the things you have learned and communicated here. Thank you!

  • Alan Stoddard

    Teresa thanks for sharing. I will probably write more on this, but we actually have designed a “delivery” and “form” that is working for all. The form is important we have found. I agree with you. Both! A worship experience in “music” that helps people meet God is crucial, but we also must remember the gospel in preaching. Without the church meeting God, their hearts are not as tenderized for reception of the word.

    Pray for us. God is at work. Love you and Bobby.

  • Jennifer Rebekah Billis-Gehrke

    I like this very much. The thing that stands out to me is when you told us that people suggest that we tailor our music to who we want to attract. It seems to me that you would want to attract not just one group of people. Old and young alike. Without old we would loose the wisdom and experience of Christians who are mature and been through the fire and survived. Without the young we would loose energy and enthusiasm and the ability to do a lot of the things that reach people. The church would die off. I think your inclusive plan for music is wisdom with a view of the big picture in mind…Well done.