Are you frustrated every weekend with how your church doesn’t want to engage with the music? “Why aren’t you clapping? Throw me a bone, here!”
For the purpose of this article, let me start with two assumptions:
- Let’s focus on the musical aspect of what we do.
- Let’s assume you’re normal.
It’s normal as a musician to want a musical response to the music you’re playing. When you go see Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, or any artist, you’re going to see people enjoying the music by clapping along.
However, on a Sunday morning, you’ve got a handful of faithful clappers, but you don’t see the response you would like to from the majority of your congregation.
Lets break down some reasons why your church isn’t clapping, and even some reasons why it’s ok if your church never claps.
Why Your Church Isn’t Clapping
1. They Don’t Know How.
This seems dumb, but I think it’s the main reason why your church isn’t clapping along with the music. Most people don’t have musical talent, and rhythm is a key component to clapping along—on beat.
Again, this may seem too simplistic, but I think we might be blinded by something called the curse of knowledge.
Essentially, the curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias (fancy term for illogical thinking) where better-informed people find it very difficult to think about situations from the perspective of lesser-informed people.
In this case, we musical people have a hard time understanding what it is like to approach music as a non-musical person.
Consider how difficult it must be to be expected to clap along to music as a non-musical person, and to be asked to sing along too. No wonder they aren’t clapping! Which leads to the next reason.
2. They Don’t Feel Comfortable.
I know, I know. It seems like everything you do is designed to help create a comfortable atmosphere for people to encounter Jesus as the gathered Church. However, there is not much you can do to overcome the innate awkwardness that comes with group singing.
Even if you dim the lights, turn the music up, and teach about the importance of corporate worship through singing, you will still have to trust that people will learn to become comfortable with clapping and singing.
Comfort only comes with time and consistency, and everyone has a different comfort level when engaging with the music in this way.
I’m not sure if our goal should be getting people comfortable so that they will respond in the way we hope they would. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a church that responds fully as they are wired to respond than a church full of people who are clapping along without engaging their hearts.
Its not that they don’t like you, it’s that they aren’t comfortable with clapping along.
Why It’s Okay if Your Church Never Claps
1. Everyone Responds Differently.
I used to be just like you. It would really get to me when people weren’t clapping along. I felt defeated and even depressed about how our church wasn’t responding to what we were doing.
However, when I embraced this truth, I was freed from my myopic perspective of response to music:
Everyone is wired to respond differently in worship.
Some people clap. Some people sing. Some people meditate. Some people pray. Some people take it in. But everyone responds differently.
When you see a Hillsong DVD or go to a Passion conference, the reason why you see the moving response you do there is because a lot of people who respond in worship in the same way have gathered together.
Your church is a much smaller sample of believers, and is likely much more diverse in their response preferences. It wouldn’t make sense to try and force a clapper to be a prayer, or to turn one who meditates into a singer.
Embrace the diversity of the ways your church responds in worship.
2. You Can Lead Them Into More.
Rather than be frustrated with their lack of clapping, make a commitment to lead them into more.
As a worship leader, you have the ability to help teach your church how to worship the Lord more and more. Use Scripture to teach why we raise our hands or invite them to worship in a way they haven’t before.
It’s our responsibility to lead our church into not only a better understanding of what it looks like to worship Him as the gathered Church, but also to lead them into embracing a more holistic understanding of what it is to worship God.
I would argue that the average person in our churches understands worship as a time during a service, which can be a good or bad experience based on the quality of the moment—including whether people were clapping along. But what would it look like if we helped our church understand what it looks like to understand worship as a way of life? I think it would change our gatherings completely.
You, the worship leader, are uniquely equipped and positioned to lead your church into a more full understanding of what it is to worship God. Or…you could just keep trying to get them to clap along to the songs. But I’d encourage you to choose to lead your church into something more.