The Sunday Sample, Episode 94: “What to do when the congregation isn’t ‘with you’.”

Have you ever led worship and the congregation just weren’t “with you”? What did you make of it?

This happened to me recently and I found myself uncertain about what to do.  In the end, we ran the church service through to its conclusion. The worship was not terrible. It just wasn’t as engaged as usual. And not as engaged as would be healthy. There was a listlessness in the room. A sense of distraction.

The congregation appeared to be struggling to focus on God and enjoy worshipping him.

Rather than stop and try and address it at the time, I decided to let it ride and reflect later. Hence this Sunday Sample.

I don’t have answers even now, but I thought I’d record this and test out some ideas. I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say about anything similar you’ve experienced.

Here are the options I came up with:

  1. Do nothing. This is a good option if I’m not sure what to do, or if I think it is likely that it’s something to do with the song selection et cetera. I might as well let it go and make some changes for next time. In the meantime, one could pray internally and persevere.
  2. Pause. Break up the worship, but without commenting on the cause. Under this option, one might read a Scripture, or pray before carrying on.
  3. Comment. Make a direct comment on the issue. Under this option, one could say something like, “It seems we’re a bit disconnected this morning. I feel that way from time to time. But let’s do our best to honour God by focusing on the words of these next few songs we’re going to sing.” Or something like that.

Can you think of any other helpful and healthy options? I don’t want to berate the congregation. It may not be their fault. It might be mine, or the rest of the worship team. Or something has happened that I’m not aware of that’s caused the congregation to be distracted. Maybe there’s been some bad news they know about that I don’t. Perhaps something happened in the media that I’m unaware of. Maybe it’s just the temperature is high and the air conditioning isn’t working!

Think back to previous experiences you’ve had of situations like this. What did you do, or see done that was helpful, and what have you seen done or done yourself which was less than helpful?

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

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“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John