As a pastor, worship leader, or another church leader responsible for planning worship services, it’s important to ensure your congregation feels included in the worship experience. But how to do that is not always clear. The good news is, it can be more simple than you think. And when you make the congregation feel included, it makes your job as a leader on the platform much easier and more rewarding.
So let’s look at just a few ways to ensure your church members, regular attenders, and especially first-time guests coming to worship are fully engaged and included in the worship gatherings you are putting together.
1. Include more voices
In a typical church service, attendees may already expect to hear from a few people. The pastor. The worship leader. Someone from the church staff giving announcements. But one great way to shake it up and make the congregation feel included, however, is to give some of the speaking roles to more than just these few expected staff members and leaders.
You could have a member of the young adult or youth ministry open the service by giving a quick welcome and prayer. Or have one of your senior adults facilitate and pray for the offering time. You could even use a newer church member to share about a ministry they’re excited about getting involved in during announcements.
This is also a great way to represent the diversity of your congregation and let everyone get to know various people in your community that they may have never met before. After all, the more interaction your congregation gets with different faces, the more they’ll love coming and connecting to your church body.
2. Enlist members of your congregation
Church services and worship gatherings have many roles that need to be filled. For example, you could have prayer teams that have been trained to minister to people who need prayer at the end of the service. Or a group of people who sign up to hand out the elements of communion. There are even ushers and greeters who simply welcome attendees to their seats and make them feel at home.
When members of your congregation are able to assist with facilitating parts of the service, they’ll feel like they are helping to serve the church body they have likely also received from. This provides an opportunity for them to care for others in the congregation and not just partake, but also have their own unique gifting and identity included in the worship experience.
3. Recruit volunteers
Another important thing to note about church volunteer opportunities: Getting on the “inside” always makes people more invested. When people join a team, they naturally establish relationships with those around them and make friends. They also feel connected to the mission and purpose of your church.
So even though these various teams may not be a part of the worship service itself, the people who serve on them will be 100% more engaged in church life, and thus, the worship experience every week. Think parking teams, children’s ministry volunteers, small group leaders, tech and media operators, etc. There are many opportunities to allow people to serve and feel included and activated in your church.
4. Allow time to hear testimonies from others
Just like we talked about having more voices heard in your church services by sharing announcements or doing the welcome and closing prayer, you can create a time in the service that is actually designed to open up the floor for members of your congregation to share out loud.
One church has a time they call “Glory Sightings,” which is like an open-mic testimony time where people get to share stories of what God is doing in the community. They may describe how God got them through a tough week. Or maybe a victory they’ve seen where God has come through for them and provided for their needs. Of course, opening up the mic during service has to be stewarded well, but it can be a beautiful way to give everyone in the congregation an opportunity to be seen and heard.
5. Consistently teach that worship is something we do all together
Most of what we already do in most worship services (singing songs together corporately, for example) is already a way to make your congregation feel included in the worship experience. Sometimes they just need teaching and reminding us that worship is something we do together.
Especially with quality worship media, more advanced technical production capabilities, and great music, we’re able to offer, sometimes people can feel more like a spectator instead of a participant. It’s the job of the worship leader and pastor to consistently cast the vision that when we come together for gatherings, it’s not like a concert performance. Examine your typical service flow and make sure that there’s a good balance between managing time well, providing time for human interaction, and following God’s lead for your gatherings.
If the worship leader and band are stuck hitting cues on the flow sheet instead of having time to engage with the congregation personally, the experience can feel too disconnected. On the flip side, if the worship team is responsive to what’s happening in the room and actively invites people to join in, they will understand that it is an opportunity to be included in worship.
6. Create opportunities for people to respond to what God is teaching them
One huge way to really make a church service into a true worship experience that your attendees are included in is to provide avenues for them to respond to what God is teaching them. Whether it’s as simple as getting out of their seats to go and write down a prayer request or praise or kneeling at the altar to talk with God, the act of physically doing something can be very impactful and memorable.
This works hand in hand with the recommendation to train up prayer teams. Some people may need to engage with someone who can pray with them or speak encouragement to them as they process what they felt during the sermon or worship songs. They are included in that they get the personal interaction and care from your church body, and those who are providing the care are also included in being able to serve those who need it. It’s a win, win!
These are just a few ways to help your congregation feel included in the worship experience at your church or other ministry gatherings. It’s a big responsibility to shepherd and lead people through experiences that will ultimately connect them with God and shape their walks with Him. But it’s so enjoyable to see when it all comes together, and God blesses what is happening in worship experiences that glorify Him every week.
Remind your congregation that God loves them and that He smiles when we are united as a body of believers. And ultimately as His Church all over the world. What matters most is that we are centered on Jesus and all in this together!