It’s Official: People Don’t Want to Sing So Much on Sundays

lucy surprise“We sing too much in church!”

Whenever I say this, those who hear me have one of two responses.  The first one is absolute total agreement, usually told to me via a whisper in the ear or a hand written note that self destructs after I have read it.  There can be NO evidence of this solidarity.

The second response is a casual search for matches, wood and rope so I can be burned alive at the stake as a heretic.  OK, so I am exaggerating a little bit about the first response, people don’t actually pass me a note that self destructs, but you get the idea!

If you have spend any amount of time on Not For Itching Ears, then you are aware of our thoughts on corporate worship and the need to reform it.  We thought it would be a good idea to create some polls about various aspects of corporate church life, and see what readers thought.    So, we created several of them.  The results are still coming in, but so far they are quite revealing.  Taken together, the polls reveal that most of us think we spend too much time singing in church.

In one poll, we asked people to select their least favorite element of corporate worship.  The answer:  48% of people chose the announcements, a no brainer! But 13% of the people polled chose the fellowship time, which surprised us.  Singing took third place at over 10% as the thing people liked the least about corporate worship.

We then asked people what their most important element of corporate worship was in another poll.  Not surprisingly, 32% of the respondents chose the sermon as the most important thing for them personally.  Singing came in  second place with 20% of the people choosing it, followed by the reading of scripture by 17% of people.  Almost as many people view scripture reading and singing as the most important element of corporate worship.

We then asked people in another poll what they would do if their church eliminated singing from the service.  We didn’t expect the answer to be what it was.  A full 60% of respondents said that they would either stay at the church or probably stay at the church if it ELIMINATED singing.  The other 40% said that they would either leave or probably leave and go find another church if the current church cut singing out.

Finally, we asked people straight out “Do We Spend Too Much Time Singing in Church?”  After all the other polls are taken into consideration, the answer to this poll makes sense:  58% of people believe that we do spend too much time singing in church.

Let’s recap our un-scientific findings: Ten out of every 100 church goers view singing in church as the element of corporate worship they like LEAST.   Only 20 out of every 100 think singing is the BEST part of the service. Further, 60 out of every 100 people would stay at their church if they eliminated singing altogether.  Finally, 58 out of every 100 people believe that we sing TOO MUCH at church.

Every church is different, but I have been to over 30 churches in a 5 year span.  The findings in these polls matches what I have seen in a multiplicity of church settings:  People don’t really care as much about singing as the worship leaders do, and MOST of the people do not engage in singing.

One might think that the proper response to this would be to double down on singing and teach how important singing is.  But I think that is the wrong take away.  Maybe, possibly, we do sing too much and should cut back on it and add other elements like communion and scripture reading, prayer and confession.  For our take on this, check out our post called “If You Want the Church To Worship More, Try This…”  or “Rethinking The Contemporary Worship Service.”

Of course, our polls are un-scientific.  You can only vote once.  Though un-scientific, I think they are a window into the soul or our Sunday Gatherings.  If you are a worship leader or pastor, I encourage you to put on some fire retardant clothing prior to publicly agreeing with these polls.  At least, hide the rope!


About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on April 15, 2014, in Christianity, Contemporary Church Culture, Worship and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Thank you for this. A good chuckle and I agree. Yes. Nope won’t say which response I agree with… there can be no evidence. 😉


  2. Hmmmm…. seems like there might be a good conversation in this but I am getting hung up on two things. One, if you bring this topic up to people, I doubt their response would be one of the two extremes you mention here to create a tension. Community will have varying views on many things and the response is hardly so dramatic. Second, where was this poll put out? As it says above, this is a blog for like minded people so was it on the blog? Seems like the results could be a little scewed. Again, there’s a conversation here but wondering about some of the foundation laid out here….


    • You are right! There is more to it, but I used that intro to get people to read the post.

      It is unscientific, but the polls used key words that were not solely your typical Not For Itching Ears words. It was posted in relationships, life, music, and various key words like that. I encouraged worship leaders and other leaders to share the polls with their people, and even advertised several of them in craigslist ads across the US.

      Like I said, these were not controlled scientific tests. But I do think they paint an accurate portrayal of the situation. Those who are engaged in leading worship tend to reject this kind of thinking when it is brought up. At least that is what I’ve seen.

      As a former senior pastor and worship leader, and now observer of church life, who has observed worship services in over 30 different churches, I think the result of the polls is accurate in general.

      I encourage you to look around this Sunday and observe the people who are being led in worship? What do you see in the MAJORITY of people? What I have witnessed with my own eyes, over and over again in different settings is that MOST people are not engaging in the songs we sing. Why is that? I think these polls shed some light on this. Not everyone loves singing, and there is no shame or sin in that.


  3. Hi ‘not for itching ears’,
    A pastor in a church I visited for a few weeks recently said to the congregation, ” I know you are happy this morning.. how do I know that? Because you are singing”

    It seems this same issue of people not engaging in the corporate singing was also a concern or observation of this senior pastor in ‘his’ church in order for him to make such a public comment about the change he had noticed. What happened?

    I think that the Spirit of God visited this church and stirred up the people, so to speak. I (think?) that some if not many churches, are running on man’s abilities, wisdom, structure, values, education, etc.

    When Jesus ascended on high he gave ‘gifts’ to men. Today, these spiritual gifts are not acknowledged or appropriated into the church. These gifts are pastors, teachers, prophets, apostles, evangelists. Pastors have taken control of the churches in our day. They appoint other leaders into positions in the church they believe these ‘underlings’ qualify for in the natural but not necessarily in the spiritual.

    It may be that God is changing this somewhat. Or at least trying to, but these pastors cannot acknowledge or believe that they are not ‘all the church needs’ for the spiritual growth of people. This has been an ongoing situation for quite some time, I believe. The spiritual results coming from this dynamic over several decades are testimony to the failings of this belief.


    • Hi Lindam!

      Thanks for stopping back in!

      Many pastors are good men who truly want to make a difference in the lives of the people they shepherd. My humble opinion about the reason they are not as successful at this as they could be is this: They have the wrong model.


  4. Hi Jim,
    I had trouble posting to your comment. I don’t really agree that the model used by the church is the issue.


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