Too many songs. Not enough singers. That’s the problem facing many congregations these days, says Tony Payne, veteran worship leader and associate professor of music at Wheaton College.
Whether a church plays hymns or the latest worship songs, fewer people want to sing along, he says. “There are a lot of people standing there mute during worship.”
Congregational singing has long been a staple of Protestant churches, ever since the Reformation, when “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” was the latest hit worship song. And today churches have more songs to choose from than ever before.
LifeWay Worship, for example, has a catalog of 4,000 worship songs, while Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) has 300,000—all available at the click of a button.
Yet Payne and other veteran worship leaders worry congregational singing is on the decline.
That’s bad news, says Rick Eubanks, pastor of worship and students at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Burleson, Texas. Congregational singing is an essential part of Christian worship, he says. When churches don’t sing together, something vital is missing.
“Gathering for worship is not about watching other people perform,” he says. “And it’s not about the music; it’s about allowing people to connect with God.”
How did we get here?
Mike Harland, director of LifeWay Worship, says a number of factors have contributed to the decline in congregational singing. Among them: the fact that there are fewer places for congregation members to sing in church, in large part due to the decline of choirs.
While my son took an all-too-rare nap yesterday. He woke up feeling less than his best, so it was a good thing. During his nap, I spent a good chunk of time reading. But I didn’t just read some of the random books I have scattered about in the house. I spent a big chunk of time reading my Bible. I made my way through the entirety of Mark’s Gospel and about a third of the way through Luke’s.
I don’t do this very often, but I really should. (“This” being read the Bible in big chunks, not read the Bible in general.) I mean, really, when you think about it, time isn’t the issue. A book like Mark might take what—20, 30 minutes to read at most?
But what do I get out of it?
I get to let the whole story wash over me. I get to be reminded that each of the Gospels (and for that matter, every book of the Bible) is not some set of collection of disconnected verses or sayings. Each is a complete story, masterfully told, to make a single point: to reveal the person of Jesus to us so that we might believe in him.
That might seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget. We read these stories so often, and usually in little chunks here and there (whether whole chapters or portions of a chapter), that we can miss out on how wonderful the whole story really is. Or I can at any rate. But reading in this way helps us keep the right perspective. To read with our eyes on Jesus.
Once you leave school, there’s rarely a need to write by hand. Work correspondence happens on computers, as does social networking. Except for the occasional grocery list, there’s no particular need to break out your messy handwriting; typing is so much more efficient, right? But there are proven benefits to writing by hand. Here are four reasons you should dust off that pen and paper:
1. IT ACTIVATES THE BRAIN.
A 2012 study of children who couldn’t yet read found that writing letters by hand activated a circuit of neurons in the brain associated with reading. Tracing or typing the same letter, however, did not. This extra processing in the brain regions associated with literacy “may facilitate reading acquisition in young children,” the researchers write.
2. IT IMPROVES SPELLING.
A 1990 study found that having kids write words out improved their spelling abilities compared to typing on a computer.
3. IT HELPS YOU REMEMBER.
A 2014 study that compared the memories of university students who took handwritten notes to those who took notes on laptops found that writing longhand better helps you learn new information. Those who wrote out their notes processed more of what was being said during their lectures, probably because they had to condense information to keep up, rather than mindlessly type the speaker’s words verbatim. In subsequent tests, handwriters recalled information from the lectures better than typists.
As a result of decades of research showing a connection between our emotional well-being and success in life, many schools are now looking at or beginning to teach emotional intelligence with social learning. If you are a parent, it is likely that your child is being taught about emotions in school, or will be in the near future. Schools, however, are unable to help children develop emotional resiliency on their own. They need help and support from parents.
As a parent you may be wondering if there is anything you can do. Here are some basic ways you can help your child understand and develop healthy emotions.
1. Be open to, accept and encourage your child’s emotional responses.
Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are, and everyone is entitled to their feelings, including your child. Always encourage them to express their feelings through questioning. For example if they look sad or upset and aren’t speaking, you could ask. “You look down today; did something happen”? Never pass judgment or doubt their feelings. For them, their feelings are real and authentic.
2. Help your children sort through their feelings
Sometimes your children, like adults, will have a problem identifying what the actual feeling is. You can help them by suggesting, but never telling them, what they might be feeling. For example, you could say. “If my best friend wouldn’t talk to me, I would probably feel abandoned or unwanted…does that sound right?” You could share your feelings if you experienced a similar situation, thereby encouraging your child to open up and trust you with their feelings. Make your home a safe place for your child to bring, share and sort out their feelings.