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?

Musicianship

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!)

Vocals

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?

Sound

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

Leadership

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

 

Why you should NEVER sing entire songs with your eyes closed (part 2)

Welcome Back!

So in part one I discussed the fact that singing with your eyes closed disconnects you from your audience and basically makes them an outsider looking in on your “private” conversation with God.

But let’s face it. Keeping your eyes open comes with it’s own challenges. I know I’m stating the obvious here, but one of the biggest “disadvantages” of singing with your eyes open is that you can SEE everybody. LOL! Yes, this is not always the greatest thing. Because the honest truth is, no matter how good or anointed a person is, there will be people in the audience that are just not with you. For whatever reason. They might not like the song. They may be distracted. Heck, sometimes it’s just good old-fashioned hatin’. It can be somewhat discouraging when you see that from up on stage.
The other challenge is where to look. I already said in part 1 that simply staring at one spot in the room or up at the ceiling isn’t any better than having your eyes closed. You’re just as disconnected from the audience that way as with your eyes closed.

So what do you do??

I teach my students a very simple performance tip called the “Four Square” method. It’s a very easy to implement method of connecting with your audience in a genuine, effective way. It will also keep you from staring at one fixed spot in the room. It works like this:

As you stand in front of a room, mentally divide it into four large squares. As you sing, simply move your eyes from square to square, each time focusing just briefly on one person sitting in that area. Simply continue to do that throughout the song. Go to square one; look at the person in the front row. Move your eyes to square 2. Make eye contact with the person in the middle. And so on, you get the idea.

This keeps your eyes moving and keeps you connected with the audience in a much deeper way. More importantly though, it allows God to speak directly to people with the message in the song, through YOU.

So what about those people who aren’t looking very nice? Not enjoying you for whatever reason? There will always be some. That’s just reality. But the great thing is, unless you really need to come see me (smile) there will usually be a lot more people who ARE enjoying you and being blessed. As you continue to rotate through the four squares, simply keep coming back to those people who are being blessed. Clearly that’s who you’re there to sing to anyway.

 

Why you should NEVER sing entire songs with your eyes closed (part 1)

It’s a very common thing to see Gospel singers do their entire selection with their eyes closed. And honestly, most have very good reason for doing so.  After all, Gospel music is ministry. As such, many well-meaning singers simply want to completely lose themselves in the song and it’s meaning. Their thinking is if they close their eyes and focus completely on God and the message, God will use them to bless the audience. Some others though, close their eyes simply out of fear, nerves or stage fright.

Either way though, singing with your eyes closed the entire time is something every singer should avoid. Ironically the very reason many singers close their eyes is the most important reason they should STOP doing it. Have you ever been in a social setting with two or more people who are having this intense conversation and not involving or addressing you at all? It’s as if you’re not there!
Singing with your eyes closed has a similar effect on your audience. Even though every sincere Gospel singer wants to have a powerful, effective ministry that really speaks to people, closing your eyes cuts your audience out of that conversation and makes it a private conversation between just you and God. The audience, even though many may be enjoying the performance, is robbed of a much deeper connection with you because you’ve made them an outsider “looking in”.

But when you sing with your eyes open- and sorry guys, starring at the ceiling or the clock on the back wall doesn’t count either- I’m talking about making eye contact with members of the audience- people feel a much deeper spiritual connection with not only you but the message you’re portraying in the song. Imagine for a moment that you’re in the audience watching a performer sing. He’s great, and clearly fully invested emotionally and spiritually in the song he’s rendering. His eyes are closed the whole time. You hear him sing “sometimes you have to encourage yourself”, and you nod in agreement as you sway back in forth.

NOW: Imagine the same artist is doing the same song. He sounds great and the spirit is high. He’s engaging and looking at members of the audience as he sings. Just as he comes to the line “no matter how you feel, speak a Word and you will be healed”, his eyes make contact with yours and he points at you. This time tears begin to flow because you KNOW God is delivering a Word directly to you through this artist.

That’s the difference. When you engage with the audience while you’re singing, your message is much more powerful because you allow God to speak directly to them through you. And that’s the whole point of it all, isn’t it?

Now let me just clarify something really quickly. When I say you shouldn’t sing with your eyes closed, I mean just what I said above; that is, not for the entire song. There are moments in a song where it’s perfectly normal to close your eyes for a moment during a high energy or emotionally charged point in the message. Worship songs are also a bit of an exception to this rule of thumb. Typically when you’re singing a worship song it’s being done in an atmosphere or time of corporate worship. As such, most of the audience will also have their eyes closed…..in a perfect world. But we all know that’s not often the case even during worship songs.

Worship songs are different in that they’re really designed to set an atmosphere for worship and communion with God. It’s a lot like the background music at a really nice restaurant. Even so, while it’s maybe more acceptable to close your eyes longer or more often in a worship song, it’s still just as important to be sure to make eye contact with members of the audience from time to time.

Ok so we’ve established that it’s not a good idea to sing entire songs (or even most of a song) with your eyes closed. But singing with your eyes open comes with its own challenges. In part 2  I’m going to share a really neat performance tip you can use to make it easier to and highly effective.

See you then!

Image courtesy of “imagerymajestic”FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Basic microphone technique for Gospel singers

Mic CheckToday’s blog is a video! I don’t do these often, but I knew the best way to talk about today’s blog topic would be to do it via video. Good microphone technique is something that’s seldom discussed but much needed. So I thought I’d do a training video on the subject. This runs a little over 10 minutes, so sit back with your favorite beverage or snack and push play!

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The “5 second rule” of music ministry; Use this to quickly move past any negative emotion

As Time Goes ByIf you’ve spent any time at all serving in music ministry, you know that you’re not always excited about everything you have to do. You don’t love every song you have to sing. You’re not thrilled about every engagement. Sometimes you’re not even all that happy about certain people and what they do, say, sing, etc. Let me give you a personal example.

When I first came to the front in my music ministry, it was as a choir director. I didn’t ask for the position, I was sort of “drafted”. But even at that young age of around 15 or so, God had already placed such a love of music in my heart I was happy to serve in any capacity. Over the years though, I started doing many other tasks with the choir, and other gifted directors came up behind me.

To make a long story short, I seldom direct anymore, because I have other roles and responsibilities. My main roles now in my music department are that of voice instructor and keyboard player. Still though, there are times when I’m called upon to direct. To be honest, when I am it always irritates me a little. It’s easier for me to deal with if my director simply can’t be there and needs me to have his back. But it’s really irritating to me if he IS in fact there and just not prepared or doesn’t know the song we’re about to sing for some reason.

In both situations, the source of the irritation for me is the same. It’s not that I don’t enjoy directing the choir anymore. It’s not that I don’t want to help out. I love my music ministry and I believe the sole reason I have any musical gift that I have is so it can be used to help the ministry. What I don’t like about it though, is that any time I have to direct it pulls me away from the keyboard. That’s frustrating for me because I’ve prepared myself to play the piece. The band has prepared for the piece as a unit. What I have NOT done is prepare myself to direct the song. So I’m at a bit of a disadvantage, the band is at a bit of a disadvantage because we all depend on each other, and it’s just a mild irritation all around.

This is one small issue that kind of bothers me, but it could be any number of things for any member of any music department- or any ministry for that matter. In music ministry, often it’s something as simple as not caring for the song we’ve chosen to sing that morning. Whatever it is that you find personally irritating at any given time though, has to be very quickly dealt with. You must have a way to quickly-often within seconds- deal with your personal issue with the song that’s been chosen, or the fact that you’re being asked to lead it again for the 100th time, or the fact that you PREPARED to lead but the song selection had to be changed and now you’re not singing after all that practice….I could go on and on here, but you get the idea.

We need something for those negative emotions that pop-up seconds before we’re about to stand before God’s people. I don’t think many of us really understand how even things as small as facial expressions have a profound impact on the effectiveness of our ministry. If you allow negative emotions, feelings, dissension, irritation or disappointment to remain in your spirit while you’re up ministering to God’s people, then the truth is you’re not ministering at all. You are, at that moment, completely in self.

Nothing matters about what’s going on at that moment except you, your emotions and how you feel about whatever is happening at that moment. That’s something that can’t be hidden from the audience or from God. As someone who is always out front; whether it’s in front of the entire congregation or simply in front of my own choir at rehearsal, I knew I needed a way to deal with something like this quickly. So I developed my own music ministry “5 second rule”.

You may or may not be familiar with the 5 second rule regarding food. But there’s a running joke here in the United States that says if you drop a piece of food on the floor and it’s there for less than 5 seconds, it’s ok for you to pick it up and eat it (lol). Well, as I kept being asked to direct the choir-usually with virtually no notice, I had to find a way to deal with the irritation I felt, and do it in the few seconds it took me to rise from the keyboard and walk over to the director’s spot. That little mental routine became what I now call my 5 second rule.

I had the opportunity to work with a choir a few years ago for about 2 months. The choir was simply paralyzed and unable to move forward with their ministry because it’s ranks were full of people who were simply refusing to do things that they could in fact do that would help the ministry move forward. There were people who could direct that wouldn’t. There was one who could play that wouldn’t. People were singing in the wrong sections for their vocal range because they didn’t like the section they belonged in.

God impressed upon me to share with them the way I deal with directing when I don’t want to, so I began to explain my 5 second rule to them this way;.

“There will always be things you don’t want to do. Songs you don’t want to sing, whatever. We’re only human. But you have to remember that the music ministry is NOT about you. And when it’s time to sing, you must set aside everything you’re feeling that IS about you, and focus on ministering to God’s people. You can’t allow any kind of negativity in your spirit when you’re up in front of God’s people.

Now, I wouldn’t dare stand here and tell you not to feel it. We’re all human and I’m not sure we could avoid it if we wanted to. But here’s what I do when I’m asked to direct and I don’t want to. I give myself 5 seconds to feel whatever I feel. Acknowledge it, pout about it, say it ain’t fair, whatever. From the time I’m told until the time I raise my hands in front of the choir is all the time I’m allowed to let it be about me. Once I get to that director’s spot, that’s over. I take a deep breath, blow it out and say to myself, “ok this is not about me anymore.”And it isn’t. It’s not about us, what we feel or even our right to feel it. Not at that moment.

It’s about God and it’s about ministry. So from that second I raise my hands I’m committed to giving God everything I have in that song. In fact many members of my choir would be shocked to find that I ever feel anything but complete joy about directing. Because that’s all they see when I’m in front of them. The same is true when I’m teaching a song at rehearsal, whether it’s my favorite song or one I really don’t care for at all. They’ll never know how I feel about it based on my outward emotions, facial expressions or lack of enthusiasm.

It doesn’t matter how I feel about the song, or directing, or anything else at that point. Because none of it is about how I feel. So from now on, that’s what I want you to do. Whatever it is you don’t like, you have 5 seconds to feel it. Once it’s time to minister though, it’s not about you anymore. Remind yourself of that every time you feel a negative emotion right before you’re about to minister in song. Just say “5 seconds”. Then get over it and give God your best.”

 

 

5 easy changes that will make you a better Gospel Soloist

If you’ve been to a musical or other “program” where there will be lots of Gospel music, you’ve seen more than a few people come up and sing a solo. When it’s good, it’s powerful and electric, and spirit-filled. It super-charges the whole audience. But sometimes a really good singer can have a not so good performance. And often it can leave not only the audience but the singer scratching his/her head wondering “what just happened there?” So in today’s blog I’d like to share 5 very simple tips that will make an already good soloist a better one; not by changing your singing, but by changing  “experience”. You’ll see what I mean. Here we go!

 

1. Always have at least one song ready- more if possible

It may not be exactly “P.C” of me to say this, but it has always kinda bugged me a little when soloists- meaning people who are always being called on to sing a solo- don’t have a clue what to sing. So you go through this whole awkward thing where you have to watch them fidget around and go whisper to the musician for what seems like way too long. And everybody’s waiting and nobody really knows what to do, and the moment is kinda dragging on, and the soloist looks completely caught off-guard. It’s just awkward all around!

If you’ve ever sang a solo at your church, you might as well assume that you’ll be asked to do so again, at any time. So a good thing to do is just always have a song ready in case you’re called. If you’re smart you’ll have more than one, because at a musical someone could very well sing the song you planned on doing. Seems really obvious, I know. But it wouldn’t be on the list if I didn’t see it happen all the time. So if I may state the obvious once again, a soloist should always have a solo ready- even if you’re not scheduled to be on program.

 

2. Know what key you do your favorite song(s) in.

 

Nothing feels better than when you can walk up and tell the musician what you’re singing and what key to put you in.  First of all it makes that conversation over there at the organ much shorter- which means it’s much less awkward for everybody. You walk up, tell the organist the song and the key and go on over there and do your thing. NICE! Now, if you’re intimidated at the thought of learning keys, there’s no need to be. First of  all you can learn your keys on the piano in 7 minutes. But an even easier thing to do is simply ask the musician.  The next time you sing a solo and you like how it feels for you right there, simply lean over and ask the musician what key that is. Make a note of it and every time you sing that song you’ll know exactly what key to tell the musician to play it in.

Have you ever seen or experienced that embarrassing thing where the soloist starts singing then halfway through the song he suddenly realizes he started way too high? I don’t know which is worse, when they keep going or when they stop and start over. But both are completely avoidable by just knowing what key you sing your most popular songs in.

3. Choose a well-known song for your solo

Yes, I know you listen to all kinds of Christian and inspirational music, not just Gospel. And that’s great! But it’s important to know the audience you’re singing for and what they’re most likely to be familiar with.  This is not nearly as important for the audience’s sake as it is for the musician’s sake. If, for example, you’re singing at an African-American church and you decide you’ll take that beautiful Contemporary Christian song you heard on the other station the other day and sing it as a solo, there’s a good chance the musician will have never heard the song. Which means both of you will struggle and stumble through the entire performance.

You singing mostly a cappella and the musician desperately trying to follow you but using chord progressions that don’t really follow the original because he’s never heard it. So now you’re thrown off because what he’s playing doesn’t sound like what you’re used to. And he’s thrown off because he’s flying blind trying to accompany you on a song he’s never heard. The whole thing is just “uncomfortable” for everybody. Choosing well-known songs for your solo will insure a smooth, seamless experience for everyone.

4. Testify, don’t apologize!

Here’s another thing that always kinda irks me a little.  That is when a soloist comes up and spends two minutes talking about how completely unprepared they are to sing, and how they’re gonna “attempt” to “try” to “take a stab at” (insert song title here).  And then almost every time they’ll quote the scripture that says “be ye also ready” as proof that they know they should but still aren’t, lol! God gets no glory from that, singers. What the audience wants and needs a soloist to do when they come to that microphone is give them something that connects you-and will connect them- to what you’re about to sing about. What does this song mean to you? Why do you love to sing it? Why or how does it minister to you? What’s the message you want to impart to them in the song? Stop coming down front and apologizing for how “not ready” you are. And stop saying you’re gonna “try” and “attempt”. Go up there, give your testimony and then sing to the glory and honor of God.

 

5. Don’t over-sing!

I realize that things like this are very subjective. One person’s opinion of over-singing may not be someone else’s. But here’s one thing that almost everyone sees universally. TIME. A solo shouldn’t last 10 minutes, gang. After you’ve gone back to that bridge for the 4th time, I think you’ve made your point. It is far better to leave the audience wanting more than wishing you’d end it already. So we kinda walked through a typical “not so good” soloist performance under item number 1. It was awkward, uncomfortable for the audience  and took way too long to get started. Let’s now compare that to a typical soloist performance using these 5 changes.

The MC calls your name to come up for a solo. On your way to the front you stop by the organ and whisper the name of your song and the key you like to do it in. Takes about 5 seconds. You walk up to the microphone, give honor and greetings where appropriate and begin a brief testimony or words about the song. You give the nod for the musician, who is already doing soft music in the exact key you need him to be in because you told him. You sing your song and the Holy Spirit moves mightily. You go sit down.  :O)