Men, Women, and Distractions in Worship
What’s a distraction in worship?
There are a lot of different ways to answer that. But for this little article, I’m going to touch on distractions for guys and gals.
In most worship settings, we get the opportunity to create space for both men and women to pray, sing, and engage with God. It’s an amazing thing that we are both made in the image of God and we both bring out unique aspects of God’s image – also known as Imago Dei. God made us both and God called us good.
So what does this mean for worship leaders?
It means we ought to open our eyes to our brothers and sisters who are looking to us to lead them. It means the songs we choose, the lyrical content, and key selection all matter.
To tackle this topic, I’ll focus on four statements I’ve heard about men, women, and distractions in worship.
Distraction 1: “I can’t sing along in that key!”
Solution: Choosing a guy and gal friendly key.
Some of my guy friends and I laugh about how crazy hard it is to find a great congregation-friendly key for worship songs. My friend Aaron says the best placement for congregational singing is in an alto or baritone voice. But have you noticed that most of the top 10 CCLI songs are written by male tenors? The keys of most of these songs have women barely screeching out a note on the bridge. And many men are left to sing in the basement of their voices because they can’t reach the melody.
Not to mention, so many worship songs have ridiculous ranges with melodiesthat span 1.5 octaves. There is awesome power and dynamics in songs like these. But it might not be the most helpful thing to engage non-singers in worship.
A pretty safe rule to follow is to keep your worship songs in the C – C range. Stretching a little below or above works, but try to keep the bulk of a melody in this one octave range.
After putting together a worship set, it goes a long way to run your worship songs by some friends and see how it sounds.
Distraction: “All the songs we sing are ‘boyfriend’ or ‘battle’ songs.”
Solution: Awareness of lyrical content.
I’ve experienced vastly different worship environments where both of these words could have summed up the lyrical content. For a while, I served at a church that placed a heavy call for what they considered masculine content. They sought out and encouraged lyrics about victory, warrior, battle, and blood to become our anthems. I also served for a while in a ministry where more – for lack of better word – feminine content was encouraged. We sung songs filled with feeling language and expressions of love toward Jesus. Very emotive.
Both types of language are found in the Scriptures. Here are a few examples from both the Old and New Testament.
The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17 TNIV
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”“Where , O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:54-55
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
Psalm 42:1 TNIV
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:29 TNIV
Neither type of language is right or wrong. Both softer and bolder language are used all over Scripture. But to consistently play content that leans to one extreme can create an imbalance in content. We might unconsciously be neglecting a portion of people who connect with God using different language. Keep an ear out for the content we lead people in singing.
Distraction: “There is no one like me leading worship.”
Solution: Co-leading with a person of the opposite sex.
Some of the most moving worship experiences I’ve participated in have been times when I partnered up with another worship leader. It gets us outside ourselves. Giving up a bit of our leadership can be humbling, but so rewarding. It’s been great co-leading with a guy at my church because we each bring different perspectives, preferences, and hopes to the music. I love it! Our conversations are always eye opening, and we learn from each other and what the other wants to bring to the community.
When both are empowered to bring our full selves to the planning, there is a greater probability that more of our congregation will be ministered to because of the sensitivity to the other. Try co-leading with another musician. And if there is a person of the opposite sex you trust collaborating with, try it!
Distraction: “I can’t concentrate because the worship leader is wearing __________.”
Solution: Considering the true focus of worship: God.
This may seem like a pretty obvious distraction, but I’m bringing it up! I’ve received many emails asking what our church policy is with the way a worship team should dress. Are shorts allowed? Shirts with logos? How do you talk to someone who shows too much skin?
First off, we need to state a fact: we are all human. And with that comes certain boundaries we must put up for maintaining holiness with our fellow brothers and sisters. This sounds really churchy, but it’s the truth. We need to respect each other and see each other as family.
The focus in worship is God, not us. Not our super awesome new shirt, or hip urban cowboy boots.
Every Saturday, before leaving for church, I carefully evaluate if what I’m wearing is going to be a distraction in worship. Am I trying too hard? Is anything bringing more attention to me than it should? This quick check has become a regular practice before heading out the door.
Much of this is subjective and needs to be something you search your heart about. Some of us might be convicted to not wear designer jeans because it could be a stumbling block for those with less disposable income. For others it might mean putting those shirts with icons away because it might distract from the message of the worship. Whatever it is, we never want to be a source of distraction in worship, and it would be great to do a once-over in the mirror before leaving. It’s a great conversation to have with your worship team as well.
I’d love to hear your experience with guy/gal distractions. What are some distractions you have encountered? How are you working to fix them?