Participation in Worship

Last week I offered a question to spur response regarding the participation level of your congregation during gathered worship.  I appreciate those who took time to respond, both worship music leaders and others including a few who serve as pianists, organists, or who lead a children’s choir or ensemble. I am posting some responses that are representative of those received along with a few observations I would like to offer.  (Also, see the next question for response at the end of this article) As promised these will be posted in a manner that will protect the writers’ anonymity.

Last week’s posted question:

If you could be perfectly honest and transparent about your estimation of what happens in regular Sunday worship at your church, what would you tell your congregation about their level of enthusiastic participation in Sunday worship?

Sample replies:

  • People, why are you not participating?  We have worked hard to prepare songs that I thought you would appreciate and be able to sing.  You are half in and half out.  Worship is not a halfway thing.


  • I cannot guess what will help you really worship.  Some of you say you want one kind of music, and others want another.  I am trying to find what will help you genuinely express worship.  Obviously I am not there yet, or maybe you just are there yet?


  • This is corporate worship, not mass simultaneous individual worship time. Your attitude and activity strongly affect those around you and you can choose whether that influence is positive or negative.  Arm-crossed passivity can have a negative impact on those around you. If you are not a particularly demonstrative person in worship, fine, but looking like you are miserable and/or pained by being there is very distracting at best. Please consider your role in public worship, you are not invisible, but an important part of the whole as we gather for worship.


  • As I observe each of you during our Sunday morning worship service each week, I notice a great number of you putting forth effort to participate in active worship through singing and hearing the truths of God’s Word proclaimed and through prayer, reflection, and giving. However, this effort often seems to be lacking in genuine, humbled response to our Creator and Redeemer. As we gather collectively each week for the purpose of corporate worship, I hope that it is less a once a week experience for you and more of a continuation of a Monday through Saturday already spent with the Lord, and that there is a sense of familiarity and expectation of coming to meet our Lord in reverent submission and worship. I am concerned that the level of enthusiastic participation and your lack of desire for worshiping Almighty God may be directly tied either with the lack of a relationship with God or with the lack of regular time with God. Our time of corporate worship is the most important facet of this church body, and I pray we will seek to make more so in the coming weeks.



  • I appreciate your efforts to join in rhythmic response by clapping and dancing around, but I cannot tell if you are seeking God or if you are just caught up in the music itself.


  • HELLO!  HELLO!  Are you out there?


  • Dear church family,I love all of you and desire so much to help you express praise and worship.  I wish you could just tell me what would help you most to express your worship!


  • The prelude is not a challenge for you to talk louder.  I am trying to help you prepare for worship.


  • Thank you for letting me lead you in worship.  I want so much to lead you to the throne where you can be awed in his presence.

The responses tell me two things about our worship leaders and the overall participation of members of their congregation in corporate worship:


  1. In my estimation the responses received are reflections of worship leaders who have a proverbial finger on the pulse. You who lead worship genuinely care about the response of the people and ultimately about their worship connection with God and one another.


  1. Our congregations are not responding in worship participation in a manner that would unequivocally reflect full active participation. (at least as much as we are able to surmise that participation)

I would posit that it is very important to remember that God looks upon the heart.  One of the reasons worship evaluation is so tough is that we cannot see the heart.  What we see and hear is certainly not the full story of what is taking place in the hearts of the people we serve.  I am sure we have all had times when people’s personal responsiveness were more indicative of participation than their outward visible and vocal indications.

All of us who lead in worship are encouraged by responsiveness.  I encourage you to find the person(s) whose outward expressions encourage your spirit and spur you on in your leadership.  You may want to even make it a point to thank them at some point through a kind word or personal email or note to let them know they are an encourager for you when you lead.  I am sure their openness is an encouragement for others as well.  This is not all, but certainly part of what it must mean to “spur one another on to love and good deeds, “ and to “admonish one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.”

Finally, let me remind you that part of my ministry is helping you serve in yours.  I hope you feel the freedom to contact me when I can be of assistance, and that you will spend time with other worship leaders in your area and in the state.  It is good to share resources, compare situations and trade ideas to build one another up in the work of the Kingdom.  Needing each other is a good thing.  Part of sharing faith is participating in community.

NEXT QUESTION FOR RESPONSE (replies will be kept anonymous):

What is one thing you wish your church provided for your ministry that they do not currently provide?

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Leading Worship, Private Worship, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

One Comment on “Participation in Worship”

  1. Paul Clark Jr Says:

    received in email

    I am probably like many others in that while I lead in worship I look around and observe who is singing and who is not: who is affected and who is just standing around.
    My observation is that some people are worshiping no matter what I am leading. Some people are just standing around unless it is a favorite like Amazing Grace or Victory in Jesus.

    But there is also an occasional time in worship when the Holy Spirit blesses a song and people are visibly affected and I am as well. It is like the message takes over and you can feel God working through the song. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen every week, but it sure is great when it does.

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