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On a scale of 1-10, how engaged is your church?

Do you look forward to worshipping on Sunday or are you worried that everyone in the room hates you?

It's frustrating, isn't it? To put so much time and effort into preparing for Sunday, to be met only by staring (sometimes glaring) faces. Why don't people engage?

While you'd like to blame it on their lack of spiritual depth, it's most likely something you can work on. Of course, that's a general statement. There are other factors at work. But this is something I've observed in my own leadership for 18 years as well as coaching many other worship leaders and teams.

How should we approach engagement? Should be obsess over it, counting the number of hands that are raised? Is that worship leader success?

Or should we forget about it and just pursue Jesus? I've seen both. The right answer is somewhere in the middle. We can't ignore engagement, because we're called to lead the church. It's our responsibility to help them discover their voice in this midst of their victory and trial.

But we also can't obsess over it because that's just an adventure in missing the point.

Here are a handful of tips for navigating these waters.

13 Reasons Why Your Church Isn't Engaged in Worship

1. People don't know the songs: If you lead too many unfamiliar songs, people will have a hard time engaging. They're thinking too much about the newness and can't fully dive in.

2. People don't connect with the songs: It's possible you are leading songs you love, but your congregation simply doesn't connect with. Lead the songs that have a visible effect on people. If a song isn't working, have the courage to toss it out.

3. You're not an invitational leader: Many congregations don't respond because you haven't invited them to. There's a disposition, a vibe a leader gives off that is either invitational or a spectacle. Be an invitational leader—give vocal cues, encourage, coach, speak up, smile, be engaged, help them sing.

4. Your team isn't engaged: Have you looked at your team recently? You may have an unresponsive church because your team looks like they want to kill someone. Think about it. Do you feel motivated to engage in an activity where the leaders don't want to be there? It's not enough for you as the leader to be engaged. Coach your team to step outside their instrument and worship.

5. Your set isn't structured well: Many times, the actual set list is a deterrent to corporate worship. Once you've chosen your set, filter it with these questions:

  • Have I planned my transitions?
  • Is there any room for silence or spontaneity?
  • Where can I place a simple, stripped-back chorus or hymn?
  • When am I going to address the congregation?

6. There's not enough space: Let's talk a little bit more about space. It could be your church isn't engaging because it's just too produced—it moves from full song to full song to full song to full song, like an album tracklist. A set list that engages utilizes space. There's moments of spontaneous worship, contemplation, Scripture and exhortation. People want to feel a part of the moment, and engagement will never happen unless you create space for it.

7. You're singing but not coaching—Say this out loud, "Vocal cues are my friend." You might be the best singer in the country. Your talent may very well be mind-blowing. But an engaging worship leader isn't just one who shows people how great they are. They help others find their voice. Of course, there's a wrong way to do this. Constant vocal cues can be annoying when they're before every line of the song. For me, I determine the most anthemic moments of a song and always encourage the church to sing out before heading into those sections. Don't miss this. Vocal cues are the quickest way to increase your church's engagement.

8. The mix is poor: Is your sound guy managing volume or mixing music? There's a fundamental difference. I understand how difficult it is to find any sound techs, let alone good ones. But this could turn into a great coaching opportunity with your current roster. It's hard to engage if the mix is awful. Too quiet, and people feel awkward. Too loud, and their brains hurt. As Chris Greely says, a good mix doesn't have to be loud. Coach your techs to mix sound like it's an instrument, not just pull the volume down.

9. Your team doesn't sound good: Let me be careful here. A local-church worship team doesn't have to sound like Bethel to be effective. I'm not talking about the glorification of excellence. But there needs to be a standard of excellence to avoid distraction. If musicians and vocals are out of tune constantly, everyone will notice. Have team members who are constantly making mistakes? Work with them one on one to make sure they know what you expect of them.

10. There's no depth: You may not think you're a rockstar, but your persona tells a different story. There's a way to present yourself that is self-seeking, self-serving, flashy, and quite frankly, a turn-off. Lead out of the depth of your story. Lead with a fire for Jesus. Lead with a depth in God that connects with the depth in others. Of course, you can't fake this. You need to live the life before you live the stage.

11. You don't talk: People will follow you if they trust you and connect with you. It's hard to do that by just singing songs at people. At some point, you're gonna have to speak up and engage. Ask questions. Connect with the room. Minister. Practice your public speaking.

12. Some aren't believers: Some people might seem disengaged because they're not believers. They don't know what is going on. Maybe they've never been to a church like yours. Don't be frustrated with everyone. Realize there's more going on in people than you may realize.

13. People are overwhelmed: Have you ever been so stressed that it's difficult to do anything except worry? That could very well be most of your congregation. This is why leading with compassion is so important. Rather than guilting people into raising their hands and jumping around, help the suffering saint to sing. Be patient, choose the right songs and lead by example.

Let's discuss this. How is the response of your congregation?

What challenges are you experiencing?

Let's talk it out in the comments.

David Santistevan is a worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This article originally appeared at davidsantistevan.com.

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