Worship is frequently a controversial topic, and it’s not my goal to add to those debates. Based on my work as a church consultant, reports from our consultation “secret shoppers,” interviews with church members, and my own experiences, though, here are 12 far-too-common distractions during worship services:
Starting late. Our secret shoppers know to be present in the worship center prior to the publicized starting time and to record what time the service actually begins. A late start may be unavoidable, but too often the tardiness is seemingly due to disorganization and apathy.
Bad preaching. This conclusion is subjective, but nonetheless truthful: worship is challenging when the preaching is boring or disorganized. It’s even more taxing when the sermon covers everything but the Bible.
Bad singing. Again, this conclusion is subjective. However, really bad singing seldom facilitates worship. Even if the singer is sincere and faithful, it may be tough to focus on God when bad vocals are jarring.
Poor sound and/or video quality. Occasionally this problem unexpectedly happens when the system malfunctions. At other times, it seems clear that either rehearsal never occurred to detect and correct any problems, or leaders chose to ignore problems. Either one is unacceptable.
Excessively loud music. I suspect my age is apparent here, but even some of our young secret shoppers have commented negatively on this issue. Increased volume may be appropriate in some settings, but it does not automatically strengthen worship.
Incomprehensible choir or praise team words. The lyrics are probably great, but we cannot tell. The sound system may be poor, the singers may not enunciate well, or the music may drown out the words – but we miss the message while straining to understand the words. Simply including the lyrics on a Powerpoint would help.
Grammatical and/or spelling errors on the screen. Granted, this error should perhaps not be a distraction. On the other hand, God – and worshipers who are often well educated – deserve our best in presentation.
Poor synchronization of presentation slides. The causes may be many (and even unavoidable at times), but it’s difficult to worship in song when the lyrics on the screen are measures behind the worship leader.
Unclear directions. Even our best secret shoppers sometimes wonder about such questions as: Who is the person speaking (no one introduced him)? Am I permitted to partake of the Lord’s Supper (no one explained it)? If the church doesn’t take an offering, how do I give (again, no one guided us)?
Poor lighting. The problem may simply be weak lighting or delayed maintenance, but either can make it difficult to see one’s Bible. In some cases, an intentionally darkened room is designed to create worship ambience – but also reflects a wrong assumption that all worshipers will be reading the Bible only on the screen.
Crowd movement. To be fair, I admit that worship should so focus on God that crowd movement is not distracting. Nevertheless, folks coming and going from the worship center – especially during times of prayer, reflection, preaching, and response – can be disruptive.
Extended announcements. “Extended” might be any announcements if they’re done poorly, but even well-presented announcements can be distracting when they’re numerous or awkwardly inserted into an order of worship.