After all the hard work and sweat that goes into preparing the worship music, it can be a real drag when the congregation feels like they have to sing, too. You know how they mess things up: they usually come in late, can’t keep a beat, and they sound nothing like the live worship CDs, which are much more exciting. Look, we all understand if you desire to have the congregation just sit quietly and watch. Fortunately, we have listed a few of the many methods available to effectively shut them down.
1. Turn It Up
Turn the volume up so loud that would-be-worshipers would have to scream in order to hear their own voices. Too much volume is not just for damaging the ears; it can also be an effective way to intimidate and disorient your congregants. Heavy volume is a great tool for any leader who wants to remain free from congregational intrusions into worship.
2. Make It Complicated
Choose music so difficult that no one could ever hope to sing along. Especially helpful is tricky syncopation, which will really make the potential worshiper feel stupid when they come in on the wrong beat. Another helpful corollary of this is to pick songs that have a lot of words and play them at impossibly fast tempos. Indeed, if you are too loud and fast and the lyrics to your songs are too complex, you are well on your way to leaving the congregation far, far behind. But wait; there are plenty more off-putting tools at your disposal.
3. Make It Out of Range
Make sure that no one but you can sing the songs in your key! If a few people try to sing along, you can always throw them off with senseless ad-libbing.
4. Projecting Confusion
Get your tech person to agree to project the lyrics on the screen(s) out of sync with the songs. If you wait until a couple of lines have gone by before you put them up, most of the congregants will give up trying to sing along. Also, feel free to go to the wrong verse. Try using fonts that no one can read or projecting the words onto backgrounds that have very little contrast. Also, try leaving on lights located closest to the screens, making the words especially hard to see.
5. Close Your Eyes
Pretend that the congregation is not even there. Shut them out and act as if you are worshiping in your own private prayer closet. Make them believe that you have a special relationship with God that is far deeper and more intimate than they’ll ever have. Once the music begins, don’t look at or acknowledge the rest of the church. Make strange animated movements with your hands. Soon they’ll start to feel as if they are intruding on your special time with God, and hopefully will remain polite and silent until you are finished.
6. Go Emo
Choose songs that keep the focus on you and your feelings. It’s especially nice to focus on emotions that most people couldn’t possibly access at the end of a long week of real life. Pick songs filled with sentiments like: “Lord, today I totally love you with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, and nothing else in the world matters at all to me.” Do your best to avoid songs that speak of the work of God. Just keep the attention on yourself and your victorious spirituality that no one else can attain.
7. Leave Them in the Dark
Make sure that the stage is lit up like Christmas, but leave the rest of the church in utter darkness. This is one more way to let the others know that their voices don’t matter. Also, when the congregation is in the dark, you can effectively relieve them of guilt for not singing along, because no one can see them. Turn on the lights only when you take an offering. Then light up the church really bright.
8. Leave No Space for the Congregation to Sing
Use lots of competing background vocal parts and encourage constant noodling from the instrumentalists. Tell the guitarist or saxophonist to play solo lines on top of everything else. Leave no holes unfilled. The key here is to be so cluttered that the would-be worshiper will be made to feel as if it is best to sit back and watch you perform your “ministry.”
If you actually want your congregation to sing, these suggestions aren’t for you. Maybe you could try doing the opposite; the results might be to your liking.
Worship leader, composer, and producer, John Andrew Schreiner has worked with Fernando Ortega, Aretha Franklin, Keith and Krystyn Getty, and was the chief arranger and engineer on the Odes Project. For more information visit theodesproject.com.