Monday, 15 February 2010

12 Ways To Increase Congregation Participation (Pt. 4)

For the last few weeks I’ve been looking at what worship leaders can do to encourage more Spiritual gifts from the congregation. You can read the previous posts here (part one, part two, part three.

Here’s the final instalment.

Constantly tell people what you think of them. 


It’s a scary thing to step out and pray, sing a spiritual song or prophesy in front of a room full of people. People can spend half the meeting psyching themselves up and the other half  second guessing and trying to weigh whether they heard from God or not. So it’s great to have a leader or someone from the team say “thanks for stepping out”.

Get used to giving people permission publicly and in casual conversation by just reassuring them it was ok, it was in the flow and pointing out what was specifically helpful or timely. Make this your default response, so that when you need to bring correction people are used to being encouraged. Too often the first feedback any person gets about their spiritual contribution is when they screw up. At the very least you could say thanks for taking part.

Next you need to be prepared to encourage gifted people to go to the next level. One lady used to bring wonderful prophetic songs but they used to burst out of her with ever increasing speed and pitch. Building on a history of general affirmation and support I was able to encourage her to build to a crescendo rather than start from one.

Finally you will need to bite the bullet occasionally and bring correction. Most people will need to be told at some point, “good but too long” or “good, but wrong time in the meeting” or “you have a gift and need to step out more” and that can all be mixed in with the general encouragement. Others, who repeatedly get wacky, go way beyond their gifting, or start preaching or leading worship need intentional correction.

Perhaps I’ll do another post sometime on dealing with the bad contributions, but for the sake of the congregation, as lovingly as you can let them know they screwed up.

Remember: the PA was made for the Church not the Church for the PA


In other words arrange all the technical & practical stuff to serve your values not the other way round. A few examples.

Do you use lyric projection software? Where does the operator sit/stand? At the back of the hall, near the PA desk? At Grace Church, they stand next to the keyboard player just behind, and to one side of the worship leader. Why? When we’re talking about spontaneous songs it makes no sense to have the two most important people miles away from each other. The AV guy needs to be within earshot of the leader. That’s vision driving practicalities. There are only 2 reasons for doing things differently.

  • Your connecting leads aren’t long enough.
  • Your AV guy is really ugly/eccentric. That’s why you put him/her back there so they couldn’t scare anyone.

 Not very compelling.

Here’s something else we’ve done.

Acoustically speaking our venue sucks. Literally. It sucks up all the sound and makes it disappear. If someone prays four rows back from you, you can’t hear diddly. So we bought some PZMs (mics used for conferencing/police interview rooms etc) and stuck ‘em on the ceiling. The PA team fades up the relevant one when some starts praying. Sure we’ve had to replace damaged roof tiles, thread XLR cables through the roof cavity and leave them there permanently and occasionally minister to a freaked out member when what looks like a large beetle dropped on their head. But now anyone can pray out from where they are without having to use the dreaded prophecy mic and risk ‘the walk of shame’.

Revisit all your practical details. You are sure to be doing a whole bunch of stuff for no better reason than “everyone else does it.” Is it serving your vision?

  • Do you even need a full band?
  • Is your band as close to the congregation as you can reasonably get them (thanks to Toni for raising this)
  • Have you got clear sight lines with the band, PA operator and AV operator?
  • Can the elder/meeting leader get to you while you’re leading if he has to?

Make it your main focus for the next 3 or 4 year


It takes a long time to change the culture of a church. If you are not currently experiencing this kind of worship it will take a lot of time and trainwrecks to transition. There is not only a pain threshold, but a boredom one to get through. Envisioning, encouraging and equipping and then doing all of the above again and again is what Terry Virgo refers to as “the agony & the ecstasy”. Honestly examine what your goals are. If you want to increase in ‘excellence’ as a worship team this is going to take you in the exact opposite direction, at least for a while. But hopefully you will achieve excellence in obeying what the New Testament says about corporate worship. That’s gotta be worth it.

Any questions? Leave me a comment.

If you’ve enjoyed this series why not tweeting it/linking to it.
How bout writing a response post – what did I miss or what did you disagree with?

Links to this post
The blog of the Ancient Mariner

Related Posts: 12 Way to Increase congregation participation (part one, part two, part three.


  1. Matt - great part 4 (and thanks for the credit ;)).

    The comment about the PA serving the church and not vice-versa is important. It is very hard for those who have a traditional sound background to realise that they do not have a right to control things, and instead need to serve the band as well as the congregation.

    I seem to run the PA side of things ATM and on Sunday for the first time I had someone running the desk who has had 'proper' sound training. Their first comment was "I really want to get the bass and lead guitar going through DI boxes". Hopefully my explanation of why not was enough, but I have nagging doubts. Like you said, it takes a long time to change a culture.

    Your comment about the projectionist position is also good. Right now it's the same person running sound and OHP. The present church doesn't do worship with participation from the congregation, but I'd love to give it every opportunity to do so in the future.

  2. Toni

    thanks for the link!

    PA and AV? That's what I call multitasking!

  3. Have just stumbled upon the mini-series.

    Thanks for it. It's well written and thought through.

  4. Thanks Al

    Check out Amos5's respose if you haven't already...

  5. Haha! The roof cavity helped you arrange those cables, huh? It seems like a disaster struck the place. How did you replace the damaged roof tiles? But more importantly, why did you replace them in the first place?

  6. We had to replace them Eugene as the venue was hired!


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