Handling Worship Distractions

May 11th, 2012

Are you easily distracted during Sunday worship? People who have ADHD or those who find it hard to focus in a school or work setting will often have similar struggles during prayer or worship times. Here are a few things I’ve found distracting during church services over the years, especially during worship segments:

  • The guy who sings off key.
  • The woman who doesn’t sing off key but sings louder than everyone else.
  • Crying babies.
  • The worship leader who talks too much.
  • The guy who says the word just too much when he prays. Or the one who says Father God before each sentence of his prayer.
  • People who arrive late. I’ve often found myself having a conversation (with myself) about how the church is practically empty even though we’ve already started and what would we do if no one else showed up this week... blah, blah, blah...you get the idea.
  • The woman who never sets her cell phone to vibrate until it rings at least once.
  • The person in front of me who’s texting, especially when they don’t hold their phone so I can read what they’re sending.
  • Kids fidgeting.
  • Adults fidgeting.
  • Typos in the worship Powerpoint slides.
  • Typos in the bulletin.
  • The guy who who raises his hands during every song.
  • People who stare at me when I raise my hands.
  • The people who never raise their hands unless we’re singing “Here I Am, Lord”.
  • Anyone who punches me and tries to continue a conversation during the opening song. This distracts me during movies too.
  • The wasp flying around the ceiling. How did he get in?

There’s no easy answer for handling distractions during worship. (Mean mugging the ones causing the distractions usually isn't very effective.) What I have figured out is that if I take the pressure off myself to focus (and the accompanying guilt that I feel when I can't), then I start taking pressure off of everyone else not to distract me in the first place. In other words, if I focus too much on whether or not I'm focusing on God, then I'm not really focusing on God to begin with, I'm being self-centered. True Christian worship is always more about God than it is about us.

The second thing I try to remember is that group worship is not my private prayer and worship time. I don't get to have God all to myself. I have to share him with others in the group, even the ones who don't have the right political views, those who don't use the right Bible translation, the theological eggheads, the people who read the fluffy books from the Christian celebrity I don't care for, people who don't talk to me, and the garden variety hypocrites. Group worship is not simply worshiping God by myself with other people in the room who happen to be doing the same thing. I believe that's one of the mistakes we sometimes make with modern praise worship services. Worshiping with a group means sometimes interacting with the group, not tuning them out so that it's "just me and God."

Perhaps a reason we often have such impossible expectations for group worship is we're not getting enough quality time by ourselves with God. I've found that if my own private prayer/worship times are consistent and healthy, I'm bothered much less by distractions when I get to church.

What things distract you during Sunday worship? How do you handle distractions?


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