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Why Congregational Singing Is Waning

Why Congregational Singing Is Waning

My most popular post has been 9 Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship. From the popularity and the comments, it is obvious that this is a very hot topic in worship today. Mike Harland joined Thom Rainer on a recent podcast to discuss four main reasons he feels that congregational singing is waining as well as three ways you can reverse this trend in your church. There are some great points in this discussion.

Some highlights from the episode include:

  • In many churches, the hymnal is no longer the primary source of songs for the church.
  • We often move on from one song to the next before the congregation really knows a song well enough to sing it.
  • One of the main reasons congregational singing is waning is simply because people don’t know the songs.
  • In many churches, we’ve created an atmosphere that everything about the room says you’re here to watch, not worship.
  • If you set up your facility to feel like a theater, don’t be surprised when your church members act like a theater audience.
  • When worship leaders are too artistic, the congregation tends to stop singing and watch.
  • Pick a handful of songs that you come back to over and over so that your people know them well.
  • More and more people are realizing we need to do a better job of raising up the next generation of worship leaders.

The four reasons Mike discusses related to the waning of congregational singing are:

  1. New Song Velocity — “I don’t know that song.”
  2. The Atmosphere of Observation — “You don’t want me to sing.”
  3. The Rise of the Worship Artist —“I can’t sing that song.”
  4. The Misuse of Technology — “I can’t hear anyone else.”

Three things churches can do right now to help their members engage in singing:

  1. Turn the lights up
  2. Sing songs the church knows
  3. Turn the sound down and vary the accompaniment


Play in new window | Download (Duration: 24:02 — 22.0MB)


This article was originally published at on April 12, 2016Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at

About Mike Harland

Mike Harland grew up in Mississippi, graduated from Delta State University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and has led churches in worship leadership roles for most of his life. Since 2005, Mike has served as the Director of LifeWay Worship, the music arm of LifeWay Christian Resources. He is a published author and songwriter who sings and speaks nationally and internationally. Mike and his wife Teresa serve in the children’s, discipleship, and worship ministries of Brentwood Baptist Church and live in Franklin, Tennessee. They have three grown children – Lee, Elizabeth, and John.

About The Author


  1. Franklyn Rae

    Excellent!! I am 74 years old and love to sing and worship. It has always been a huge part of Church life for me. I am enthralled by the wonderful and sound teaching and theology in the old traditional hymns. I have come to the point where I simply can’t relate to what’s going on with church worship in this generation. I’m a shut out. I am more often grieved and confused rather than blessed. Blessings. Franco

  2. Lifetime Baptist

    To help the congregation engage in singing:
    1. Provide written music to the congregation so those who can read music can assist in leading from the congregation. Folks in the congregation who do not read music and can hear strong, sure voices AROUND them and from BEHIND them singing the melody are more likely to participate in singing more fully.
    2. Whoever is leading the singing from the front should sing the melody only, without “riffs” and melismata.

  3. Nadia123

    I totally agree with all those reasons mentioned. After a long time being church-less, my husband found a Bible believing church where he feels at home. When I went with him, I could not sing along the songs they sung. I have understanding of music, and almost all the songs were “out of tune”. That’s the best way I could put it. They all sounded alike. The words were good, uplifting the Name of Jesus, so I just read along the words….
    I serve now in the chapel of retirement community where I work in music ministry. But this has really bothered me that I could not participate in singing in worship songs in that church, where my husband still goes. It must be a trend… parting from the old, in order of bringing “freshness of the new’.. Or maybe not!


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