I’ll confess straight up I’m not a great singer – I missed the cut in choir auditions at school. Neither am I any sort of dancer – I’m the guy who leaves the wedding / party once the dancing starts.My emotional life pretty much plays itself out internally. But despite all this, I think I’ve got a few ideas worth sharing about how to sing in church – especially for naturally reserved people like me.
Firstly, be an encouragement to the music team. These guys and girls have prepared and practiced and they’re keen to serve the church through music. It’s hard for them to stay cheerful and keen if they’re getting yawns and frowns from the congregation. So stand up with enthusiasm, smile back at them and sing. Don’t just whisper the songs either – try to sing with your volume dial up most of the way (the singers would rather hear enthusiastic singing off key than silence). I’m not naturally a hand clapper but if the song leaders indicate it’s something we’re going to do then I’ll join in. That’s what I’d want if I were in their shoes.
Secondly, give the music and lyrics a chance to encourage you and touch you emotionally. Put aside cynicism and sing along hoping and expecting to catch a biblically true and powerful phrase, verse or chorus. If I’m familiar enough with a song I’ll sometimes close my eyes to reduce distractions. These little things can make singing in church a spiritually uplifting moment, and not a dull routine.
Thirdly, give your body a chance to respond. It’s not true that if you have always stood as stiff as a board during church then that’s your destiny for life. It is possible to loosen up a little. That might mean something as simple as taking your hands out of your pockets, or allowing your knee joints to unlock, and then seeing what happens. Watch the song leaders for simple movements or gestures that you could try. The self consciousness will pass after a while. Singing, clapping and dancing are all biblical responses to God’s goodness (see Ps 47:1, Jer 31:4, 13) so it’s entirely ok and good to respond like this in church.
Fourthly, don’t judge people around you. Don’t judge them if they’re more expressive than you and raise their hands or dance. Don’t judge them if they’re standing still and barely making a sound. We don’t know what’s going on in people’s hearts and in their lives at that time, so leave off making judgments. We’re much better off giving our attention to the song and thinking about Jesus and his goodness. If you can’t fight the distraction just pray for that person briefly and get back to singing.
Singing is a great feature of our church life – where else (apart from sport) do ordinary people get together and sing? And this is an area of our spiritual lives where we can grow. How about next Sunday you put these four ideas into practice?