How to Get People to Sing in Worship (Why Repetition Matters)

April 23rd, 2014
Flickr | photographybyani | Used under Creative Commons license.

How many times have you been in a worship service and no one was singing?

This is especially true in many contemporary services.

People often think there isn’t a way to specifically fix this. Instead, they blindly hope the Holy Spirit will fix a problem they can easily own.

Last year on Facebook, an article on Patheos by Dave Murray began trending. I don’t think the problem specifically applies to men, which Murray identified in his article. It was just part of a growing group of articles going viral talking about the lack of participation in contemporary worship services (and I think it dually applies to traditional worship).

If we aren’t singing in worship… is it really worship?

Local congregations need to tackle this problem headlong. My team knew we could do better; it would just take some intentional leadership.

How to Get People to Sing in Worship

You have to make it repetitive. Plain and simple.

When I stepped into my current role as the pastor of a contemporary congregation we had over 200 songs in our rotation. We could pick out of any of them every week. It was way too much.

People weren’t singing. A few were, but as a whole we had a participation problem.

Designing worship is a deliberate activity. The songs any congregation sings matter because sung worship is a vocabulary building activity. When people aren’t able to engage in the singing they slowly become mute towards the language of the Gospel.

Over the last six months we've only sung around 30 songs. If you figure five or six a Sunday, that isn’t many. This Easter, we sang the same song three weeks in a row.

Why Repetition Matters

  • We wanted a powerful Easter service. Part of that meant people really singing along with what was important theology for Easter. This meant a couple of new songs. But there was no way we could have had great engagement on Easter Sunday with a brand new song. We needed not just a basic knowledge, but an extreme familiarity. 
  • These songs taught and embodied a great view of who God is. We sang these words over and over throughout Lent and Easter. (Our Lent wasn’t very Lenty.) While this was a bit odd, it made sense for the current group of people and our situation. What we couldn’t anticipate were issues and concerns which would rise up during Lent, and these songs provided a pattern of hope and healing.
  • We built up a better theological vocabulary. We sang songs about the “largeness” of God, the power of Christ and the timeless action of the creator. We sang words from Scripture that we probably haven’t sung in some time. 
  • When people are comfortable with the songs, they will sing more. We had around 70 more people than our average Sunday on Easter (almost a 50% increase). What could have been an awkward experience for folks not normally in worship was much easier to participate in, because the people around them were interacting with the sung worship.

If you are unsatisfied with the amount of singing in church, let me suggest trimming things down and repeating songs frequently. It was a semi-conscious experiment over the last 8 months or so and it has contributed tremendously to our times of worship.

Chad Brooks blogs at

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