The First Thing To Check When The Audience Isn’t Responding

I’m a behind the scenes guy at my church. A lot of what I do shows up in the finished product that is presented on Sunday morning, but I seldom come to the front myself.  But there was this worship medley by William McDowell that I wanted the praise team to sing, and I kinda knew even before I presented it to them that I’d be asked to sing it. His voice is similar to my own so it only made sense.

So I teach the song and everything goes well. Sunday comes and we present it. I begin leading the song and right away I notice only a small handful of the audience seems to be into it at all. Only 3 or 4 or standing, maybe another few that I can see actually closing their eyes and making an attempt to worship. That’s the downside to singing with your eyes open, unfortunately. Sometimes you can “see too much” and discourage yourself.

So we continued to move through the medley and everything went well, but I was discouraged. I had people come up to me and say they enjoyed it, but I personally didn’t feel good about it. I blamed much of it on the audience, and the rest on myself. You see we used to be one of those churches who had “testimony service”. We did it for many years-most of my life, really. So even though we’ve had a praise team for several years now, many of our older saints just don’t “get it”. “We don’t know how to worship”, I told one of the young ministers who was encouraging me.

Then there was me. See Iv’e always had this inward battle about my own singing and whether it’s “hype enough” or “exciting enough”. I struggle with thoughts that my singing is “too calm” or “too boring”.  It didn’t help that our regular worship leader is a powerful anointed singer and woman of God that just electrifies the service every time she sings.

So, overall just not especially having enjoyed the experience, imagine how I felt when our worship leader sends me a text saying she wants me to do it again the following Sunday. I hemmed and haw’d and stated my case, but in the end I promised I’d be obedient. So I’m sitting there on the keyboard that Sunday playing and she’s going forth with the praise team. And just when I’m convinced the spirit is leading her another way she stops down and asks me to come up.

Any time I get up to do something I try to prepare myself mentally and spiritually so I’m in the right frame of mind and I have the right attitude. I just won’t get up in front of people with a negative spirit, I don’t care how I feel personally about what I’m about to do. I call it my 5 Second Rule Of Music Ministry.  So in the few seconds it takes me to get up to the stage I decided that this time I’d do two things. I’d make more of an effort to go deeper into the songs emotionally myself. To make sure I’m actually worshiping, lifting my hands, closing my eyes and talking to God.

But then the second thing I decided to do was to do a better job leading, encouraging and guiding the audience in worship. So right away when I took the microphone this time I began to just talk to them about worship, encouraging them to surrender all they had been through that day, even the previous week. I began to explain to them that worship isn’t something that “happens to you”, it’s something that you do.

I began to sing, this time moving my hands more, lifting them more, talking to the audience more. This time the atmosphere was different. There were many more people worshiping. Many more standing, lifting their hands. Many more who were seated were doing the same thing. The atmosphere was filled with a spirit of worship. Even when the pastor came up, which was much later, the praise and worship portion of the service was still on his mind. He began to talk about the songs we sang and the kind of worship we offered, referring to it as a “slow rain”. In fact I ended up going back into a portion of it again by his request.

So now, thinking back on it I realize that it wasn’t necessarily the audience that had the problem the first time, it was me. It wasn’t them that needed to surrender, it was me. It wasn’t them that wasn’t worshiping, it was me that wasn’t. I learned that day something I really already knew. Something I’ve said to others before. Simply, that when you stand before God’s people you have to give God your best. It has to come from a pure place that isn’t influenced or affected by what the audience is doing- or not doing.

Because the truth is even in the second performance of the medley there were still people who weren’t really into it at all. And there always will be, in every performance; for all of us. But the solution is not to simply keep our eyes tightly closed for the entire thing and ignore the audience entirely. The solution is to sing from the purest place you can, giving God the best praise or worship you can. Connect with and focus on those who are with you and being blessed. Avoid focusing your attention on those who don’t seem to be interested, and don’t take it personally. Doing so could cause you to miss being a blessing to someone else. Or worse yet, miss being blessed yourself.



20 Questions To Ask If The Audience Won’t Get With Your Praise Team

I’ve seen and even written about the subject of unresponsive audiences in regard to praise & worship or even just selections from the choir. If you’ve ever done any research on the subject, chances are your search led you to articles that list some of the common reasons audiences are unresponsive to the praise and worship music going forth. I think they are important things to consider when you’re trying to figure out why your audience is unresponsive, so I’m going to list some of the most common questions you should ask if you find this situation.

But then I want to get into another aspect of unresponsive audiences that I don’t see covered very often at all. More about that a little later in the article. First though, let’s look at 20 possible reasons why your congregation may not be responding

 Song Selection

It’s important you know your audience well and what they respond to. This can sometimes be harder than it looks, because honestly most of us choose songs based not on whether or not we think our audience will be blessed by them, but by how much we like them ourselves. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the musical arrangement or the beat that we don’t pay as much attention to the message as we should. Sometimes it’s the style that’s losing your audience.

1.  Is it too contemporary?
2. Too dated or”old school?”
3. Too much of one or the other?
4. Are you doing too much new material (it’s hard for your audience to participate if you’re never doing anything they know)?
5. Are songs easy to catch on and sing?
6. Are the songs really praise and worship songs?


7. Is the music being played with a level of competence?
8. Can the audience recognize the song?
9. Is the volume too loud or too soft? (ok it’s never too soft, lol!)


10. Is the harmony right?
11. Are the group members well-versed and learned on the material (do they know the song?)
12.Are you putting competent leaders up to lead songs?
13. Are your leaders and/or group members screaming?


14. Are the microphones too loud?
15. Are they feeding back?
16. Are the house speakers too loud?


17. Is the leader actively exalting and leading the audience?
18. Is the leader reprimanding or scolding the audience for not participating? (don’t ever do this!)
19. Is the leader moving quickly between songs with little to no dead time?
20. Is the leader being led by the spirit and allowing for unscripted, organic worship and praise? (real praise and worship can’t always be scripted)

All of these issues and more are very common issues that audiences find very off-putting and distracting. It is very difficult for the audience to overcome those things and concentrate on praising and worshiping when these things are not being addressed regularly. And while it may seem almost unfair to some people that really haven’t fully grasped the importance of perfecting music ministry, the truth is it can be any one thing. Everything can be perfect, for example, and the microphones are way too loud or feeding back. Or everything is sounding great but the music was way too loud. Or the group sounded great but the leader didn’t really have the skill that the song required.

But let’s flip this coin for a minute and talk about something almost nobody touches on. Because you see, if we’re all being honest here, there are times when absolutely everything is the best it can be. The band is on point. the song selection is perfect. The group/choir sounds great. The leader is bringing it. And the audience is STILL unresponsive.

There are just days when despite your best efforts, the audience simply won’t be with you. Who knows what it is from one day to the next, but it does happen. It is on those days that worship leaders and song leaders make the worst mistake they can make. I touched on it in question number 18 but it’s important enough to elaborate on more here.

I’m speaking of the tendency many leaders have start reprimanding the audience to get them to participate. Understand what I’m referring to here. I’m not talking about the act of encouraging the audience to open up and feel free to worship. Encouraging them to lift their hands, stand, or sing along.

I’m talking about those who actually, in a sense, scold the audience for not being more engaged or participating more. Listen, nobody understands how frustrating an unresponsive audience is than I do. But scolding them will only cause them to resent you. which will only make them close off even more. Only now it may very well extend past the musical selections to the Pastor and the word of God itself.

That is why when you worship and praise God in song, your worship must be for real. It has to be about God, and NOT about the audience. I wrote in an article a while ago that it’s not a good idea to sing your entire selection with your eyes closed. That’s absolutely true. But much more importantly than that, you must never allow your worship or praise experience to depend on or be affected by the reactions of the audience.

When we sing, we should always sing to the glory and honor of God. As one speaker once told us at a choir banquet, we are to minister to Him, and He in turn ministers through us to His people. If you’re always looking for the audience’s reaction when you sing, you could find yourself very discouraged when you don’t get what you expected

It’s really not our job in music ministry to “make” the audience do anything. Any number of things could be the cause of unresponsiveness. I’ve seen times when, heck the people are just tired! The church has been in revival all week, or we’ve had back-to-back services, or a Saturday night service of some kind so everyone is kind of tired Sunday morning.

So yes, it is extremely important that we do everything we can to perfect, enhance, hone and polish every aspect of our music ministries. But at the end of the day every single minute we spend on any of that has to be for one reason and one reason only. That God be glorified. And when we stand before His people knowing that we’ve done everything we can to prepare ourselves to minister in excellence, even when they’re not responding we can then just worship Him from a pure, honest, deeply sincere place that has nothing to do with how many people stood up while we were singing. Or how many didn’t. For more praise team training check out my new e-book Praise Team 101