You're leading worship on Sunday morning and you're trying to tell if your congregation is engaged - as you're singing and playing. And for you and in your context, you probably have an idea of what "engaged" means. And if you feel that your congregation isn't engaged, do you do something to try to pull them in?
- What does "engaged" look like for your congregation? What is the expectation in your context? Hands lifted? Eyes closed? Clapping? Swaying? Eyes open?
- What do you do to try to "open them up"? (If anything.)
I always enjoy seeing different "styles" for worship. I was at Tony Evans' church back in 1987 when he was meeting in a high school gymn. The worship was very spirited and rich with people swaying and clapping, but it wasn't out of control. But I've been in churches where the worship leader closes his eyes and everything is very meditative and contemplative. I spent some time in an Anglican church and it was somewhat "unspirited", the hymns being more or less "theological poetry" set to music - plenty to think about. It seems that there is an informal definition and expectation of how worship ought to look in a given congregation.
I'm not sure the style matters, I'm just curious how you see it and what you do to encourage participation.
Because I believe that good things happen when we unify the praises of God's people, congregation engaged = congregation singing. I don't believe a believer is able to sing God's praises for 10-15 minutes without having his or her heart changed, renewed, strengthened, encouraged and all that.
Of course, my challenge as a worship leader is to keep things going till they get to that point. Once they get there, however, you have quite a bit of freedom. Lots of other stuff (like the quiet meditative comtemplation things, for example) work well after that. By working well, I mean that the people are still participating (obviously or not) even though I am not actively trying to get them to do something.
Not very sophisticated model of worship ministry, but it works for me. :)
I look for eyes lighting up, smiles, and a certain hopeful feeling in the air (perhaps people stand a little straighter when they are involved -- I know I do). Coming to this long-established Methodist body from an Assembly (where sometimes if people had been praying that week, striking the first two chords ignites a power keg), is a change of atmosphere. Beautiful, thoughtful, gentle-hearted people, but few, in the pews or on the worship team, are remotely demonstrative. We'd really like to do "O Happy Day" with some clapping on afterbeats; if my wife stops playing the keyboard and claps, they obediently pick it up, but rarely keep going for more than eight measures on their own. But I see the faces affirming the joy of God with us, and I hear verbal responses from people - "you're teaching us to sing these songs, not just listen to somebody sing them."
So at this point, for me, that's engagement.
Speaking as one who does not provide worship for the same congregation each week..............I don't consciously use any tactics to engage with a congregation during worship. I do however, always pray about it and although I am a pretty hopeless speaker, I try to make people feel comfortable before we start, by smiling and making eye contact.
I realise that a long while ago, this prompted a discussion on WTR, but I always suggest to the congregation that they should worship the Lord in whatever way feels comfortable to them, ie. hands up, sitting, standing............
At our church we believe that if people aren't participating in our worship offering of music: IE, just standing around, they aren't engaged.
In Holy Scripture, most words that represent worship involve some form of physical and outward expression. So we don't think we are leading people correctly if they are just standing around.
Over the last two years we have been studying the congregation to see how they worship God during our music worship offering. As a group we are a bunch of stiff crackers (slang totally intended here). So our worship pastor has been working on picking songs that the congregation as a whole engage more naturally AND he is working on teaching the congregation that raising hands, prayer, and other physical expressions are appropriate for our worship offering to God.
The hope with any body is that the leadership can mature it's congregation to the point that they can worship and engage no matter what style of music is playing.
Members who leave because the music isn't right need to be lost.
Tailoring music to what people want is worse than playing with fire. It is playing with idols!
I've attended churches where the music is terrible. In those cases, I did my best contribute positively to their efforts. Even as a member of the community - when a church asks for help - I'll give them help.
In the case of any church, if there isn't a place for me to serve and contribute - I'm outta there (visiting churches is another deal). If I can't serve there, I shouldn't be there.