I've been leading worship at my church since July (the same time the new minister came and modern worship made it's debut at the church). The church is old-fashioned, but one thing that really is challenging me is getting any expressiveness out of this congregation.
I know raising your hands in worship doesn't make you a better worshiper, but any kind of expressiveness would be a welcomed addition to our worship service. What can I do to break that barrier in this church? I really want everyone who attends our worship service (right now holding strong at just over 100) to feel God like I do when I'm leading worship.
I was in a similar boat that you're in when I first started to some extent. When you say old fashion church though do you mean either old fashioned in style? Or age?
One trick I've found to help foster links between congregant members who prefer an "old fashioned" style of worship instead of contemporary is to continue including old songs, "hymns, etc..." in the contemporary format. With so many great contemporary versions of hymns now that fit really well in modern worship settings I was able to usually do 1 hymn a week.
God bless you in your ministry, and I know if you keep trusting God, and just worshiping Him with an honest, open heart the congregation will learn to follow.
I also got some info from them on a few of their most favorite songs. I wasn't able to do all of them because some of the songs they liked were just too old fashioned, but just doing one, or two of them really opened them up to accepting the changes, and contemporary music in general.
Finally, in general, just doing songs the congregation can sing really well helped the most. Even though I had to train myself not to get bored with the songs, the congregation didn't sing or listen to the songs the amount that I did and so resisting the urge to do too many new songs, or just too many unfamiliar songs helped keep them engaged during worship.
This is a pretty old fashioned area, but it's also an older church. Prior to the modern worship the church was still doing some older hymns with piano accompaniment. Actually, we still do two hymns with piano. So it's a blended service. I have mixed feelings about it, but it seems to be working. I almost feel though, like it's keeping the old and the new separation.
We have done some contemporary versions of hymns. Right now we're stuck with backing tracks. But the minister and I are laying the ground work for the live music to come in. The praise team has been ready for it for a long time.
I've a few questions if you don't mind.
1--What are the people doing? Are they singing along or just standing/sitting there with arms folded and blank looks on their faces? Many are reluctant to raise hands and show any emotion at all in church if they didn't grow up with it and can take years to get comfortable enough to do it, especially if noone else is doing it, but if they are singing the new songs it's a good sign.
2--Was this change gradual or did everything change in a week or two? Also--was there any explanation as to why it happened or is it being seen as simply a preference? Change just to modernize the music isn't seen as life changing event, but change to grow your walk with God is.
3--Has the congregation remained the same people over the 9 or so month period or has there been massive turnover with people leaving and others coming in? If it's mostly the same congregation then they're more than likely on board with the change in style.
4--Is there anybody modeling what you're after? Are any singers raising their hands at all (if that's what you're after) or instrumentalists not playing at the moment doing so? Is the new minister doing so? I've found that more equals more--or more people doing it leads others to do it as well.
5--Have there been any sermons about biblical worship and what it entailed? There is freedom and joy in worshiping the king as compared to just singing songs. What helped our congregation immensely is having a service with more worship music than usual and having the sermon about why God calls us to worship and adore Him. A small series is even better.
I'll be praying for you on this one. Our small congregation went a long time in the wilderness and has just over the past 4-6 months seem to have acquired a new joy in worshipping. It took a LONG time in my mind, but God did the work.
1. People are singing, but there are some who don't. With a congregation of only a little over 100, the lack of voices is noticeable. A handful of people (usually the ones in the back and members of the praise teams) will raise their hands every now and then. But there is little expressiveness, similar to when hymns are sung during the blended part of the service. But most are singing the songs, especially if we repeat them a few weeks in a row (I only do this with whatever new song we're introducing). I have noticed the more laid back songs like "Blessed Be," "God of This City," and "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" go over the best.
2. The change happened all at once, when the new minister came aboard. Explanation has come in doses, through sermons. I know our minister has named next year "The Year of Worship," so I expect to see mountains moved. I think it's also been discussed in Sunday night Bible study, which gets about 20-30 people.
3. The congregation has for the most part stayed the same, but it has grown. The church average 60-70 before, now is over a 100.
4. There are a few showing expression and having fun. I think worship is such an opportunity to have fun with our Lord. To joyfully shout, sing, praise, and just fellowship with God. The kids in the youth group have fun, but are usually in the back or the balcony. The praise team has a few members who let loose and worship, and the minister takes a front row seat and occasionally raises his hands. As far as instrumentalists, we are using backing tracks right now. But the live music is in the works.
5. I agree. There is a difference between worship and singing. I think the "Year of Worship" is intended to clear up the issue, but almost a year is a long time to wait for that.
I can sympathize! My wife and I started a contemporary service at the beginning of our worship-leading career, and the frozen faces and postures got to be pretty disheartening week after week.
Nonetheless, when we finally got feedback from some of those in the congregation, it was a little unexpected: they were still trying to learn the songs (good thoughts from Cincinnati Musician above!), they didn't want to sing songs that they couldn't sing sincerely, they were really meditating on the lyrics. I was expecting to find out that they were just bored or disliked the song choices!
Not sure what the sentiments among your congregation might be, but if there's a way to solicit some feedback from some key members, you might gain some valuable insights into which practical issues you can work on.
Also, see if you can get those youth to sit up front! Let them know that they're a valuable part of the church body. I've heard so many elderly saints mention how encouraging and enlivening it is to them to see youth involved and engaged in the life of the church [that they may have helped start so many years ago...?]
At first the sentiment was "you're taking over our church." The you was the new minister, myself (who he brought aboard to lead), and the music. It was NOT welcomed with open arms by about 75% of the congregation. I thought it would just be the older members, but the loudest opponents were the baby boomers and the late 30-year-olds. But most of the opponents didn't sing the hymn either, so the participation just wasn't there. The only thing we've changed is the opening songs. We made it modern
worship. Still three songs, still a reading, still opening prayer.
Now, however, I'm starting to hear that more and more people enjoying the music. Usually the more laid back songs go over the best. God of This City, Blessed Be, Lord I Lift You Name, etc.
I have been begging the youth leaders to get the teens up front. But when they sit upfront, they do nothing. Probably because they know their parents are watching them. We do have a Youth Sunday coming up at the end of the month. Maybe I should connect with the Youth leaders to really do a series with the youth about the importance of worship.
I do think that if the people in the front let loose and enjoyed worshiping the Lord, that it would wave through the whole church.
I like to smile directly into the eyes of the hands-folded person. They know I'm a friend, not an agent of the Strange Worship Planet.
Watch-Out Dept.: I was just about to start a service by having everyone go to a different seat than their normal place, right after meet-and-greet, and thereby gain a fresh viewpoint. Pastor, with a shocked expression on his face, quickly vetoed this -- he saw crucifixion of him, me or both of us! He informed me 1) how fiercely some territories are marked, and 2) Pastors actually like knowing where their people sit - it helps them remember who was in church and who wasn't. I looked at him, and said, with true thankfulness, "Thank You for saving me."
I must say that, based on your responses to these questions, you are absolutely on the right track. If the congregation for the most part is singing and a few are raising hands and such, then this is a good sign that the tide is changing. the big indicator for me is that the attendance has grown. If new people are attending your church and older memebers staying then I would say you are doing a good job so far of transition. It absolutely just takes time, in some cases years to get a congregation comfortable with expressing themselves more openly in worship. don't expect or ask for too much too quickly. they are still trying to accept and settle into the new worship style(that is a BIG deal), so take it one step at a time.
Robby the way you laid it out does make me feel better. My big worry was that new people who are seeking a real worship experience aren't getting it. I've heard from a few people who have come and gone, because they didn't feel comfortable expressing themselves. But I know each church has a season.
Thanks for the encouragement and for laying it out like you did.
Bruce, that was a typo. I fixed it in the discussion. I meant that I know raising your DOESN'T make you a better worshiper. What a time to make that typo. Lol. Sorry for the confusion. I in no way want to shove outwardly expressive worship on anyone.
If raising your hands without worship coming from the heart is what is happening, then it probably is meaningless. In Psalm 134:2 it says to "Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord." Obedience to the word of God will help you be a better worshiper, and a "sacrifice of praise" is good even when someone does not "feel like it." That is the only scripture that I knew about this for years, and it totally set me free in worship. A while back I google searched the word praise and was astounded! I have copied it for you:
Hebrew words for praise:
Halal is a primary Hebrew root word for praise. Our word "hallelujah" comes from this base word. It means "to be clear, to shine, to boast, show, to rave, celebrate, to be clamorously foolish."
Praise (halal) ye the Lord, praise (halal) o ye servants of the Lord, praise (halal) the name of the Lord.
Praise (halal) the Lord! Praise (halal) God in his sanctuary; Praise (halal) him in his mighty expanse.
Let them praise (halal) his name in the dance: let them sing praises with the timbrel and harp.
(Other references: 1Chr 2)
Yadah is a verb with a root meaning, "the extended hand, to throw out the hand, therefore to worship with extended hand." According to the Lexicon, the opposite meaning is "to bemoan, the wringing of the hands."
Give thanks (yadah) to the Lord, for his lovingkindness is everlasting.
So I will bless thee as long as I live; I will (yadah) lift up my hands in thy name.
Oh that men would praise (yadah) the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men.
Towdah comes from the same principle root word as yadah, but is used more specifically. Towdah literally means, "an extension of the hand in adoration, avowal, or acceptance." By way of application, it is appratent in the Psalms and elsewhere that it is used for thanking God for "things not yet received" as well as things already at hand.
Offer unto God praise (towdah) and pay thy vows unto the Most High.
Whoso offereth praise (towdah) glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.
Shabach means, "to shout, to address in a loud tone, to command, to triumph."
O clap your hands, all peoples; shout (shabach) to God with the voice of joy (or triumph).
One generation shall praise (shabach) thy works to another and declare thy mighty acts.
Cry aloud and shout (shabach) for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
Barak means "to kneel down, to bless God as an act of adoration."
O come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel (barak) before the Lord our maker.
Then David said to all the assembly, "Now bless (barak) the Lord your God." And all the assembly blessed (barak) the Lord, the God of their fathers, and bowed low and did homage to the Lord and to the king.
I will bless (barak) the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
Zamar means "to pluck the strings of an instrument, to sing, to praise; a musical word which is largely involved with joyful expressions of music with musical instruments.
Be exalted O Lord, in Thine own strength, so will we sing and praise (zamar) Thy power.
Sing to Him, sing praises (zamar) to Him; speak of all His wonders.
Awake my glory; awake harp and lyre, I will awaken the dawn! I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord among the peoples; I will sing praises (zamar) to Thee among the nations.
Tehillah is derived from the word halal and means "the singing of halals, to sing or to laud; perceived to involve music, especially singing; hymns of the Spirit.
Yet Thou art holy, O Thou who art enthroned upon the praises (tehillah) of Israel.
Rejoice in the Lord, o ye righteous, for praise (tehillah) is comely for the upright.
To grant to those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise (tehillah) instead of the spirit of fainting, So they shall be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
Wow. Thank you so much! I want to start working my way through these... thank you. I've been praying a lot these past few days over everyone's comments and suggestions. God is really leading me to incorporate more scripture into worship. His words can speak louder than mine, so I'm going to start focusing there. This is a huge help!