10 Distractions Regarding Worship Music

Based on my time as a church consultant, some readers have questioned me specifically about our findings regarding the musical component of worship. So, the goal in this post is to respond to that request.

Let me be honest about my qualifications up front, though: I am not a musician or singer; I am a church consultant only reporting what our teams have found in more than 20 years of consulting. It is not my intent to be judgmental or offensive. I have utmost respect for those who lead us in worship. With those caveats in mind, here are ten distractions we’ve encountered in the music element of worship.

  1. Incomprehensible choir or praise team words – I start with this distraction simply because we face this issue so often. The sound system may be poor, the singers may not enunciate well, or the music may drown out the lyrics – but in any case, we miss the message while straining to understand the words.
  2. Unsmiling faces leading worship – Some solemn hymns may not necessitate smiles, but something is lacking in singing about the joy of the Lord when the singer’s facial expression suggests something different. We have seen entire praise teams show little expression as they lead worship.
  3. Poor musicians or singers – I hesitate to include this distraction because I realize the level of talent varies by congregation. Nor do I want to suggest that only the most talented musicians or singers should be permitted to lead worship. I’m simply stating what we’ve experienced: sometimes the musical component of worship lacks quality.
  4. Unprepared singers – Here, level of talent is not the issue; lack of preparation instead appears to be the problem. Sometimes it seems – right or wrong – as if no one practiced this component of the worship service. In fact, we’ve occasionally heard it stated publicly: “Please pray for me before I sing today because I really didn’t have time to get ready for singing.”
  5. “Preachy” music directors – Some folks leading worship do a great job of succinctly and effectively speaking between songs. Others, though, seem to use interludes to preach a sermon in preparation for the sermon still to come. Too much talking may actually disrupt the worship more than facilitate it.
  6. Songs disconnected from the sermon topic – It seems strange, for example, when the sermon series is about family but none of the song selections moves in that direction. On the other hand, worship is often facilitated – and the teachings of that service’s content are easier to recall – when the musical selections and the sermon content focus in a single direction.
  7. Difficult songs to sing – Again, I am not a singer, but I do know when I’m struggling to sing a particular song. Some of our more gifted consulting team members are singers, and they at times question song selections on the “singability” of the song. What works for the gifted singer doesn’t always work for the typical person in the pew.
  8. Weak use of media for lyrics – This distraction is a corollary to the previous one. Lyrics on the screen are most often helpful. If, though, the phrase and sentence breaks on the screen don’t match the breaks in the singing, the worshipper may still struggle with knowing how to sing the song. Lyrics on the screen do not generally help worship participants learn the melody.
  9. Poorly done blended style – Anecdotally, we are seeing more churches move to a blended style of worship rather than offer multiple distinct styles of worship. That approach is not bad, but it becomes problematic when the worship leaders are strong in one style but weak in the other. Often, that difference is noticeable.
  10. Introducing new songs without teaching them – Numerous good songwriters are producing strong worship music today. Introducing new songs to a church, however, requires intentionality that often seems lacking. Many of us welcome a worship leader’s taking the time to help us actually learn the song as a congregation.

What other distractions regarding worship music have you seen?

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  • John says:

    I get distracted by the excessive physical movements (swaying, bouncing) and facial expressions (grimacing) of the musicians. I’d rather they be out of sight.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks for the additional thought, John. In some traditions, the singers and choir are indeed out of sight (perhaps in the back of the worship center rather than in the front).

    • Carl says:

      Provocative points about distractions. Those who are “up front” should be authentic and aware that they can distract with attire, actions and attitudes.

    • Roger Foreman says:

      Ironically, some people would find the voices coming out of seemingly nowhere to be a distraction, too….

  • Randy says:

    Worship leaders wearing inappropriate attire.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Randy.

    • That’s a tough one Randy. “Inappropriate attire” is differently defined by anyone you ask. I once was prayerfully considering (and stressing over) how to have a difficult conversation with one of our female praise team members about her low cut blouses. Thankfully, before I did though, one of our other praise team members said to her “Hey, I see you brought the twins today.” She was embarrassed but got the point and chose differently after that. That kind of inappropriateness has to be addressed.


      Some in our church think I am dressed inappropriately when I don’t wear a full suit.
      So “inappropriate” is very tough to define.

      • Randy says:

        Thanks. The “twins” comment was exactly what I was referring to by inappropriate.

      • I agree. I’ve always said to those who lead worship with me, if you have to ask the question, “should I wear this to church?” You probably shouldn’t. And I’ve had to address this issue with folks in the past, sending them home to change

        • Karen Mizerak says:

          Oddly enough, I am a female who likes to wear skirts and dresses to church. I also play piano on the worship team. My skirts are always knee length or longer, and cover my knees when I play (as a 30-something musician and junior high band teacher, I understand skirts and modesty during performance). However, after someone complained to leadership (not to me personally) about my choice, we decided to solve the problem by putting plants in front of the piano. While neither myself nor the church administration believed my attire was inappropriate, it was still distracting to someone who was trying to worship, so we did make a change that hopefully pleased everyone. But this is another situation where what is deemed “inappropriate” might not be so inappropriate to others.

  • Rebecca says:

    As an addendum to #8, I’m distracted -and often frustrated – if the lyrics on the screen lag behind the congregation’s singing.

  • Melissa says:

    When the worship leader seems more interested in giving a concert than leading the congregation into worship

    Lack of spiritual maturity in the worship team

    Repeating the chorus too many times

  • Wendon P. says:

    Big distraction for me is worship leaders and teams that do not worship! I have told several worship teams in my years as senior pastor that their job description is to LEAD the congregation to intimate worship before the Lord. How can they lead then there when they, as leaders, do not go there themselves?

    As you mentioned, a lack of preparedness is another huge distraction. Again, I have tried to teach young worship leaders the importance of what I call the “3 P’s” of worship leading…Preparedness (preparing our hearts, our song lists, and our instruments)…Practice (practice, practice, practice!)…and Prayer (seek God for the right songs, surrender your self and your talent to Him, and submit to His Spirit to lead effectively). Not every praise experience is going to be perfect for everyone, but following this plan can assure that at least every praise experience is right for our audience of One!

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      I like the “three P’s,” Wendon. Thanks.

    • Karen Mizerak says:

      I partially agree with this. I agree that the leaders should be worshipful, and I have been turned off by leaders who make music worship seem like a performance. However, I have also experienced music worship where the leaders are perhaps too into the worship, and make mistakes because they were too worshipful to lead, and got lost in the music.

  • Ken says:

    Good article. I think #5 is particularly on target. The late bass singer J.D. Sumner used to say if it takes longer to introduce a song than it does to sing it, then it’s probably not worth singing!

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      🙂 Thanks, Ken.

      • Fred says:

        I heard someone say, “Lord, deliver us from singers who think they can preach and preachers who think they can sing.”

        • Jojo Agot says:

          This is actually one of the unwritten rules in our music ministry. Leave the preaching to the preachers and the singing to the singers.

        • jonathon says:

          >”Lord, deliver us from … preachers who think they can sing.”

          I knew one pastor who point blank refused to sing.
          He claimed that if he sang the hymns, it would be so off-putting to the congregation, that they wouldn’t stay for his sermon.

    • Adam says:

      One of my great pet-peeves in life is musicians who talk about the songs they sing. Christian radio is especially bad about wasting air time with musicians talking about the “inspiration” for their latest song. Just sing the song!

      • Jon says:

        While I agree that many music leaders talk a lot without really saying anything, I believe the music leader should be just as capable of communicating the Gospel in speech as they are in song, and just as competently as is expected of any other teaching pastor. I’ve experienced too many times where the music felt too much like a jutebox, cranking out the most popular tunes with no understood connection between songs, or between the songs and the sermon. I think it can be important to share the historical and practical context and explain the Biblical truth of the songs we are singing, but with prepared thoughtfulness and concision.

        Thanks for this helpful article Dr. Lawless!

  • Ken says:

    Music/Praise team leaders who PERFORM/ACT when they sing. They are constantly in motion. They bend, sway, squat, they contort their faces. It is very distracting. I swear one would think they were having severe digestion issues.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Ken, for taking the time to read the post and respond.

    • Jordan says:

      I think this depends on how the leader worships. There are definitely leaders out there who dance around or make motions similar to the ones you mentioned that do it for show, but there are also leaders who do this genuinely because they are engaged in worship. I used to be in complete agreement with you on this one until I caught myself doing some of those things while leading a song 🙂

  • Terry F says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. The worship and tech teams I oversee as the Worship Pastor know that our goal is “Undistracting Excellence”. I would add to #8 “wrong, missing or misspelled words on screen”. Ugh. I’d also add Poorly Thought Out Order of Worship. When I started at my current church, there would maybe be one song, boring announcements, another song, a random ministry update, 2 songs, a child dedication, then a “missions moment”. There’s also the topic of non-engaging communicators on stage speaking(announcements, congregational updates etc). If someone’s not good on stage in front of people, don’t put them on stage in front of people even if they’re an Elder or other ministry leader. Find The best communicator to communicate. The congregation will appreciate a better presentation.

  • John says:

    Good thoughts. Not sure I agree with #6. The content of worship music or song selection shouldn’t be determined by the topic du jour. To quote the late, great Chip Stam, “I love thematic worship. My theme is always the gospel.” Bryan Chappell, “Christ-Centered Worship” and Mike Cosper “Rhythms of Grace” are excellent resources on this subject.

  • Craig Beeman says:

    My problem is with distractions from this site. Each time an article is shared, I have to go read it. Oh, you may say I can save it until later, but it is so relevant that I am pulled to read it no matter what! ARGH. lol

  • Nate says:

    I used to lead singing at my church. The pastor thought we should learn new songs as a congregation. His idea was well recieved and worked well. On wednesday nights before prayer time we would start a new song first wednesday of the.month,sing it every wednesday for a month and then the first congregational Sunday morning was the song we learned. It gave us one more way to push people to attend wed. night services.

  • Mindy says:

    It’s distracting to me when “traditional” songs are played at the “contemporary” service.

  • Marcha says:

    a worship leader or praise team member who is a “grand stander”. You can tell when they think no one is as good as they are.

  • David says:

    I would add the spiritual preparation/condition of worship leaders. Just because someone is a good singer does not mean that they should be leading people in worship. Who goes on the platform and what happens there should be very carefully guarded, but this takes a great deal of spiritual discernment. Leading people in worship of the most high God is an awesome responsibility that is not to be taken lightly.

  • Jim Watson says:

    Worship leaders who criticize the congregation for not smiling while they sing (or not clapping or…) are a major distraction. There are differences between being encouraging and being critical.

    Lyrics on the screen that are wrong are a distraction (especially when the same slides are used repeatedly without any attempt to correct the lyrics).

  • Seth Muse says:

    Guitar solos. What is the congregation supposed to do during them.

    Vocal runs. It’s not American Idol and most members cant follow it so they quit singing.

    Song keys. Chris Tomlin may sing in girl range, but this dude doesnt.

  • Singing amen at the end of every hymn is huge distraction for me. The 1940s saw the publication of a number of denominational hymnals that tacked an amen onto the end of every hymn. The Anglo-Catholic movement introduced this practice in the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the nineteenth century as part of their attempt to reshape the church music of these two denominations along the lines of that of the pre-Reformation Roman Catholic Church. The Anglo-Catholic movement also introduced vested choirs and organs. A number of denominations—Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian—would copy the practice in their denominational hymnals. The hymnologist Eric Routley would point out that except where an amen is a part of the text of the hymn, the singing of an amen at the end of a hymn is superfluous. The practice was dropped from later hymnals. A few traditional churches cling tenaciously to the older hymnals and to the practice. Except in a few hymns where the amen is a part of the text of the hymn itself, the amen is not sung to the same tune as the hymn. The same tune, however, is used for almost every amen—the exception being the amens that are part of the text of the hymn.

    I have successfully blended traditional and contemporary music in the same service. It is essential to have a clear idea of how you intend to use music in the service. I find it helpful to view worship as a three way conversation—a conversation in which we are speaking to God, God to us, and we to each other. It is my hope that first time guests who are not yet believers, having overheard the conversation, will experience transformation and join the conversation. It is therefore essential that words of songs be intelligible, applying what Paul said about speaking in tongues. Paul also stressed the importance of doing things in an orderly manner and to build up those present.

    A song does not have to be directed at those present to build them up. Singing God’s praises or encouraging others through a song is also upbuilding.

    Every song does not have to be keyed to the sermon. This can result in a service that is overly didactic. At the same time one should take care not to select songs that do not fit with the sermon and which may contradict or counter its message.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks for the insights, Robin. You, like so many others who respond to posts on this site, help us to learn together.

    • Idris Reid says:

      I was taught that “Amen” is sung only where a hymn ends with a Doxology.

      • For those who may be interested, Dean McIntyre summarizes Eric Routley’s argument in an article, “Why Don’t We Sing Amen Anymore?” on the United Methodist Church’s Discipleship Ministries website. Routley pointed out in his essay on the liturgical use of “Amen” in Church Music and the Christian Faith (Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing Co., 1978):

        1. It was in medieval Ambrosian chant that amens were first added to the final stanzas of hymns in praise of the Trinity. These final stanzas are known as doxologies, many of which may be found in our United Methodist Hymnal (nos. 61, 62, 64, 102, 160, 184, 559, 651, and others).

        2. The custom of adding amens to hymns did not exist in Lutheran, Reformed, seventeenth- or eighteenth century Anglican (including the Wesleys and early Methodism) or evangelical congregational song.

        3. By the middle of the nineteenth century, hymnbook compilers were including translations of some of the ancient hymns that included amens. The problem arose with the musical style of the hymns of the nineteenth century; that is, they were composed for the meters of the poetry of the texts, and the amens were usually two short syllables added to the final stanza, so the music of the hymn tune did not accommodate them. As a result, the doxological amen was added to the final stanza following the completion of its singing, usually set to the familiar IV-I plagal or amen cadence.

        4. Eventually, additional concluding doxologies with amens were added to hymns that originally did not contain them — to the point where the most influential hymnal of the nineteenth century, Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861), added an amen to every hymn.
        5. Some American hymnals picked up the practice, including the Presbyterian hymnal of 1895. The Methodist hymnals of 1905 and 1935 did the same. The 1966 Methodist Hymnal began to reverse the process by deleting the amen from selected hymns, including “How Great Thou Art” and “The First Noel.”

        6. By the middle of the twentieth century, British Anglicans dropped the amens, while American Episcopalians continued it until their 1982 hymnal, which also dropped the amens. Most hymnals toward the end of the century dropped the amens, and the Southern Baptists never included them.

        I first ran across Routley’s Christian Music and the Christian Faith at the New Orleans Baptist Seminary Book Store in the 1980s. It was required or recommended reading for students at the seminary. While I was not a student, it was my practice to read what they were reading. I was a licensed minister in the Episcopal Church at that time. One of the conditions of my license was that I pursue independent study on a range of subjects including Old and New Testament, church history, theology, church music, preaching, the conduct of public worship, the use of the voice, parish administration, and pastoral care and report annually to the bishop on my progress. The seminary book store had on its shelves an excellent selection of books by Anglican theologians such Philip Edgcombe Hughes, Leon Morris, J.I. Packer, J. C. Ryle, John Stott, Peter and Toon, as well as other evangelical theologians.

        In my library I have an 1889 Episcopal hymnal that has a list of doxologies and amens set to various meters, which may be appended to hymns of the same meter.

        While in the Episcopal Church, I was also involved in music ministry for a number of years, in a new church plant as well as an established church. Since 2002 I have been helping to pioneer new churches in a number of denominations including Southern Baptist and have been involved in music ministry in three of these churches. The integration of contemporary music into traditional worship and traditional music into contemporary worship each offer unique challenges. These challenges are not insurmountable.

  • Lydia says:

    LifeWay has a great solution to number 8 – the 2008 Baptist Hymnal. It doesn’t require batteries, electricity, or any technical expertise! It even has all the correct words! 🙂

    • Chuck Lawless says:


    • Megan says:

      The only “problem” with using a hymnal is that people look down to sing instead of up and their voices are lost in their hymnals rather than joined together with those of the worship leaders and directed “somewhat” heavenward. As the powerpoint creator and lead vocalist of the worship team at my own church I can tell you there is nothing more distracting to me than realizing something is wrong with the powerpoint (a rare occurrence) and having it pointed out to me by the pastor (aka Mom) or a congregation member as we are singing. (Usually this occurs through a raised eyebrow, a smirk, or a pointed stare.) If only people weren’t so emphatic about perfection from the leadership then worship might be more of a worship offering to God than the desire to be entertained by a perfect show. I don’t think worship leaders are allowed to be human…there is a difference between giving God your best worship while knowing that sometimes you will screw up the “show”, and giving God your best “show” while knowing that you have screwed up the worship. (Oh, and we do music from all over the spectrum…except chants, we haven’t done any chanting…)

      • Ken says:

        I hate to say it, but I think much of this modern technology takes away from worship more than it adds. Charles Haddon Spurgeon wouldn’t even allow musical instruments in his church. He readily agreed that such instruments are perfectly scriptural, but he thought they detracted from the simple environment he wanted to create. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but I do think we are making worship much too complicated these days, and we are much too dependent on modern technology. I shudder to think what would happen to our churches if we had a major power outage in this country.

  • John W Carlton says:

    As you can see from my email address, I am a musician as well as a pastor. I have to admit to being guilty in the past of some of these sins. This is a great article, and I appreciate your calling this to our attention.

    Number 6, Preachy Music Leaders, is one of my pet peeves. Sometimes a short introduction or some thought is good, but when it takes 5 minutes to introduce or share an illustration, etc., let the congregation sing and let the Pastor preach.

  • Louise says:

    I’ve never gotten used to a “worship team” up in front, singing like a paid concert. Maybe it’s my personal introversion and traditional liturgical church upbringing, but I prefer the idea of putting musicians in the back, or to the side (no offense). It’s just too easy to get a “star” mentality up there, “performing,” in the culture we live in, and we’ve seen it happen. On a different note, after several years in a large church venue, with “professional” everything (incl worship team), we visited a small local church one Sunday that happened to have a really bad soloist that day, a chunky, not especially attractive older woman. It was refreshing, strangely. It was r-e-a-l…..

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Interesting thoughts, Louise. Thanks.

    • Charles says:

      As a member of a praise team/ensemble, I know what Louise means. It’s sometimes easy to get caught up in the “leading worship” aspect instead of being in a worshipful aspect of being up front. We have a program we hold every year called “Heart of the Artist” that addresses those very issues with breakout sessions and team-building activities. We also have quarterly “Jam Sessions” that we are required to attend as worship leaders that re-emphasize those points and introduces new music to us that we will be introducing to the church during that quarter. Occasionally, we do put the vocalists behind the curtains to avoid that “distraction”, and we always always have for Good Friday services.

    • Mark Beecher says:

      Thank you, Louise! Worship Teams have simply become the church versions of AMERICAN IDOL or a Rock Concert!! I, too, was raised in the traditional liturgical (Presbyterian) style worship service (which I prefer), yet I have spent the past 18 years playing on Worship Teams and had to recently step down because of all the hypocrisy & abuse of authority going on before, during & after worship. Most of this is all due to the “LEADERSHIP MANIA” that’s been corrupting churches in recent years.

      God Bless.

      Mark Beecher

  • Adam says:

    When I led worship unprepared soloists were a constant frustration for me. I don’t know how many times I heard the “pray for me because I haven’t had time to practice” line. If you have that little regard for God’s worship then you shouldn’t be singing in the first place. However, much of this happened because of the traditional ideology that says there must be a solo in every service regardless if anyone is prepared to sing. I even had an interim pastor get in my face once and say, “You better have a solo every week!” Show me the solo list that Jesus used and I’ll buy that ideology.

  • Adam says:

    This is a topic I could probably go on and on about but I’ll just add one more distraction:

    Older ladies who have played piano their whole lives but are no longer physically capable of playing well and yet refuse to step aside and allow someone else to play.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      We are grateful for their years of service, though. Thanks.

    • church member says:

      But maybe no one else is stepping forward to offer to play. And maybe this is their form of service and their way to be engaged with the church. Is there a way to have them play 1-2 times per month as part of a rotation with other musicians? It may be very meaningful to them, so you don’t want to just take it away form them completely if you can come up with other solutions.

      • Adam says:

        When I say, “refuse to step aside,” I mean, “refuse to step aside.” And I’m not talking about a few missed notes, I’m talking the whole service being a train wreck. Everyone wants to love the sweet, old lady playing the piano, but frankly, she has made the whole service about her. I’m not even allowed to get a fill in for when she’s not there! What I find interesting, or maybe disturbing, is that no one would tolerate that from the pastor but it’s okay for the pianist because “she’s been playing her whole life.”

  • Michelle says:

    biggest distraction to me is pastors who come in half way through praise and worship with there entourage the sit there and don’t get involved in praise and worship service. How do you expect the congregation to see the significance in that part of the service if the pastor doesn’t?

  • Gail says:

    My Distraction is This: Congregants chatting during the offertory time or other special music.

    As church pianist, I take great care in preparing and selecting the prelude, postlude, and (especially) the offertory music and making sure the music ties in with the sermon topic and scripture of the day. I pray, allowing the Holy Spirit to direct my choices. I also worship as I play, because when I am at the foot of the throne this attitude of worship transfers to the worshippers and helps them engage. My biggest distraction (and the most sad) is when the congregation treats this as a commercial break instead of a time to prepare their hearts and minds to hear the words God wants to say through the pastor. A pastor once told me that the offertory time was his time to focus on God and His message before he gets up to preach. You never know what God is doing during that time either. I have had people come up to me and say, “It was the song that drew us to accept Christ tonight.” or “God spoke to me through the song, whispering to my heart that it was okay to move out of state to take that job offer.”

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Gail, for the word from a pianist.

    • church member says:

      I agree. I played the piano for years. I am not a professional concert pianist, but a volunteer (with many years of private lessons and certainly advanced skill level)…. Practicing takes hours, and I typically work on a song for weeks (while juggling work and home duties). As Gail noted, yes, this is my form of worship but also my form of service to the church. The music is intended to provide a time of reflection and meaning. I know that someone is touched by this music, but others just don’t pay attention and use this time to talk softly, etc. Once an associate pastor walked to the pulpit and started getting his sermon notes out etc. while another pianist was still playing the offertory. Unbelievable – he would not have done that if someone had been singing.

  • tammy says:

    A team member (not leader) who is always trying to look at others to correct them during worship. I just wonder…at which part of the service will they sing their own part and truly engage in worship instead of making it look like they are up there to keep everyone in tune.

  • Barb Thiel says:

    I, too do not appreciate loud conversation during the musical prelude. I have a problem with onscreen lyrics which do not include the notes. I realize not everyone reads music but it takes me several verses to catch on to the melody if the notes are not present.

  • Andy says:

    Volume will always be a distraction for me. I’m a musician. I’ve played in a lot bars and other clubs. There is no reason for the worship leaders to think they need concert level volume. If one were to think of participatory worship music as a sing a long rather than a performance perhaps some of that could be solved and the church I attend has a great band and they’re terrific to listen to but if I can’t even hear myself sing, what’s the point of singing at all?

  • Lyric says:

    I’m taken aback by the comments regarding distorted faces, or movement being a distraction. Even as a classically trained singer you can not be completely still and sing. Your body has to breath, move and emote. Depending upon the vocal pedagogy creating space may mean big open mouths, and grimaces. If you are singing worship that is jazzy many intonations require certain types of facial expressions… that color the sound. Worship leaders need to be free, so that the congregation receives their musical offering in freedom. I’m all for order, and decorum when it does not become bondage or condemnation. There should be a balance of all things, that allows God to freely move in the atmosphere.

  • Paula says:

    I keyed in to numbers 2, 7, 8, and 10 immediately. I’ve been on a praise team/choir and have some experience, although I’m no expert. I confess up front that I realized at one point I was doing something within my role as a member of the choir which was potentially distracting to our congregation and stopped. I’m glad no one else had to point it out to me.

    This may be “out there” and it could just be me. I am quite averse to hearing applause after a song. Someone remarked to me when I shared this that it was part of the worship because it was meant to be for God. But in our church, where there is a lot of sound, lighting (which often moves around the room or blinks on and off) and other technical elements happening during the music, it seems more like a concert. Applause seems to add to that.

    In parting, I want to add that we had a particular worship pastor who used to truly engage our congregation in worship by standing up from the piano/keyboard with his mic or without it spend some time up front encouraging people to engage in worship. It was not distracting in the way he did it; on the contrary, he became a beloved member of our congregation who was quite missed long after he was gone.

  • Vernon says:

    The big turnoff for me is the cool hip worship leader in his tight jeans and a striped shirt hanging out.
    Then add the high chair and the music stand for the preacher who is the cool hip wannabe. .. no wonder I went back to a liturgical church where everyone wears robes.

  • Mark says:

    The only thing I want to add is an improper song. By that I mean on the Sunday after a tragedy, put the cheerful, happy songs away. Too many times the songs were planned ahead of time and were used even though the congregation was in shock.

  • Aaron Smith says:

    I agree and as a Worship Pastor always strive to remove the distractions, or as I call them the stones (see Isaiah 62:10). I will say that as one who is worshiping, a distraction for me (from the stage prospective) as well as many that I have discussed it with are the people around you. I am not talking about raising hands, dancing, clapping, etc. I would say that most often I see this in the sour faces and all around unwillingness to engage in worship. There is nothing quite as distracting and discouraging as people not being willing to worship. We distract others in worship when we choose not to participate. I understand there are people who do not like to sing, but that does not mean you have to look distressed with everything that is going on.

  • Linda Velto says:

    I am bothered by songs chosen for congregational singing that were originally recorded by soloists and have a lot of vocal ornamentation in them. Some songs simply weren’t intended for group singing without a lot of rehearsal. Even worse is when only the words are projected without musical notation. Those solo songs with all the complexity are not easy to pick up just by listening. I just end up giving up and not singing. If I am a first-time visitor at a church, my experience is lessened if I am effectively shut out of participating in the music because of the song choices or the way in which they are presented.

  • wyatt says:

    Wow! Since reading what’s wrong with our church music, I think I’m going to get out of the church music ministry, get out a pair of my old ragged jeans, cut some more holes in them, get an old dirty t-shirt, a pair of flip-flops, and start preaching on TV!!

  • Hal Bennett says:

    My “hobby horse”? Referring to the music as “worship” as though the rest of the “worship service” was in a different category.

  • Cath says:

    The most distracting thing would be when the performance takes precedence over the function. Who cares if a hipster church had a music team in hipster clothes, if the worship leader can’t sing (just don’t sing into the mic – and yes, it really can work), or the priest wears whatever he’s meant to wear? As long as the congregation is worshipping too, which is the whole point of leading, then all is good. It’s not meant to be a performance.

    That said, if the music is so loud that small children start crying in pain, it might be an indication something is not quite right.

    At the moment, mindless repetition of short chorus lines is annoying me, but others in the congregation seem to get closer to God from it, so it’s a matter of putting up with this phase.

  • RMP says:

    I agree with a few of these distractions, but some are just seen through a persons preference or tradition.
    If you were raised in a quiet traditional church..movement may bother you…BUT if you were raised in a say Pentecostal church, no movement will distract you. If your preference with an organ and piano…a mandolin and banjo would drive you nuts. In areas like this it is preference and prospective. Just my thoughts….

  • John says:

    Wow, a lot of additional distractions. The practice of the worship team during the arrival of the congregation? So I get to hear it twice, I guess. Standing for 25 minutes straight in one spot? I can’t stand in a line for ten. Having everyone sing in the unmatchable key of the leader? Slowing fast songs down? Sleep inducing.
    I can handle music that is unpleasing to the ears, but not for almost half the service, performed far and away from how it was written, or the same ones week in and week out.
    I have tried introducing new tunes, and was met with the person turning away without so much as a “let me bring it up to the team” or even just a “no thank you”.

  • Bob says:

    As the head sound technician, it is important that our techs know the songs as good as the praise team or even better. The sound tech needs to be able to react and make corrections to the mix if a singer or musician makes a mistake, drops out or has an issue. It is our responsibility to help maintain a smooth flow to the service along with the correct vocal and music mix.

  • Jeff says:

    Wow, there is no answer that will satisfy everyone. Perhaps we get too caught up in our own wants. Are we expecting perfection from those that lead worship? It seems that it becomes an impossible job once you add up all the complaints and demands listed in these posts. There doesn’t appear to be an acceptable approach given what I’ve read. I hope good works are going on outside your churches, as it seems you’re all too willing to eat each other alive within the sanctuary. Be grateful for what you have.

  • Ralph Fudge says:

    I cannot see contemporary music as doing anything to promote true worship of God. The focus is not on God but the performers, who seem caught up in glorifying self and the music itself. Often you cannot understand the words for the loud music. I think it’s all a mess and not worship at all. I think young people today have not been exposed to real worship and therefore know nothing about it.

    • Mark Beecher says:

      Hey Ralph,

      Even as someone who is a Full-Time Musician, Professor of Music @ Drexel University in Philadelphia, a Voting Member of the GRAMMYs and someone who has played on numerous Worship Teams over the past 18 years, I TOTALLY AGREE with your statement – it says it ALL!! THANK YOU 🙂

      Mark Beecher

    • Roger Foreman says:

      Those are some rough generalizations and pretty judgmental thoughts…. It seems dangerous to condemn an entire generation of Christians. Why have we not been “exposed to real worship”? Wouldn’t that have been in the churches some of us grew up in? Did that generation do everything like the previous one? So if I don’t do everything like it’s 1982, that’s automatically not worship…?

  • Doug says:

    new wave Christian music, when not taught and introduced over time to any congregation, confuses an entire room! I have seen this far too often making it appear that the worship team does not consider the message and the complexity of the chosen music!

  • Tammy L. says:

    I enjoy the Praise and Worship portions of the service, so long as the lyrics are understood and not too wordy. Our praise celebrates what God means to us, while our worship is personal from us to God.

    Our responses in worship vary from congregation to congregation and from person to person. Some raise their hands and stand while others move to the beat of the music. God has been too good to me to sit still without physically expressing His presence and pleasure in my worship to Him. He is deserving of our Praise and Worship in whatever you give to Him.

    David danced out of his clothes in praise to the Lord!!

  • Audra says:

    Worship music to me is a huge topic. It isn’t looking at the leaders necessarily and it is sometimes getting past others vocal issues (I’m probably a distraction to some). I actually had to come to the point and realize that I’m singing/worshipping God, blessing Him and offering all my thanks, gratitude, and praise for all He is, has done for me, and continues to do in our relationship. My only issue or hang up in a church is when it isn’t lead that way or so planned and timed that it really isn’t about God and worshipping Him. I’ve been to some churches where they do their 3 songs and as soon as you really want to get into it and praise Him, the song is over. How can we bless Him if we are so routine and ritual and don’t allow room for feelings? I’ve also been to some churches where they can run a song into the ground, but that leader is suppose to be “in tune” and maybe they are feeling something and I’m not going to deny God or anyone else the blessings that come from that time with God through music. If Sunday is going to be about God, then fully allow it to be about God. Come to church expecting the unexpected without limits.

  • church member says:

    Good blog post that does not focus on music styles. I personally like a blended service that incorporates the richness of hymns with the contemporary praise. Here are my thoughts on this topic though. Distractions:
    a) Solo/vocal runs by the praise leader. These do not help lead the congregation at all – they sound like a pop concert, distract from the message, and sometimes sound like the person is moaning or in pain. Really?!? This seems to only serve as a way of directing attention to the person – not to God, and does not help the congregation.
    b) any music that drowns out the congregation’s voices. ..and only singing loud, upbeat music. Sometimes worship can be quiet and contemplative or reflective. “Be Still and know I am God”
    c) Repetition of the same handful of songs every week. Yes, teaching new songs is important, but singing the same 3-4 every week for a month is very very boring and monotonous. And using one of those songs for the invitation or closing hymns (a repetition within the same service) is also boring. It might be better to introduce 1-2 new songs each month, blended or mixed in with a variety of more familiar songs.
    d) I don’t agree that the worship songs need to be directly related to the sermon, after all, it’s all about God in one way or another. However, I don’t think there should be a huge disconnect either. Our former church started singing upbeat praise choruses during the Lord’s supper/communion. I have to think about this some more, but it was a HUGE and shocking change after years of having quiet, contemplative music/songs that reflected on the crucifixion. Maybe praise choruses aren’t so bad for this due to the resurrection and salvation, but still, it’s hard to do a complete 180 turn around on this.
    e) total disregard for the rich heritage and musical complexity of hymns and related classical music. This is a distraction to worship for anyone who has grown up in a traditional church and still wants to sing at least a few hymns every week, even if they enjoy contemporary praise music, too.

  • Danny says:

    My pet peeve is worship leaders who feel the need to tell us the words of the next line when the words are on the screen. I can read. Also, when they sing stuff in between lines that no one can hear or understand. This is distracting and takes away from worship.

    • Mark Beecher says:

      Amen, Danny!! Having Worship Leaders reading the upcoming lines of a songs lyrics (before we sing them) is really ANNOYING!! They treat the congregations like they’re babies and need to be spoon fed!! It’s just as bad and uncomfortable as being forced to “Turn around and greet your neighbor” after worship. I will say ‘hello’ to someone when I feel like it, thank you!!

      Thanks, Danny 🙂

      Mark Beecher

  • Mark Beecher says:

    Greetings Thom, Chuck and Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

    I’d like to say a few things with regard to this topic of “Worship Teams” and please know that this is with all due respect to everyone. I make these comments from my perspective as a Full-Time Musician – a Professor of Music at a major University in Philadelphia (where I was the Vice President of our University’s Faculty Christian Fellowship), a Voting Member of the GRAMMYs (and 1st Round Nominee for this year’s 57th GRAMMY Awards), I have recorded over 35 albums with a wide variety of artists, etc.; I have been a believer since I was a child, the member of three different churches and I have played on numerous Worship Teams over the past 18 years … experiencing the Music “Business” from both the secular & church perspectives.

    • This crazy “LEADERSHIP MANIA,” has infiltrated its way into Worship and corrupted the way people were originally meant to bring praises to The Lord, especially with the creation of the “Worship Teams.” Having been a member of numerous Worship Teams for many years, I have been a first hand witness to how Leadership has corrupted Worship and has become nothing more than a big Rock Concert and a means for the “Worship Leaders” to LORD THEIR AUTHORITY over others on their “Teams” – micro-managing, dictating every move and QUENCHING the Holy Spirit in the other musicians on the Team. Ironically, the whole concept of the “Worship Team” or “Worship Band,” basically began with Chuck Smith (who my wife and I had the opportunity to meet not too long before he passed away) and the Calvary Chapel Movement, back in the 1970s. My wife, son & attend a Calvary Chapel and we had the opportunity to meet Chuck Smith right before he passed away.

    • The word “LEADERSHIP” is NOT mentioned anywhere in The Holy Bible, nor is the word “Leader” mentioned. The only instance where Jesus even mentions the word “leaders” is in Matt 15:14, where He says, “Let them alone. They are BLIND LEADERS of the blind.” There are only a few instances where anything resembling the subject, is dealt with by Jesus – when the disciples are arguing over who among them is the greatest and Jesus responds by saying the “greatest” is the one who SERVES you and is your SLAVE (Matt 18:1-4, Matt 23:11, Mark 9:34, Luke 9:46, Luke 22:24). So WHY ALL THE HYPE!! I’ve had NONE of these so-called “Leaders” wash MY feet!

    Here are some of my thoughts on the particular points mentioned in this Episode:
    1, 2 & 8) Why are we worrying about what the Worship Team is doing – smiling or not, incomprehensible words, etc.?? This is really PETTY stuff – Who cares!! Worship should be a personal communication between the worshiper & The Lord, not with the Worship Team. Like someone else posted – the term “WORSHIP” is “an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity” and says nothing about “Music.” If people are focusing THAT much on what the Worship Team is doing – whether someone on the Worship Team is SMILING or not – then they really ARE NOT worshiping at all in the first place! If churches were smart, they would PRINT the lyrics to the songs for each service, on a separate piece of paper, and hand them out with the Bulletins. It’s really easy to do and costs nothing! P.S. There’s nothing that says we must LOOK UP, when singing Praises to The Lord! We BOW our heads when we pray! That avoids any problems with PowerPoint or people who have a hard time seeing the screen. Jesus says, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in SPIRIT and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

    • If you’re having problems with the lyrics being displayed on a screen, USE HYMNALS or PRINT THE LYRICS IN YOUR BULLETINS!! The whole problem with churches that have Worship Teams, is that the Worship Teams themselves have become IDOLS and the whole concept of a Worship Team, in itself, has become the distraction. Having the lyrics projected on the screen above the Worship Team, is to help bring more attention to the Worship Team, NOT to The Lord! I am in favor of the way the Catholic Churches (and some Protestant churches) that have the organist and choir BEHIND the congregation – no worries about who is smiling in choir. The sad thing is that many church Worship Teams have become like AMERICAN IDOL 🙂

    3 & 4) Who are these people who are capable of JUDGING the “Poor musicians or singers” or the “Unprepared singers”??? Why don’t we sit back and JUDGE THE JUDGES or why don’t we judge some of the very POOR SERMONS preached on Sundays!! If you want to get REAL technical … of ALL the Worship Leaders I’ve played “under” (which for me, has been too numerous to mention in an 18 year period), there are VERY FEW who are good enough to maintain a career in Music outside of the church, yet they think they have the authority to judge the skills of other people on their Worship Teams (???)!

    • I have a story …
    There were 2 people in a church:
    a) A very slick, hip & “RELEVANT” [Hillsong, Switchfoot style] Millennial Worship Leader, who dresses real COOL (with gelled hair) and is being paid a stipend; is on the schedule two or three times per month, prepares his Music for the Sunday service, rehearsing with his Worship Team on Thursday evening and perfectly matching his selection with the Pastor’s message; as he performs on “stage” this particular Sunday, he’s very conscious about how he’s moving and jumping around the stage, raising his hands (which he doesn’t do in rehearsal), keeps glancing at the Pastor to see if he has his undivided attention and making sure that all eyes are on him during the 25 minutes of Worship – just going through his very rehearsed motions. He knows all the proper “Christianese” and has all his prayers memorized.

    b) A middle aged woman, who truly cherishes the few opportunities she has to sing on the Worship Team and serve The Lord and has no ambitions, whatsoever, of making a career of Music, only enjoying it on a Spiritual level, volunteering her time; however, because the church has decided to schedule more young people and Millennials on most of their Teams, she has only been allowed to be a part of the Worship Team once, every other month (as a “Charity Case”) – since she has been a member of the church for the past 25 years; she attended the Thursday Worship rehearsal, but on this particular Sunday, she is exhausted, from working the 2 jobs she has as a single Mom with a teenaged daughter, trying to make a living; she is singing a little off key, messing up on a few of the lyrics, and not as “rehearsed” as the others, but does her best, under the circumstances … yet is totally immersed in the Spirit and caught up in singing her Praise & Worship to The Lord.

    Of these 2 people, who do you think is the one who honors The Lord the most during this particular Sunday Worship Service?

    • Please check out this great video interview with best-selling Christian author (of the book, “Chasing Francis”), Ian Morgan Cron, speaking about “AGEISM IN CHURCH WORSHIP”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXGQ0-QqWI8

    6, 7, 9 & 10) TRADITIONAL HYMNS should be a major part of the Worship Music Repertoire in every church! They have stood the test of time for many centuries and were written with much more feeling & thought, than the very vain lyrics of today’s Music, which only comes as a result of artists becoming “song mills” & trying to appease the Record Labels. If you read the story of the late Christian songwriter, Rich Mullins, you will get a better understanding of this. Most everyone is familiar with the old hymns and they are much more intuitive than the bland Worship Music of recent years.

    • The Lord is NOT IMPRESSED with what great musicians or “leaders” we are (try creating the Universe some day!). He looks at our HEARTS and how we worship Him in SPIRIT.
    • True Worship should be SPONTANEOUS and does not need to be “Well-Prepared.” How can you PLAN the way The Holy Spirit will move us to worship?? We don’t tell The Holy Spirit what to do. JESUS and the disciples SPONTANEOUSLY broke into singing a Hymn after He spoke to them, then they went out to the Mount of Olives (Matt 26:30, Mark 14:26). They didn’t sit down and prepare how the hymn would fit His teaching! If a church is a true church that follows Christ, then EVERY message/sermon should be referencing the CROSS at some point (even the Rev. Billy Graham was convicted by this), which would make EVERY song ever written about Christ, compatible with EVERY sermon!

    Many thanks & May The Lord Bless You & The Holy Spirit guide you in your decisions about Worship Music 🙂

    Mark Beecher

  • John W Carlton says:

    I just celebrated my 72nd birthday. I have been in church and in music for all of my life. I was elected as the music director of my church when I was 15 years old, and I am grateful to the churches that I have served. Yes I am a traditionalist, but I do appreciate GOOD contemporary and praise choruses. What bothers me the most about worship leaders is that they are more impressed with themselves than they are with the Lord. I know that I am being judgmental, but when I see the congregation standing there with closed mouths, clapping their hands in rhythm, and swaying back and forth, the worship time seems to be more of a performance and show than getting the people singing and praising God.

    When I was in the Air Force, in one of m duty stations I was able to attend only the Sunday morning service. Choir was out because I couldn’t attend rehearsal. We sang only 1 hymn each Sunday, and many times I did not know the hymn. (This was in 1966) It wasn’t until I was able to be fully involved after my change of duty that I was able to worship by singing in the choir, attending Sunday PM services and even substituting for the regular music director when he had to be out.

    In the church that I served the longest in, my pastor NEVER gave me his sermon texts unless it was to be for the Lord’s Supper of Baptism. Through the kindred spirit that we had, you would have believed that we had planned out the music to go right a long with the message of the day. By the way we worked together for 16 years at 2 different churches, and he was not only my pastor, he was my father-in-law.

  • Hugh says:

    I have been a church musician for many years. An organist to be precise. I detest the way a traditional hymn is tacked on at the end of a service as a sop for the old people. The number of times I have heard fine hymns like “When I survey the wondrous cross” and “Great is Thy faithfulness” used like that. It is rude, insulting, irreverent and hugely disrespectful. If people want modern songs, fine. Just don’t patronize elderly people. They have so much to teach us and they deserve to be heard. And playing a “sop” at the end is not on.

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