Just recently the worship ministry team I lead was invited to participate in “The Choir Room” a live webinar presented by LifeWay Worship. The facilitators of this meeting were Mike Harland and Ed Stetzer. Near the end of this discussion these two begin to chase the subject of volume of worship music and how that encourages or hinders congregation participation. Mike fell on the side of too much volume will hinder congregation participation. Ed on the other hand said ‘loud volume’ is a cultural issue and does not hinder congregation participation. Once we got back to our office my co-worker, Terry Welborn, had some interesting points that he did not have a chance to voice at the webinar. I felt they are worth communicating. So I have asked his permission to reprint the email he sent to both Ed and Mike as a follow-up to their discussion
Thanks so much for inviting us to join in on the web cast today. It's great to hear people of knowledge talk from the heart about worship.
As someone who participates in Sunday morning worship (planning, executing and reviewing), I would like to chime in on the conversation about loud verses softer music affecting people singing along in worship.
I agree with you Mike that if the music is too loud coming out of the speakers it is a distraction to worshiping. But if it's too low people (those who consider themselves "non-singers") will simply not sing - or mumble sing, as I like to call it. It's safer.
I also agree with you Ed that we are now a group of listeners that is used to louder music so we can sing along. But louder music in close proximity can be that painful distraction. (Unless you're my teenage daughter, or myself with nearly any Eric Clapton song.)
I believe there are two points that have to be considered when we use today's speaker systems in worship.
1. The art of filling the room. Every worship room is designed to hold a certain amount of sound comfortably. It's like a glass of Kool-Aid on a hot day....to little in the glass and you find yourself wanting more, but over fill the glass and you have a mess. Finding the exact "right" sound level to fill the room comfortably is the trick. A good sound tech and some time tweaking the room will save the day. Once that level is found...everything will be better.
2. Just as important (if not more so) is the part a worship choir or praise team plays in the mix. Both of these groups are worship leaders. If they sing along, and I mean really worship from the stage or choir loft, that makes a difference. When the sound tech puts the voices of these worshipers worshiping through the sound system so the congregation can hear them, it takes the place of being able to hear the people in your pew singing. It surrounds the congregation with the voices they need to hear so that they feel safe worshiping out loud. This helps teach the congregation "it is OK to sing out loud from the heart". So it's important for us to teach our worship leaders how to truly worship so they can truly lead.
As worship leaders the greatest and highest privilege we have is to encourage the people in our places of worship. There can be many things that hinder that conversation of worship from bad sound reinforcement systems, bad lighting, wrong choice of clothing of the leaders or many other things. So we must be careful to keep these distractions to a minimum so that we can all focus on God and the conversation of worship.