Congregational Singing after COVID: They Need Help
Ukrainian Translation: ЦЕРКОВНИЙ СПІВ У ПОСТ- COVID-19 ЕПОХУ: ДОПОМОЖІТЬ ЇМ!
I obsess over how we can better engage our congregations in participatory, transformational worship. The post, 9 Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship, was born out of my looking at what we, as worship leaders often do to hurt the voice of our congregation in worship. Over a million people have read that post because it hits a nerve in today’s church.
With the dropping of COVID restrictions comes a new time in congregational singing that is unlike anything we have experienced before, and with that are some considerations worship leaders need to heed as we lead our congregations. Many churches are reporting a decrease in congregational participation and in looking at what they are doing, I have some theories of why that is happening. Below are some general observations followed by some advice:
OBSERVATION #1: Any new songs you introduced during the months of COVID should NOT be considered songs your congregation knows.
Our churches did a great job of moving services online out of necessity, and many had in-person services through much (or all) of the COVID period. However, the number of those attending in-person services was greatly reduced in most cases, and many of those congregations either did not sing or sang with masks, which hurt congregational singing for a variety of reasons. The majority of churches reported greatly reduced congregational singing fervor during that period.
In the last several weeks as larger numbers of people are returning to gathered worship, congregants are reporting that they do not know many of the songs that their church is singing even though worship leaders indicated the songs were introduced and reinforced during the COVID months.
Those that attended online services for the most part probably did not sing the songs at home even though we provided lyrics for them. Without singing the songs, the new songs we introduced really did not make it into their worship vocabulary (songs they know well enough to sing their worship to God unhindered).
Consider ANY song you introduced during the COVID period to be a new song to the congregation. Therefore, you need to treat it as such by introducing and reinforcing it properly. I will be writing more about this in the coming weeks, but take a look at this older post for some advice now on new songs in worship (be sure to follow the link to an additional article about how to help your congregation sing new songs). Do not use new songs from the COVID period in your regular rotation–it will likely lead to disengaged worshippers. Treat them as totally new songs.
OBSERVATION #2: Many of our people have gone for a long period of time without singing.
For the reasons mentioned above, large percentages of our people have gotten out of the practice and joy of congregational singing. For many, it is not as easy as taking off the mask and having the band play a song for them to sing along. Many of our people must regain that gift and pleasure of singing their praises with all their being.
Now, more than ever you need to re-visit the Nine Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship and make sure you are doing everything you can do to help your congregation regain their voice. Singing in keys in their range (in many cases the artist key can kill your congregational singing), singing songs they know well and introducing new songs properly are a few of the important things to remember. Take time with the article and check your worship practices against each of the nine reasons to see if you are doing all you can to help your congregation.
Employ a cappella singing to encourage people to sing out without the cover of your instrumentation to hide under. This will help them flex their congregational singing muscles and regain the joy of hearing the congregation singing and adding to that sound themselves.
Help your congregation rediscover and reclaim their singing voice.
OBSERVATION #3: New songs introduced in the year before COVID have probably lost their edge as known songs.
For the reasons mentioned in Observation #1, many people simply have not been singing normally during the COVID period, therefore, your church lost out on the reinforcement of the new songs from the year before COVID through repetition last year. They simply don’t know these songs as well as some that have been with your church for a longer period.
For a few months concentrate more on songs that you know the congregation knows well to get them reengaged with robust singing. Also include, but reinforce the ones you taught the year prior to COVID with more repetition (singing on consecutive weeks) to help your congregation regain their knowledge of and comfort with them. Perhaps do not add totally new songs for a few months as you reintroduce newer songs from the past two years.