Three ways to engage the congregation

People want to know what to expect when they attend a church service.

They want to know if they need to sit or stand or if they are welcome to move around. If they don’t know what to do, they won’t engage easily and freely in corporate worship.

Here are three things that we can do as worship teams to create a level of comfort for the congregation and engage them in the worship experience.

Give clear vocal cues.

People in the congregation probably don’t know what your hand signals to the instrumentalists and audio/video team mean. If you circle a finger, your worship team may know what to do, but the congregation may not understand the gesture. They may wonder if they are supposed to sing the chorus again or another verse.

A great vocal leader not only cues the worship team and audio/video team for direction in a song, but they also will cue the congregation. When I prepare to lead, I look for phrases or key words at the beginning of a verse, bridge, chorus, etc. I’ll sing or say those short, simple words just before we’re going to sing them together. For example, I’ll sing something like this: “In all the world,” or “Oh how marvelous,” or “Your Name is higher,” etc.—whatever phrase or word that most easily will convey what we’re going to sing next.

If I’m giving a vocal cue to the video team because they can’t see me for some reason, I may say, “Let’s sing verse 1 again.” This helps the congregation as well.

Post the words on a screen or wall before it’s time to sing them.

If a person in the congregation doesn’t know the words to the song you’re singing, they will be frustrated if the words to the song only appear as you are singing them. It’s most thoughtful to put the words on the screen just before it’s time to sing them, not two beats after.

I recommend that your video team practice displaying song words as they hear you rehearsing each song until they can smoothly display song words in a way that’s best for the congregation.

In essence, the video team is leading worship just as much as you are as a musician.

Tell the congregation what to do during an instrumental break.

First, ask yourself why you are doing an instrumental break. If it’s for the purpose of showing a musician’s skill or simply because that’s how another band performed it, then the people’s attention will be on the musicians and not on God.

Ask yourself what do you want people to do during that time when they aren’t singing? Tell them that or better yet, lead them in that. If you want them to participate in the instrumental break by shouting praise to God, then invite them to do so. If you want them to be contemplative and reverent, then let them know that the break is a great place to do that. You can give instruction easily by saying something like, “Let’s think about what God has done for us,” or “Let’s shout out how good God is!”

Also, singers should be coached to continue to lead during an instrumental break. If they just lower their mics and don’t vocally lead in the shout or contemplation or singing of Hallelujah etc., the congregation will wonder why you’ve told them to engage and yet the singers are standing there with their eyes closed. When they’re on the platform, singers are leaders, not simply worshipers.

It’s like the guy next to me in church once said, “I wish I knew what to do.” With a little communication from the worship team, we can all participate and experience the blessing of corporate worship.