I was visiting a church for a night of worship a few years ago. It was a well-known worship artist who was going through nearly every song in his roster. It was a deep night of great worship and great music. Finally we reached the end of the night, and the worship leader thought it would be fun to do a little “blast from the past”.
Announcing they were about to do something a little bit different, they broke into a rendition of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”. Yes, the “making love in the green grass” one.
Please note, I didn’t attend this church. And this is why. The congregation kept on worshipping. They had their praise banners waving and danced hallelujahs while the worship leader lauded his brown eyed girl. Now yes, I believe you can worship God any time you want. But this made for a distinctively awkward situation.
Most churches probably don’t make it quite so awkward when the worship team performs a “performance song”, but it might get a little close at times. I consider a “performance song” any song that isn’t intended to illicit a worship response from the congregation. It could be a secular song to help illustrate the message, a special song for the offering, or anything else that’s meant as entertainment.
It can be weird for the congregation because they are used to responding one way to the worship team. But then they have to figure out a new way to respond to this new song. Should they stand up? Clap? Sing along? Close their eyes? Sit?
It can be confusing for the congregation during performance songs. So what do you do? Here are some ideas if you’re wanting to use a performance song during your worship service.
1. Tell People What to Expect
The easiest way to make a situation natural instead of awkward is to let people know what to expect. Tell them the response they should give before you perform the song.
“We’re about to perform ______ to help illustrate the message. Feel free to clap along and sing, but no need to stand up.”
Yes, it’s a clunky way to do it. But it’s far less clunky than having your congregation worshiping to “Brown Eyed Girl”.
2. Combine the Song with a Video
People are used to sitting down and watching when a video is playing. Having content on the screens can help enforce that the performance song is an entertainment piece—not something that needs a worship response from the congregation.
3. Change Up the Band
If it’s a special, change up the band. Make the stage and the members of the band look different so people know it’s something different. You could even do something as simple as a wardrobe change so people know it’s a performance.
4. Audience Plants
Inform your staff and volunteers what to do during the performance song. If you want people to stand and clap, have them sit in the front row and stand and clap. If you want them to stay seated, make sure they know to stay seated.
This is an imperfect solution that won’t work for every church. You still run the risk of some rogue, well-meaning congregants messing it all up. So use it with discretion.
So those are a few ways to make performance songs less awkward at your church. What do you do to make them feel natural?