How Long Should the Music Be?

A friend asked me how long the music in church typically is.

There are two basic streams in the church:

  1. Non-Denominational churches built their services on two elements: the Worship and the Word. So there’s usually a chunk of one followed by a chunk of the other.
  2. Denominational churches have liturgy and sacraments woven into their orders of worship. They may have similar total times of music, but they are spread throughout the service.

This is clearly a gross oversimplification and generalization, but it gives us a little picture.

But that’s not the question my friend was asking. What she really meant was “Why does the music go so long sometimes? Can’t they tell we’re not into it?” She mentioned two services at the same church where a time of worship led by one leader seemed short, leaving her wanting more, and one time led by another leader felt long, thankful that it was finally finished.

Now to be realistic, at the moment when the long-feeling worship time finished, someone in the congregation said they wished they could just keep going. (And she might have muttered something to herself along the lines of “please, no!”)

No animals were harmed in the retelling of this story.

So I answered her unasked question with “The worship time can be as long as the congregation is tracking.”

My point wasn’t that worship leaders should have free reign to dishonor everyone else leading the service (and all the preachers said Amen!). The point is that as leaders, we may need to cut our sets short, plan more appropriately, or simply lead better.

My answer to the question “how long should the music be” is “as long at they are tracking for.”

What are some ways you can help people engage?

Give energy to leading them, not just worshiping in front of them.

Yes, we must engage personally and demonstrate the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. AND we are in a role with “leadership” in the title. So what kind of energy am I exerting to influence the congregation. I mean, imagine a hiking guide that just made sure that she avoided the dangerous spots and was able to scale to the summit themselves. We’d call them hikers, not guides. See yourself as a guide.

Know when to “stock” and when to “custom”

Sometimes the most helpful version of a song is the one that matches the Ableton track. And sometimes that just breeds autopilot. There’s such power in repeating a line for emphasis, or even pausing after a line for emphasis. For example, when leading Christ Is Risen, I often repeat the first section twice: 

“Let no one caught in sin remain inside the lie of inward shame but fix our eyes upon the cross and run to Him who showed great love.”

Not just because it’s a great line, but because we might miss the power of what we’re saying if we only do it once.

Communicate what’s happening

If you’re lingering, you might say “Let’s linger here for a moment and allow the Lord to speak to us and reveal Himself to us.” That feels really different than…saying nothing while you appear to not know what to do. :) If you’re feeling compelled to repeat a verse or something, you might say “I know sometimes I miss what I’m singing. I’d like to invite us to sing this verse one more time and see how God might want to reveal His character to us as we do.” Our congregations are much more willing to follow our lead if we actually do. (let that one sink in)

So let’s steward well the time given to us to create spaces where we meet with God!