By Ryan McLouth
Have you ever noticed that congregations seem to participate less in singing in recent years? This is a growing challenge that churches should be addressing sooner than later. Part of the issue is that we as leaders don’t always know what the cause is, or we make assumptions. There can be many reasons that people don’t sing and even more possible solutions. The best place to start is in communicating with the congregation. Do they know that they should be singing? Moreover, do they know why they should be singing?
In teaching your congregation why they should be singing along, scripture is never a bad place to start. Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16). This is one of many examples of Christians being called to sing in fellowship with each other.
John Wesley also provides us some guidelines for corporate song in worship. Many of you are probably familiar with his Directions for Singing. These seven steps (found in the back of many hymnals) provide us not only with a way to motivate worshipers to sing but also a checklist to ensure that we participate for the glory of God:
- 1. Learn these tunes before any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.
- Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have to learn to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.
- Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
- Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.
- Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
- Sing in time. Whatever time be sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.
- Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.