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.



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Good idea!  I don't know your church, but to me it's always a good idea when people of different culture-sets can make music together.

During August our church combines the two old & new-style services into a single service, so there's more shoulder-rubbing, and it's a good thing; but still, attendance is lower than the separate services would have been, even in high summer (in Washegon, it's ridiculous to leave the state, or even your wooded front yard, for a vacation!).  Some folks stay away, so their ears do not hear the Other music. 

Praying often -- yes, that's the best way I can think to putting an end to "sides" and "being on sides."

When I first took over the worship I sat down and made a list of all the barriers to worship.  I broke it down into 3 layers/categories and then broke those categories down further.  I looked at the physical layer, the emotional layer and the Spiritual layer.

The physical layer involved the band, sound system and media delivery.  How well is the band prepared?  Is the music too loud, too soft?  How is the mix?  I also looked at the physical environment.  How long am I asking people to stand?  Is the temp in the room comfortable?  Can they read the font on the screen?  Is it pleasing to the eye?  I wanted to eliminate any physical distraction that I possibly could.


Then I looked at what is the emotional state of my congregation, my band and me?  What can I do to help them clear their heads to move into worship?  What can I reasonably expect from them?  Etc.


Finally, I looked at the Spiritual layer of how I prepare for worship, how my band members prepare and how the congregation prepares.    You get the idea.


I spent a great deal of time pondering all this stuff.  In the end a few things came to me that have stuck with me. 

  • Pray for your congregation.  Pray that God will touch their hearts.  I always open my worship with prayer for the worship, no matter what the structure of the service.  It centers me and it centers the congregation.
  • Love your congregation. At least for me I realized that some people can be real pains in the butt!  I know this is not supposed to be part of worship, but when you look out at some of those faces of people who are grumpy or give you a hard time you can silently telegraph angst.  I had to get rid of that.
  • Let go.  I had to let go of being self-conscious.  I had to let go of wondering what the congregation was thinking.  I had to let go of my desire for perfection even if it was for the LORD.   This was hard because I felt He deserves perfection.  In the end He deserves our adoration and love which is often more messy.  When I was able to let go, it gave the congregation permission to let go as well.


In the end I realize that God has it all under control and the less I worry and the more I give it up to Him the better it seems to go.  We may not always “feel” the Holy Spirit working.  This clicked for me after I heard a man relating a story about a mission trip where he was asked to pray for someone’s healing.  He confessed that when he prayed his heart wasn’t in it and he was thinking about how tired and hungry he was.  When he went back the following year with the same mission team he was met by the woman who had begged for his prayer.  She thanked him profusely for healing her daughter.  Sometimes God chooses to work through us even when we don’t “feel” Him working.  [sorry for the long post]

I had to let go of being self-conscious.  I had to let go of wondering what the congregation was thinking....When I was able to let go, it gave the congregation permission to let go as well.


This is very powerful. I'm finding this to be the same for me. This may actually be the essence of what we do - when we are vulnerable, it seems to help them let go as well.

Totally!  I think it isn’t as much about demonstrating how to worship because we all worship differently.  It’s about demonstrating how to give yourself fully over to the one who created you and creating a safe environment where the congregation has permission comfortably to let down their guard.

Exactly, that's what I'm sensing lately.
Yes - you can't fire when shields are up!  (If you're insulating yourself from God, your worship will pretty much all bounce back to you).


For me, I don’t really feel I need to insulate myself from God so much as from my congregation.  I know God will not hurt me but my congregation is another story.  So when I speak of letting go it is 2 fold.  I already know how to let go in the presence of God.   I do it in my personal worship times but it’s hard to demonstrate that same connection out in public.  I have my personal “inner court” so to speak with the LORD.   During corporate worship, I have to then go to that place that I go to when I worship alone, forcing myself to let go of the fear of how my fellow congregants will perceive my actions.  I also have to let go any emotion connected to their response both during the worship and after the service when some feel the need to give their critique. 


What you say is very true.

The 'worship bouncing back' would be, accurately, more the realm of the Pharisee who lives in his own little world.  The conundrum of the person who really wants to worship God, both for one's own sake and the sake of providing an example for the congregation, is that intense personal worship may well cut us off from normal ways of leading people (hence, the discussion, "do you lead worship with your eyes closed?").  I suppose the fear of possible perceptions hinders us more than the actual perceptions of us.

I've visited Critiqueville; it's not a happy place.

You know when I really analyze it you are really doing two things at once.    You are in that God place, but yet still conscious of where the congregation is and trying to bring them along.  It is kind of like when you play an instrument in a different rhythm then you are singing or figuring out a harmony on the fly while playing a countermelody.

My wife ventured 'several things at once" - the act of making music, of harmonizing with and guiding others in same, of Jack and Stella in the third pew and what this song might do for them, of what the song doesn't seem to be doing for Oskar Ingvist and his crowd, of the entire congregation as a group, of a sudden realization of what the song really means, of all sorts of things.
I'm  rolling on the floor laughing at this one! I fellow trek-ie.  What a great analogy!

Gosh- I totally got the reference but somehow it didn't move that far into the conscious.  Now had you mentioned Tribbles....



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