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Are We Expected to Sing? or Not?

Are We Expected to Sing? or Not?

Does the congregation you lead in worship know when they are to sing and when they are not? Apparently, in many churches, this is not very clear. This week, a friend of mine asked me to help him understand what is expected of him in corporate worship in a certain circumstance. As we talked, I realized he was directly addressing one of the points I made in my post, Nine Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship.

#6  The congregation feels they are not expected to sing. As worship leaders, we often get so involved in our professional production of worship that we fail to be authentic, invite the congregation into the journey of worship, and then do all we can to facilitate that experience in singing familiar songs, new songs introduced properly, and all sung in the proper congregational range.

My friend told me that the singers in the worship team at his church often aren’t clear as to whether or not the congregation is supposed to be singing at a given time in worship. This past week, during one of the songs, a particular worship team member sang a solo while the other team members did not sing and placed their attention on the soloist. The words to the songs were still being displayed on the screen. The congregation was not sure whether to quit singing and listen to the soloist, or to continue actively worshipping by singing the song along with the singer. They were receiving mixed messages.

I see this happen quite often in churches across the world. Having a different singer featured on a certain song or verse of a song enhances the sound of the song. This is certainly something I incorporate in times of worship. The problem in many cases is that the worship team seems to indicate (perhaps unintentionally) that this song or part of the song is not to be sung by the congregation. When a different singer takes the lead and the others cease singing, it would seem to indicate that the congregation should also quit singing–after all, the primary worship leader quit singing.

If that is not your intention, and you want people to continue to sing, then there are some things you can do to keep the congregation actively engaged in worship:

  1. When the soloist is singing, ALL team members should continue to sing, but not on the mics. The fact that people can see you engaged in singing would indicate that the expectation is for them to continue. People still hear the nice sound of the featured soloist, but there is not the confusion of whether to sing or not.
  2. The soloist could give a gesture or verbal cue to invite the congregation to join them in singing.
  3. A brief verbal transition over the introduction or bridge material could encourage the people to sing along.

In making it clear to the congregation that they should continue singing, the variety of vocal sounds can still be utilized without sacrificing participation by the people.

This week, pay close attention to your verbal and non-verbal cues in worship leading. Are you inviting the people to be active participants in worship or leading them to be passive spectators?

About The Author

Kenny Lamm

Worship Consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. A frequent worship clinician and guest worship leader. Extensive work in worship renewal in several Asian countries.


  1. Patti Bilial

    I really don’t like the music in churches now and I believe dancing is just wrong.I refuse to sing and dance.I may go back to church after this virus is over, but I refuse to sing and dance.I hate how you’re expected to pretend that you’re happy. With hymns, you are free to be sad if you want.Nobody expects you to be dancing.I don’t think worship is about to be about having a good time.How is that respectful? Bring back the organ and the hymns.I really don’t think that loud and showy worship pleases God. You’re just having a good time.Why can’t you just do that stuff at home? I don’t like concerts.Dont bring electric guitars and rock n roll instruments into a church.All you need is an organ or a piano..And hymnal behind the pews.Lets not have folding chairs.We aren’t in a school assembly, we are in church and a church must have pews. I hate today’s church.It needs to straighten up and fly right.Quit worrying about being popular.

  2. Robert Olson

    This is not just a Contemporary Praise Band Issue. New Hymnals with worldly teachings in unattainable keys are also working into our congregation. The Contemporary and Liturgical services are both spectator events now. Is this due to the leaders losing sight of their calling?

  3. Cenit Cosio

    Love this article! So needed. Greetings from Panama

  4. Brandy

    I am currently a beginner worship leader, and right now I’m the only one singing, I wasn’t looking to sing, but I was called to sing, and not only am I scared, but with us being small, and I’m the only one singing, with no instruments, singing along with songs,I can’t seem to get it together, and I’m discouraged, I cry every time I get off, I feel like I’m drowning, and God’s not with me, and ppl look just as lost when I’m singing. . I don’t know what to do, sometimes I just wanna quit all together

    • Ann

      Brandy, do you have friends in the congregation? Maybe you can talk to them about your fears and get them to song along from the pews. Talk to the pastor, your Sunday School teacher, anyone! and ask them to help you out by singing along. I always tell them, “God says make a joyful noise! It doesn’t matter whether you can sing or not!” I am also leading singing in my small church without accompaniment. It can be challenging, but it is needful to have a leader, and I love to sing! It helps that I know everyone in the congregation. Maybe you just need to get to know everyone better. Obviously, they don’t want to stand up in front of everyone and lead singing, so I imagine they appreciate your efforts more than you know. God be with you!

    • Graeme Ogle

      Hey Brandy. I dont know where you are at this stage over 2 years after your post but I hope you persisted and have come through the initial part of leading. The fact you answered the call is mabye all God wants. Sometimes its not about the task but your obedience. I salute you for your courage. Pray for a team if you dont have one yet. Lord will you bring the team that will not only lead the congregation into a throne room experience but their own musical journies will be strengthened spriritually, technincally, musically.

  5. Shannon

    I. Don’t. Sing. If this is a deal-breaker at your church, then don’t expect me to be there.


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