So, for the sake of debate, I will preface this with my opinion that everything we do in worship services and in our student hour on Sunday mornings is worship; we worship in our giving, in our listening and studying the Word, in our singing, our prayers, even in our fellowship. All of those represent different parts of our worship. But it does alarm me in some ways just how expendable the most obvious demonstration of corporate worship, our lifting our voices together in song, has become.
This isn’t a critique of other leaders; I’m frustrated with myself on this one as well. There are three main components to our student hour on Sunday mornings; singing, announcements and offering, and teaching. Sometimes other things factor into the mix, but those three are there every week. Here’s the problem, though: our hour goes from 9:45-10:45am, and as much as half of our group isn’t even in the building until 10am. So here’s the reality of what I have to decide – what is the least essential for the highest number of people to experience? I can’t just change the time to 10am; then everyone would start showing up at 10:15am and I would only have a half hour long ‘student hour.’ Obviously the teaching time has to be protected so that’s saved for last (and the bulk of the hour). What’s the point of having announcements if we make them at 9:45am to only half the people? So we save those for just before the lesson so we get the highest number of ears possible.
Which leaves us treating worship as the expendable element in our Sunday morning student hour.
But this is true across the board. During our large church worship hours the same thing is true; announcements and offerings are absolutely delayed until the highest number of people are in the room. If you show up 15 minutes late, you will have ‘only’ missed the singing.
I’m not sure what makes me more uncomfortable; that as leaders we are using worship as a time filler while we wait for people to show up, or that people see it as so unimportant that week after week they miss it so they can run into Dunkin’ Donuts, talk in the foyer, sleep in a few more minutes, whatever. I don’t think blame goes in any one direction; more of a general church culture of putting all the focus on the message and not enough on expressing our love and worship to God.
All that to say, I’m uncomfortable. I hadn’t thought of it in this way before, but it does trouble me to realize that I have, however unintentionally, communicated the idea that our worship music is the least important part of our hour.