Sometimes our church just stands and stares at us. If the arms are crossed while they stare, it’s even more deflating. How do we get our churches to sing and participate more during worship? Why aren’t they singing? Join me as I interview Kenny Lamm, who wrote an entire handbook on worship leading. We’ll discuss his list of 10 reasons why your church isn’t singing during musical worship.

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Of the two things we as worship leaders do, the two things that are most

hurting participation in worship today are singing too many new songs

and singing in keys that are too high for the average singer.

Welcome to the Worship Ministry Training podcast, a monthly podcast for

worship leaders who are serious about growing in their craft and calling.

My name is Alex, fellow worship leader.

Super stoked you’re here.

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hit that subscribe button because every single month I’m going to give

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Sign up today for your $1 trial, and I hope to see you inside of the academy.

All right, let’s get into today’s episode.

We’re talking about how to get more singing out of your people in church.

We are in a society that doesn’t typically sing communally.

We don’t sing a lot together, except for maybe at a Coldplay concert or a YouTube

concert, or maybe at a ball game when we’re singing the National Anthem.

But singing in church is something that we have to train.

It’s something that we have to develop in people because a lot

of people are uncomfortable lifting their voice in church.

And yet it’s a scriptural command that the church of Christ sing to one another

with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

We want to make sure that we are helping our church sing.

Before I bring our guest on today, I’m really excited

to introduce you guys to Kenny.

I just want to say I have seen a troubling trend of churches, and worship leaders

in particular, using the platform to express their artisticness.

They’re using the platform to get their artistic kicks.

They almost feel like they’re an artist, and they’re leading a concert,

but leading worship, but it’s more about the music, and they’re a little

vocal runs or their even fake accent.

I know I sound like I’m throwing shade.

I’ve seen some live streams in the last few months, and I’m just

like, What is happening?

Because I don’t feel like this is corporate singing.

I’m excited to talk with Kenny Lamb.

He’s going to be sharing nine reasons why your church isn’t singing.

I’m going to bring him on the screen in just a second.

But as I do that, Kenny trains thousands of churches in North Carolina.

He trains over, I think, 2,000 churches in Worship Leading and Worship Mentoring.

He has a book that we’re going to be talking about.

Actually, this topic of nine reasons why your church isn’t

singing comes from his book.

We’ll tell you about the book.

I’ll put a link below as well for you guys to grab that book.

But it’s basically a Worship Leader handbook.

Kenny, welcome to the podcast.

I’m so glad you’re here.

Alex, it is great to be here.

Got to know you some time ago and just appreciate your ministry so much

and so excited to be able to share with other worship leaders today.


Kenny, should worship leaders who don’t have enough singing in their church,

should they be beating themselves up?

Is it their fault or is it their people’s fault?



What we’re going to talk about today, pertaining to the nine reasons.

These are nine reasons that I see that are the worship leader’s fault.

Reasons why some things we do often unknowingly that is keeping our people

from really engaging in worship.

Now, obviously, there are also reasons people aren’t singing,

like maybe they have no relationship with God, or we could go on with a list

of things that is a problem there.

But today we’re going to be specifically talking talking about what we as worship

leaders can do that hurts worship, what we can do that helps to really bring

our people into participation of worship. That’s helpful.

The list that you’re going to bring today is what we as worship leaders can do.

But you’re right, there are also reasons that a church in particular might not

be so expressive in their worship.

I do think before we talk about all that, I think I want to set

a few worship leaders free, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Some cultures are less expressive expressive.

My previous church, it was a gigantic room full of people from…

I don’t even know how to say this in the right way.

I don’t want to get in trouble.

But basically, people groups who are more in dire situations

in desperate situations.

Financially, they’re more needy, etc.

Those people and from those cultures are much more expressive people.

That church that I was at was extremely expressive,

loud, cheering, shouting, Raising their hands, crying, singing loudly.

It was culturally more expressive as a church.

My new church is a wealthier church, less needy, so they’re less desperate,

and therefore I’ve seen less engagement, and they haven’t been trained

over many years to be more expressive.

But I want to just set some worship leaders free that I do want

to hear what you think about this.

Sometimes you don’t need to beat yourself up over

your church’s lack of expressiveness.

If you’re singing the gospel, if you’re singing the word of God,

if you’re helping them focus their minds and hearts on God,

whether or not their hand goes up a little bit or a lot,

whether or not they do the baby rock hands down here or whatever, if you loved them,

served them them, sing the gospel to them, help them focus on God,

I would say you are successful as a worship leader, whether or not they’re

shouting like Elevation Worship Service.

Do you have any thoughts about that?

I agree with you.

We are emotional human beings, and God made us that way,

and we need to involve our emotions.

But I think the way that helped me so much was in Chuck Swindall’s

book, A Church Awakening.

He talks about the essence and expression of worship,

and he talks about the essence is being that that is in our heart.

In other words, if you took me, say,

or take someone from a more reserved stance as far as being in worship,

and then you take the person you were talking about from a different culture,

Those two people may love God just as much and be totally devoted to him.

That’s the essence.

But what happens is when you go beyond that is the expression of worship,

and that’s our outward forms of how we show our love and our worship to God.

And that can be as different as the varied cultures are.

And he goes on to say that where we start having problems

with worship wars today is where people clash over the expressions of worship.

And if you think about that, that is so true.

So I I agree with you that we shouldn’t be necessarily looking for or judging how

well we’re doing by looking at the outward forms, although we need to help encourage

and help people to be comfortable expressing themselves in ways that’s maybe

outside of their comfort zone, outside of their box right now.

But certainly, there’s going to be a difference in that,

and that outside doesn’t always indicate what’s going on on the inside.


I’m just thinking maybe they’re the worship leader in Norway who’s listening,

and they lead a very stoic Baptist church where no one raises their hands.

It’s like, don’t judge yourself based on their lack of expressiveness.

That’s just part of the culture. So thank you, Kenny.

So, okay, let’s dive into these nine reasons why people don’t sing.

The first one you wrote down is they don’t know the songs.

Can you elaborate?

Yes, I can.

Let’s think back a few years.

Do you remember the book that is called a Hemnal?

Has everybody seen one of those before?

So often when we plan worship, we plan from this hemnal

that was a finite number of songs.

Your church probably knew maybe a third of the songs or less in that.

But today, new songs are coming out weekly,

and there’s an increased birth even in churches of locally written songs.

And so it It feels like so often worship leaders feel that they’ve got

to provide a steady diet of the latest, greatest worship songs.

Just recently, an article came out called Worship at the Speed of Sound,

and it talks about this increasing pace of creation, distribution,

the rise and in the life of congregational worship songs that has never seen

anything like that in the past.

But Alex, we indeed need to be singing new songs, but if we introduce too many

new songs in worship, it is going to kill the participation rate and

turn the congregation into spectators.

I see this all the time.

I was invited to a church not long ago.

They said, It’s got the most incredible worship team.

It’s just great times of worship. I walked in there.

I think we sang seven songs during the worship service.

And as I looked around, five of the songs, almost Almost no one was singing.

They were just watching what was happening.

And what I found out later was about three or four of those songs had never

been sung in that congregation before.

So of course, people couldn’t use that as an expression

of their worship, of their praise.

But the Bible tells us we need to sing new songs, and of course,

they connect better with today’s culture and what God is doing in lives today.

Expands what I call our worship vocabulary.

That’s those words, those songs that we can use from our hearts

to praise and worship God.

So we do sing too many new songs today.

So when I’m doing training, I ask the question, how many

new songs should we sing?

And I think in looking all across and talking with worship leaders,

it seems to be We should never sing more than one new song in our worship service.

In fact, that seems so important that I have people that go through training

with me to raise their right-hand and repeat after me

saying they’ll never sing more than one new song in a worship service

because people worship best with the songs they know.

We need to teach and reinforce those new expressions of worship.

Let me just run a little bit farther.

There’s this important thought that we need to repeat new songs

on and off for several weeks until they become known by the congregation.

I see so often worship leaders will present a song, we sing it

in worship, and then maybe two months later, we bring it out again.

It’s almost like singing a new song totally again.

But if we sing it this week and sing it next week and sing it

the following week and lay off a week and come back another week, the people

really make it a song of their own that they’re really worshipping with.

We have to realise as worship leaders, we tyre of a song so much quicker

than our people do because we’ve been listening to it, we’ve been rehearsing

it, we’ve been practising all that stuff.

Our people may have only heard that song one time when we do it that morning.

Not only is that important to remember that, but there’s so many things

we can do as worship leaders to introduce those new songs

in ways that will really take hold.

I’ve got some of that on my blog and also on the book,

if you want to go deeper into that.

But there’s a number of things for us as worship leaders to really

think about and how we present the songs, even preparing them

before they come to worship to do that. Yeah.

Thank you.

I think I was going to ask you, what’s the ratio of new song to old song?

But I think you hit it. It’s one new song in a set.

But also you’re saying we need to pre-introduce the song to them

through the pre-service playlist or maybe sending it out on a mailing list or maybe

putting it on our social media for our church and say, Hey, listen.

But also, we need to follow up that new song a few weeks in a row

because the average church attendance in America right now is,

I think, once every three weeks. I think that’s right.


A highly attended person, a person who attends a lot, is only

coming every third week to church.

And so they’re not even hearing the new song that’s introduced.

We want to follow up a few times.

Do you have a placement in the service where you like to introduce new songs?

Well, if you think about it, when we put a new song into worship, it can often

cause people to take their eyes off of God, struggling with the rhythms,

the music, and all that stuff.

I think the very best place to put it, if you can, is just as you start

the service, especially if it’s a more upbeat song, and then immediately

go to something they know.

It’s not really interrupted the flow of worship.

But then another thing I often do is if it’s maybe a slower worship song that you

want to include closer to sermon time, sometimes I would come out even before

the service starts and have a congregational rehearsal and say, Hey,

this is a song we’re going to do later just with a guitar or keys

and introduce that to them.

Then when it comes in worship, they already know it a little better.

The other thing, when you’re talking about repeating, if a song has a verse,

a course, and a bridge, maybe the first time you do it,

you just do the verse and Don’t get it too complex with the bridge also and do

a little more repetition of something in a way that will catch on.

Then the next time, you can maybe add more to that.

But constantly be obsessing over, how can I help my congregation

to internalise this song to be an expression of their worship?

That’s so good.

I like to, like you said, introduce it at the top of service, and I like

to teach the chorus before we sing it.

Hey, church, we’re going to sing a new song this morning.

Here’s the chorus. This blah, blah, blah.

Let’s sing it together.

Then, All right, ready?

Let’s go into the song.

Or if it’s a slower song, I will do it in the offering slot because

they’re usually seated and it’s more like, Listen and learn it,

and I’ll do it the following week in the offering slot,

and then maybe the third week, I’ll do it in the actual set

or give it a break and bring it back for the fourth week or something like that.

This is all under the banner of the reason people aren’t singing at church

is because they don’t know the songs.

One thing that I like to do, Kenny, I’m not sure what you think about this, but

I think we’re probably on the same page.

I like to sing a song from almost every era of church history, from the ’80s,

’90s, the 2000s, the brand new, and then an ancient hym, like an old hymn.

I literally every service, I’m trying to get that balance.

It doesn’t always work, but it really helps for the different generations of

the people to find their love language.

Because when you first get saved and you’re singing songs

from your junior high days, it really reawakens or it’s It’s like that comfort

zone, that comfort level.

And so trying to get everybody’s love language in the set.

And I would say all of this falls under the umbrella of it’s not

artistry, it’s not about you, it’s not a performance, it’s about

the gathered people of God singing.

And so we, as leaders, lay our preferences aside to serve the group in the room.

Yeah. Yeah.

And one other thing about new songs, to say one new song per service.

But the other thing is, how often When do I introduce a new song?

I think in most cases, once a month is about as many as you should.

But then I’ve worked with some churches.

The last new song they introduced was Bill Gaither’s Because He Lives,

and they might not be able to take a new song every month.

But We just don’t want to start inundating people with new stuff so much that

they just start turning into spectators. Exactly.

All right, great. That was number one.

They don’t know the songs.

The second reason people are not singing is we are singing songs

that are not suited suitable for congregational singing.

Can you please elaborate?

There’s a lot of great new worship songs that have come out today, but in that

great pool of new songs, there’s a lot of them that aren’t really suitable

for congregational singing.

Part of that might be their rhythms.

It’s too difficult for the average singer.

Some of the contemporary music today is so syncopated and so difficult

to land those rhythms well.

If you start thinking about, especially if you lead a multi-generational

congregation, that’s going to cause a lot of people just to quit.

That will be too difficult for them or too wide of a range.

We’ll talk about this a little bit later, but consider the average singer, not

the vocal superstar that’s on the stage, but what are they able to handle well and

not just get discouraged and drop out?

Then there’s some songs that are great on K-Love, Christian radio stations,

but their lyrics really aren’t written to be something that the congregation

proclaims and gathered worship.

Might be a great testimonial song of sorts and all.

It’s not really intended for worship, and we really need to delineate those kinds

of things as we’re choosing our songs.

I think that’s so important to say.

There are a lot of great songs out there, but that does not automatically make them

a great congregational song. That’s right.

I am thinking about a couple of live streams I saw recently.

There was a church playing the song Holy Water by We the Kingdom,

and I was listening to it, and I’m like, This is It’s a cool song,

but it’s not really like worship. You know what I mean?

Yes. Or even like Honey in the Rock.

Honey in the Rock, Water.

It’s a cool song.

I get that you can turn little parts of it to worship.

For me, I’m boring.

I like those simple singable songs, and the church does, too.

I think you’re so right about that.

Do you have a criteria for determining a good range

of a song vocally for your church?

Well, Guys, thank you for leading right into point number three.

Let’s do it. Number three.

We are singing in keys too high for the average singer.

Let me just step back here and say, of the two things we as worship leaders

do, the two things that are most hurting participation in worship today are singing

too many new songs and singing in keys that are too high for the average singer.

Because think about this, when we pitch songs in keys that are too high,

the current congregation is going to stop singing, they’re going to tyre out,

eventually quit, become spectators.

And that usually happens more with your men than it does with the ladies, too.

But Alex, here is a critical understanding.

I think you alluded to this.

Our responsibility is to enable the congregation to sing their praises,

not for us to showcase our great platform voices by pitching songs

in our power ranges, sounding like the recordings that we hear.

A worship leader’s calling is to help the people sing with all their being,

even at the sacrifice of some things we as musicians would prefer for

the way it sounds, perhaps.

Because worship is not about impressing the congregation with our extraordinary

vocal skills, instrumental skills.

Rather, as worship leaders, our task is to enable others to worship.

If we keep that in mind, I think all this other stuff will fall into place

or we will realise these things that we’re doing that’s hurting.

So getting back to what key a song should be in, you need to look at the melody.

And as you study voices, bass, tenor, alto, soprano, almost all human voices

can sing in that octave C to C.

For ladies, that’s middle C to C above.

For men, it’s that same range, octave lower.

If you can pitch your songs in a key that has the melody in that C to C range,

almost everyone in your congregation is going to really be able to sing out well.

Now, immediately you’re thinking, Oh, we’ve got songs that are an octave

and a third or an octave and a fifth apart, and those kinds of things.

When you extend the basic range, then I would say a safe place to go

is to go down to a A and up to a, and what I usually say is

with an occasional E flat, you don’t want to stay up on that E flat too long.

And you find when you can put a song in those keys keys where that melody range

is A to D with the casual E flat, people will sing so much better.

And I do this with big groups that I’m training.

We’ll pull out, talking about an older song, I’ll pull out Shout to the Lord,

and we’ll do that in a key that seems okay at first,

but they end up screaming at the end and just hurting our ears and their ears.

And then I’ll put it into a better key, the key of B, and we start singing that.

And it’s amazing how the congregation comes alive with just that difference.

So I walk into churches all the time.

They’ll be doing a song like 10, 000 Reasons, and they’re doing

that in the original key, and it just gets too high for the average singer.

And if you just bring it down a little bit, it’s in great shape.

Now, one thing I will say is if you have people that have a hard time

quite figuring out what that should be on the blog, renewingworshipnc.

Org, I have a listing of about 200 of the most popular

I take the CCL 100 every six months.

It comes out, and I will have on that the keys that are best for congregational

singing to really engage them.

But that’s basically it.

C2c, best place, A to D with occasionally flat otherwise.

I 100% agree that A to D is where I pitch songs

and occasionally bump to that E flat.

If I ever touch the E, it’s for one note and then back down.

But I try not I try not even to do that because my voice is pitched a bit higher.

I’m not a full tenor, but I’m closer to a tenor.

A vocal coach lady told me, I’m a bear a tenor.

I’ve never heard of that before.

Yeah, up higher is more comfortable for me, but I will always be two steps

lower than my sweet spot because it’s better for the church to sing.

Some people will disagree with our take on this, but I think we’re right.

Alex, let’s say that That shows your servant attitude to serve your

congregation, to put it in a key that maybe isn’t

the best for where you sound, but you know that is going to help your

people to fully engage in singing and therefore be more likely

to be transformed through worship.

A way I like to put it is our job is to invite, not to impress.

That’s exactly right. I love it.

Desire is asking if you can provide the link to that list of songs.

Yes, I’ll get that from him, Desire, and post it afterwards.

I also have a list of 101 congregationally friendly songs, so we’ll also

instal that for you guys later.

I also want to share something that I found regarding keys and pitch and how

high, especially Maybe, which probably this is going to describe

the majority of most churches, especially in smaller rooms with more

acoustic bands, and early in the morning, people are not ready to shout.

They’re not going to try to get up there with you.

When it’s an early morning, acoustic set, small environment,

I go way lower than it’s comfortable for me because that’s going to actually

help people to sing in a small room and not feel like they’re shouting.

Now, if you’re in a huge room, huge big band and everything,

and there’s a lot of energy, you can get a little more out of people because they

feel the safety and the covering of the arrangements and all that.

But that leads us into our fourth reason why people don’t sing, which is

the congregation can’t hear the people around them singing.

You want to talk about that? I do.

I want to talk about that.

If our music is too loud for people to hear each other singing, it’s too loud.

Conversely, if our music is too quiet, generally, the congregation

will fail to sing out with power.

So we have to find that right balance, strong but not overbearing.

I’ve seen churches that pass out earplugs as you enter

because the sound levels are so high.

I had one worship leader that had read an article I wrote on the blog

about volume levels, and he basically said, with pride, they pass out earplugs.

He said, And we keep it at…

I can’t remember what decibel he said it was.

And he indicated that OSHA had indicated that as long

as you did that for less than 20 minutes, there would be no permanent hearing loss.

I thought, wow.

But that certainly turns the room more into a spectator event since you can’t

hear this corporate part of worship, people around you singing.

I hear those complaints from people all the time saying the music’s too loud,

it physically hurts their ears.

There are definitely times we want to raise the roof with a great sound

of voices and instruments, and there are times we want to let

our acapella voices feel the space.

And there’s levels everywhere in between that we need to utilise to express

our worship When the band and singers get too loud, I guess we encourage

a performance environment rather than participatory worship.

And maybe of even greater significance, music that is too loud

negates the biblical imperative that you mentioned just a while ago alluded

to that worship should be both vertical, congregation to God, and horizontal,

congregant to congregant in nature.

So it’s talking about speak to one another, the horizontal, and making music

in your heart to the Lord.

We have to understand that it’s a both and.

And gathered worship has that communal aspect that

differentiates from personal worship.

So I find when I’m experiencing worship in a place where I can see the people around

me and I can hear them, it’s encouraging to me and helps me worship greater.

To see a grandmother, a daughter, and a granddaughter standing side by side,

boldly singing songs to Lord together, that motivates others to worship

wholeheartedly or to see a family present that just lost a loved one and see them

raising their hands in worship and praise, that encourages me to worship more.

That communal aspect of corporate worship can’t be understated.

It’s got to be vital to our lives to have that interaction in worship.


I guess so often in instances of contemporary worship,

we transform our times of gather worship into a feeling of personal worship

by cutting out the lights and raising the music so we don’t see or experience

anybody around us, but just see the people on stage.

We’ve got to get beyond that to make our times the times to exhort, to encourage,

to comfort, and so much more that happens in that horizontal aspect of worship.

Yeah, it’s not a concert.

We are not copying.

We are doing church, which is radically different purpose than a concert.

The corporate aspect of church is the point.

The reason we’re together is to be together, not to be in our little

dark little bubble where I could just sing my little heart out to God.

It’s like, no, we’re supposed to sing to each other.

You’re mentioning both lights and sound.

Not too dark, not too loud. Just right.

There is that Goldilocks zone where it’s not too bright

because that’s It’s not awkward.

It’s not too quiet because that’s awkward, but it’s not too loud

and not too dark because that just defeats the whole purpose.

We got to strive for that balance.

I like to hear the voices popping up just over the top of the mix.

The mix is there.

It’s warm, it’s full, but then you still hear the people’s voices over the top.

I intentionally every week build pockets into my set where it’s like a down

chorus, and they’re really hearing themselves sing.

Or I’ll even tell them, if it’s a familiar song, 10,000 Reasons, verse 2,

the band is in, the groove is there.

I’ll say, Hey, you sing it, and then I’ll back off the mic, and I’ll let them

carry and actually lead the song.

So they feel like they’re a part of it.

I actually have in the academy for you, academy members, there’s a course called

Increasing Congregational Engagement.

If you are wanting to see more engagement, one, get Kenny’s book, but two,

check out the course because you guys already have access to it.

I like to leave space in the set for people’s voices to pop out,

and I also don’t use tracks anymore.

I’m not saying it’s wrong.

I sometimes use them occasionally, but when you fill every crevice

of the frequency spectrum with tracks and with all this extra sound, there is

no room for the congregation’s voice.

I don’t use my band.

We have a really good band right now, and so we don’t need any extra support

for it to be full and beautiful and epic.

But I would say don’t use tracks for every song if possible.

Many songs don’t need them.

I found, I don’t know how you feel about this, Kenny.

I found the moss