How to improve your congregation’s singing

We all respond to good singing in worship. We recall with delight a night when the singing was “really good,” or visiting a congregation where we enjoyed the singing. We’re human, after all. This raises a question, therefore: So how can we improve our singing?

1. Get right with each other (Matthew 5:23,24). Note that the Lord expresses this as a priority – “First, be reconciled with your brother, then come offer your gift.” It’s hard to sing with zeal when you’re singing with people you resent.

2. Prepare your heart (Psalm 24:3-6). Come with the right attitude. You’re not here to evaluate the worship service, you’re here to offer your praise to God and offer edification for the brethren you love. One of my pet peeves occurs when a person sings like a lark when he/she has a microphone in front of his/her face, but refuses to sing when it’s “mere” worship. What?! Lend your gift of singing to your God in worship.

3. Get over it and sing! I can’t understand (barring laryngitis!) a blood-bought, redeemed child of God sitting and stonily refusing to sing!

4. Teach men to lead, especially the young men. Utilize Lads to Leaders, teach both technique and attitude, teach rudiments of music, and get them up in front of the congregation. Christian Men need to sing in order to indicate to boys that singing is not just for sissies and women!

5. Teach the congregation to sing. (2 Timothy 2:15) “Do your best …to present yourself to God.” The words “do your best” and “present to God” should always be in the same sentence! Use a fifth Wednesday evening to separate the congregation into parts, and allow an experienced alto, for instance, to help young altos develop. Work on some songs. Teach new ones. Make observations about how singing can be improved. Develop a culture of singing, to the point where your congregation says, “We’re the congregation that sings.”

6. Be considerate of other’s needs and feelings. Yes, as a Christian you are obliged to consider other people’s feelings, even in worship. You don’t have the right to deliberately offend, hurt or ignore your brother. Go ahead and sing that song, even if it’s not your favorite. Do not shut out another person’s genre of hymns. Hymns fill up the soul. Do not limit the kind of songs your congregation sings to your favorite; by doing this, you are not taking your brothers and sisters, whom you love, into account.

7. Allow the words to lift you up. This is a case of theology versus technique:

There are two models:

  • Technique: Great singing – stirs your heart – you leave edified, encouraged. (The problem is that you cannot always guarantee great singing!)
  • Theology: Great words (biblical, thoughtful, even poetic) – stirs your heart – you leave edified and encouraged. (You can guarantee good lyrics!).

Please note that none of these suggestions involve making a free agent trade and getting special, professional singers to come to our congregation. Mostly good singing comes from developing good attitudes.

As the apostle suggests, we are to “sing and make music in our hearts” (Ephesians 5:19). If the music isn’t in our hearts, it will never be on our lips.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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