Category Archives: About Congregational Singing

12 Practical Pointers for Praise Teams

If I were to summarize what the most important factors in making for an enjoyable experience of praise and worship are, I would list the following:


1. Please keep the beat!!!!! 

2. Try not to let the volume of the playing/singing of the PT dominate the congregation’s singing. It is beneficial for the congregation to be able to hear not only the singing and playing of the PT, but also its own singing.

3. Teach the congregation music that is singable. Try to avoid complex rhythms and melody lines. Remember: The congregation is not made up of musical professionals.

4. Chose songs with texts that are meaningful and theologically accurate.

5. Avoid meaningless repetition.

6. Remember to balance the learning of new songs with the singing of better/well-known songs. People get more pleasure out of singing songs they know. It is hard to put one’s heart into songs one hardly knows.

7. Be more concerned about the content of the songs (the words) than about the style of the music. God is more concerned that we worship him in spirit and in truth than that we worship him according to the latest style. Teach the congregation this principle.

8. Seek to approach the singing and worship time with an attitude of reverence and awe. We are worshiping the Holy One.

9. Discourage “showmanship” by the musicians. We are not here to impress anyone, but to lead others in worship.

10. Seek to avoid dress that draws the worshipers’ attention away from the music and  to the musician. God should be the primary focus of everyone present.

11. Remember the elderly when standing for long periods of time. Show solidarity with them by adopting a sitting posture from time to time. Let them know that you are aware that it may be difficult for them to stand with the rest of the worshipers.

12. Let everything be done in love.

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Pointers about what to sing

Each week the Praise Team faces the question: What songs should we select for the following Sunday. A number of factors come into play in answering this question: What will fit with the theme of the sermon? Are there directives from the pastoral staff to consider? Do we want to learn a new song, or do we want to stay with the music we know? What music is suitable for the musicians? Does the music match their skill level?

The question that I would like to consider here does not focus on the Praise Team or on the pastors but rather on the congregation and it is this: What songs are suitable for the congregation? Or, to put it another way: How well is the congregation able to sing these songs?

Sometimes it is helpful for the Praise Team to sing a song acapella (without musical accompaniment) in order to listen in to see how well the congregation is managing to sing a particular song. Ordinarily the voices and the instruments of the Team may obscure the sound coming from the congregation and as a result the fact that participation in the singing is limited may go unnoticed. The reason for limited participation may well be that the congregation is finding the music too difficult to sing.

Here is where the focus of the Praise Team is different from that of a Christian band performing in front of an audience. A band is not primarily concerned about whether those present are able to sing along. They have come to minister to the congregation in song. The congregation/audience is there primarily to listen rather than to participate. In such a situation the difficulty level of the music is limited only by the skill of the musicians.

But the situation is very different  in the arena of congregational singing. In congregational singing, everything focuses on the congregation. Is the congregation able to sing along? Does the majority of those present find the music singable? The focus of the Praise Team is: How do we enable more people to participate in the singing?

Congregational singing is the congregation’s opportunity to offer their praise and worship to God in song. The music is a vehicle for the words of the song. If the congregation finds the music too difficult to sing, their effort at expressing their worship will prove unsatisfying and discouraging. So one of the ways the Praise Team seeks to enable the congregation to offer their praise to God in a satisfying manner is by ensuring that the songs they have chosen are singable.

What factors should the Praise Team consider when seeking to determine whether a song is singable? Here are some suggestions.

1. The range of the music – There will be those people in the church who can easily reach high notes, and those who can easily reach low notes. Everyone else will be somewhere in between. Except perhaps for the occasional note, the range should be within easy reach of most of the worshipers. It is an unpleasant and unsatisfying experience for those with untrained voices to have to consistently strain to reach high notes.  

2. The rhythm of the music – It is my view, that a song chosen for congregational singing should have a rhythm that is reasonably easy for most people to learn. This is not to say that the rhythm needs to be boring. But the more predictable the rhythm of the song is, the more quickly the congregation will be able to learn to sing it.

3. The steadiness of the melody line – Melody lines can either flow steadily in one direction, staying on the same note and rising or descending at a steady pace, or they can fluctuate wildly, with wide gaps between successive notes. Many wide gaps, and significant fluctuations in a melody line will leave the worshipers wondering what the next note might be. Such melody lines are more difficult to memorize and may present a source of frustration.

The Praise Team will greatly promote joy in congregational singing if they build up a repertoire of songs that can be readily sung by the majority of the worshipers. The proof will be in the pudding. If the congregation is singing the songs, then they are singable. If after many attempts at singing a particular song, the singing is still tentative and the sound barely audible, the song may be too difficult for the congregation. An effective Praise Team will seek to ensure that most of the congregation will be able to participate in the singing of most of the songs most of the time.





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Measuring Success

How do we know when our worship in song has been successful?

I believe that the simple answer is, when God is pleased.

We have already indicated that God is the primary audience of our singing. So the question is, what does God think about our singing, our worship? What is it that pleases him about our worship in song?

This is a very weighty question! Of course it is hard to get direct feedback from God. But that does not mean that we do not have a whole handful of indications from his word about what might be pleasing to him in our worship and what might not be.

If my answer is true, and God’s pleasure in our singing is the ultimate key to success, then we can infer from this, that everything else is secondary.

We have already seen that true worship is a matter of the heart (see “A Serious Word about Worship“). The quality of music, and of the performance of the music and the singing, the style of the music, the outward enthusiasm of the worshipers, all these things are secondary to this great question: Is (was) God pleased?

Let me give an example, a “for instance”. What if a congregation is seriously divided? Let’s say there are factions in the congregation. Certain members in the congregation no longer talk to each other. There is bitterness and hostility. Yet on Sundays, everybody stands up and sings. The Praise Team puts a lot of effort into their practice and prayerfully selects the music for the worship service. And the congregation sings. And after the singing, the factions, and harsh words and anger continues. Would such singing please God, even if every note was played flawlessly, and everything went off without a hitch?

We know that God loves unity (not uniformity) among his people.  We know this from passages such as Ephesians 4:3, Philippians 2:2, Romans 15:5,6. Of course not everyone will be drawn into the disunity and discord. And God may well be pleased with their singing, since he sees the heart. But where there is this kind of disunity in a congregation, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, is grieved (Ephesians 4:30-32). The congregation may be singing well enough, but God is not pleased.

What is the effect on a congregation, when God is not pleased? There will be a lack of joy. There may still be enthusiasm but it would be of an artificial kind. The music may still be beautiful, and the sound may still be harmonious and glorious, but where the Spirit of God is grieved, the enthusiasm that he generates will be quenched.  The problem will not be the Praise Team or the music, but the disunity.  While there may still be a certain kind of success, it will be in secondary matters.

I believe that where a congregation pleases God (in matters of the heart) the congregational singing will experience an infusion of joy given by the Holy Spirit to the worshipers, and there will be a sense among the congregation that they have met with God in their singing, and that they have truly worshiped him. This joy cannot be manufactured artificially. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit to a congregation that pleases God.





















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The Role of the Praise Team

On this site, when I mention the Praise Team I am thinking of those individuals who stand in front of the congregation (the people of God) during the congregational singing and who are leading the singing.  They may be using instruments and their voices, or just instruments, or just voices. They accompany the singing of the congregation with their instruments and/or voices.

There are of course many situations where only one person is leading the singing, (with or without instrument). While one person does not make a team, many of my comments will also apply to them.

The question we are asking is: What is the role of the Praise Team? What is their function?

Let’s ask another question: How does the Praise Team view itself? For example: Does it view itself as an essential part of the worship experience? Let’s put it this way: Would there still be worship going on if there were no Praise Team on the platform? Or if there were no worship leader? Well, conceivably someone could still stand up and suggest a song or two, and the congregation would then try their best to sing those songs. If the songs are familiar, the singing should go fairly well. Without the support of the Praise Team, some in the congregation might stumble along, trying to find the right notes, perhaps by listening to those around them who are more musically inclined. Would this still be worship?

I think we would have to agree that, depending on the attitude of the participants (see “A Serious Word about Worship“), this would still be worship.

Would the presence of a Praise Team make the worship experience more successful? This depends on certain variables, which we will discuss at some other time. But, all things being equal, the Praise Team provides support to the congregation, by helping them find the tune and the right rhythm of a tune. In this way they enable the congregation to actually sing the tune, and to concentrate on the meaning of the words. Stumbling and fumbling one’s way through a tune can distract both the mind and heart from the primary audience of the worshiper (see “The Audience of Congregational Singing“) and thus make worship in song a frustrating experience.

So the Praise Team is a musical aid to the worshipers. It functions as a support system to the congregation. It provides for smoothness in the worship experience by removing as many distractions to the worshiping congregation as possible. The more the congregation is enabled to focus on the song itself, the more it is able to present it as a worship offering to God.

One more question for the Praise Team: Does it view itself as separate from the congregation or as part of the congregation? Does it see itself as being “over here” and the congregation as being “over there”? I believe that the Praise Team needs to see itself as part of the congregation. It is seeking to enter into the same worship that it is seeking to lead the congregation into. The believers in the Praise Team join the believers of the congregation they are  leading, as members of the same body of Christ in worship of the one true God.





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A Serious Word About Worship

Is it possible that a congregation can sing songs of worship but not actually be worshiping God? Yes, sadly this is possible.

Singing is an outward act. Worship is an inward act. If there is not worship in the heart, there is no worship in the singing of a song either.

Jesus said that those who worship God must worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:24). We can see that singing, or the voice, is not mentioned here. Rather worship is described as something that comes from within – it happens in spirit and in truth.

What does Jesus mean by the word “spirit”? I believe that he uses this word in apposition to ritual. Ritual has to do with external acts. “Spirit” has to do with the “heart”, the thoughts, mind, feelings and emotions that are within a person. It is the person, the “I” of the person, that needs to be doing the worshiping. God looks at the heart, not so much at the external actions of worship.

Let’s think about posture for a moment. We may be kneeling before God, but our heart may be filled with pride. This is not worship. Or we may be standing during the singing and clapping our hands, but inwardly we may be thinking sinful thoughts. This is not worship. Whatever our outward posture might be during the act of singing, our heart needs to be in a position of kneeling before God in submission to his will, in repentance for any sins committed, in humble supplication for any help we may need from him and in humble gratitude for the many gifts we have received from him.

What does Jesus mean by the word “truth”? How do we worship in truth? We need to worship in accordance with who God is. Our understanding of who God is must constantly and increasingly be brought in line with how God is revealed in the Bible, his Word. We do not want to worship a “God” of our own making, a god who does not really exist. Also, we need to come to God by means of the way which he has provided. God has made it clear that there is only one way of approach to himself that pleases him, and that is through his Son, Jesus Christ. It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that the stain of our sin is removed from us, and that we can freely come into God’s presence. Singing songs of worship without knowing Jesus Christ as Saviour is not the worship that God desires.

So here is the question that every participant engaged in congregational singing needs to ask himself when he/she stands up (or whatever other posture is taken) for the singing: Am I worshiping in spirit and in truth? Is my heart engaged in this? Do I know what I am talking (singing) about? Do I understand what the songs are saying, and am I in agreement with what they are saying? Are my thoughts centered on God right now? Am I coming to him through Jesus Christ or in a way of my own making?

What we have said here is foundational to worship actually taking place while we are singing and the Praise Team is leading us. If there is no worship in spirit and truth taking place, there may be lots of good singing, lots of good playing, lots of clapping and beautiful voices making harmonious sounds, but there will be an absence of worship.

In my view it would be better for a congregation to be silent and to have a time of soul-searching and getting right with God than to persist in “worship-singing” that is not in spirit and truth.

Like I said,  a serious word about worship.


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The Audience of the Worshipers

Who is the congregation singing to? Who is it singing for? Who is the audience of congregational singing?

Is it the pastor? The praise team? The congregation?

My contention is that the audience of the singing congregation is God himself. Singing is an act of worship (we will discuss worship at a later time). God is being worshiped by the things we are singing to him or about him.

The primary focus of the congregation is not on itself, nor on others who are present. It is not about how we come across to others, or whether others like our singing. The audience that needs to matter most to us is the one we are singing to and about, God.

This is easier said than done. Many things can stand in the way of this important focus. Praise singing can become routine. We sing because this is what we always do during this time in the service. We stand up during the singing because we always stand up during the singing. The songs are familiar. We have sung them many times.  We know what they say. We sing mindlessly – our lips are moving, but perhaps our thoughts are on our surroundings more than they are on God. We are thinking about the way the Praise Team members look, how they are dressed.  We may have arrived at the church distracted. Or we are distracted by thoughts about the past week or the coming week. And so on.

Of course on a more serious note, there could be patterns of sin in our lives, or confusion about who God is and doubts about whether we matter to him. Our faith may be a mere formality. We may have a reputation of being believers, but in our heart God matters very little if at all.  To sing with enthusiasm about something we do not believe in is difficult at best. At worst it is a form of hypocrisy.

All of these things can stand in the way of a focus on the audience that really matters during congregational singing – God himself.

These realities are important for the Praise Team to consider. The Praise Team must share the conviction that the audience of the singing congregation needs to be God.

God is also the primary audience of the singing and the playing of the Praise Team. It would be easy to think that the congregation is the primary audience of the singing and the playing of the Praise Team. This is not so. It would be so if the Praise Team were performing. But this is not their task. They are not performers but leaders. And one of their tasks of leadership is to help the congregation, the people of God, to direct their focus to the one and only audience that really matters, the living God himself.

There are different ways in which this can be done. God willing we will look at those at another time.






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The Participants of Congregational Singing

The Congregation

Let’s think a bit about the congregation. The congregation is that group of people that has gathered together (congregated) on a Sunday morning (or some other time of the week) to worship God.

Who are these people? They are believers who identify with the message of Christ, who have received that message and have taken their stand on it (1.Corinthians 15:1-11). Of course there may be visitors, friends, and non-believers present also. But when I use the word “congregation” on this site, I have in mind those in the group who make up the body of Christ, the local church, those who have confessed Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Let’s take a closer look at who they might be. Chances are they are from various walks of life. Different nationalities, different ethnic backgrounds, different income levels and age-groups. Some are new Christians, some have been around for a long time. Different levels of maturity are present. Some are healthy, in the prime of life, some are frail and struggling with illnesses of various kinds. And of course one will find various kinds of musical abilities.

Let’s think about that for a minute. Each church is going to be unique in this regard. Some churches will be loaded with musical talent, whereas in other congregations such talent may be hard to find. Some enjoy singing and do it whenever they have the opportunity, for others singing only happens on Sunday morning in church. Some can carry a tune, others can’t. Some have a good memory and can recall songs and hymns from years ago while others will struggle to remember the tune they sang the previous Sunday. Of course there will be a variety of preferences for different styles. Some will like it fast, others slow, some loud, some quiet; some will prefer lots of accompaniment, others will be content with piano or organ, or less. Some will like to sing loudly, while others will feel embarrassed to let anyone hear them sing.

I believe that it is important that those who lead congregational singing are aware of the limitations that may be present in the congregation with respect to musical talent and ability. It would be safe to say, that in most congregations, the skill level of the congregation is lower than that of the praise team members. This should not to be equated with a lower level of enthusiasm. Many of those present may be eager to sing and to praise their Lord in song. It would be discouraging for them to be faced with music that is technically, or rhythmically beyond their skill level. And should this happen week after week, it would soon lead to an automatic shut-down/tune-out response which could be characterized in the words: Let THEM do the singing, I am not good at this.

Praise Teams who care about the congregations they lead will want to see as many participants as possible involved in that beautiful experience of worshiping our God in song. The more people are able to sing the songs, the better. And in this way more enthusiasm will be generated to do it all again the following week. For this to occur, the worship team may need to forgo choosing some of their favourite selections. But this act of selflessness will serve to increase the enthusiasm of the congregation to participate in the singing. And would this not be worth it?




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Congregational Singing

Congregational singing is a pretty unique event. Where else do you find large groups of people gathered in one place, singing about and to God?

We are familiar with large groups of people singing the national anthem at sporting events. And of course there are various kinds of choirs that perform various kinds of music in various kinds of settings. But  there are few occasions where large groups of people, regardless of their musical abilities, sing together.

So what gives? What would cause ordinary people, who may not sing a single tune all week, suddenly to open their mouths along with others to sing songs together once they are inside a church building?

Let’s think about the togetherness factor for a moment. Christians sing together. What is that all about? Why not just sing a solo at home? Why sing together with other Christians? Because this togetherness is an expression of the bond of unity that exists between Christians. Christians are united with each other through the bond of the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 4:3) They belong together. The Bible calls them members of one body. And congregational singing is an act that expresses this unity among believers.

Christians also have many things in common, such as the same God, the same Saviour, the same Spirit, the same salvation, the same forgiveness of sins, the same destination and so on. (see Eph. 4:4-6)  We share a common faith. So we can talk about the same things and we can sing about the same things.

And the singing part – why do Christians sing? Why not just chant to God as a group, or read a psalm or the words of a hymn together? Is it not because song (music) is the means of communication that gets closest to our emotions, our feelings? And so it is the most deeply felt way in which we can communicate our feelings? Is it not because we can put more feeling into our song than into any other form of verbal communication?

So singing allows the Christian to pour out his true feelings about God and his relationship to God. And songs that are well written (we will say more about this some other time) allow the Christian to put his feelings into words, and express them to God directly. And in a congregational setting, Christians are able to to this together. What a beautiful thing!

Some of us will have had occasion to have been part of large gatherings of Christians singing together. Big is not necessarily better, but it is a powerful thing when a large group of believers joins together in songs of praise and worship to the one and only God. And this is a precursor of that time when all believers of all ages will sing songs of praise to the living God and the living Christ together – where everyone will be singing with overflowing amazement at the awesome grace that was given to us in Christ.

Congregational singing is a beautiful practice of the church of God. Whether it is a satisfying experience or not depends on the circumstances. On this site I hope to discuss some of the factors that influence those circumstances.










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