Why does a third of the church leave during the last worship song? Do we have better places to be than before God?
— Brandon Peoples (@BrrrPeoples) October 5, 2014
I thought Brandon Peoples raised a really interesting point in this tweet. We’ve all seen the people walk out during the last song of a service. We’ve maybe even done that ourselves (I know I have). Sometimes we have places to go. Sometimes people are just trying to get out of the parking lot. Sometimes we may not like the music that much. Some churches try to smooth this habit over and say “it’s OK if you want to leave early”. But I’ll be honest it doesn’t feel great to have worked on a worship song and see people leaving early. I think Brandon is on to something here.
Yet don’t we intentionally program songs to be used in this very way when we use them as transitions at the beginning of a service? I’ve played hundreds of services where the first two songs were used as nothing more than a mechanism to gather everyone into the sanctuary. Essentially, as throw-away songs. Why then should we be surprised when the last song is perceived by the congregation to have an identical purpose – as a transition to the end of the service?
I do think there is a real travesty here, but would argue the issue is with us – the people who plan and create services, not them – the people who are simply trying to read the cues and respond appropriately.
Let me put it this way: what if sermons were used as bookended transitions to a service, so that the time spent in music-worship was safely nestled inside. I reframe this as an absurd argument, to illustrate how we sometimes intentionally treat worship music. Why should it be my skill, the one with which I’ve banked my 10,000 hrs, be the one that treated like Musak? And to Brandon’s point, is this really how we prioritize worship?
Thus we identify a conundrum. We want to gracefully transition people into and out of our sanctuary and worship time without sounding bossy and while creating connection. So starting with these (or other) values, let’s brainstorm solutions that might allow us to achieve our goals better.
So for example, in transitioning to a service, might not an engaging personality do a better job of bringing everyone in before the service begins especially if this is what we’re trying to accomplish? Isn’t this exactly what already happens at the start of any professional music concert? So we’re not really even reinventing the wheel here! But please don’t just take this solution – decide your communities values, decide what it is you really want to accomplish, and then brainstorm ways to solve your problem!
If we do this, I bet we’ll resolve our people walking out early problem because we have chosen with our actions how much we value our music-worship time.