Does Better Music Grow a Bigger Church?


Don Chapman talks about church growth and worship styles.

I used to think that really good music grows a church. Get the hottest band and singers in town and the people will come.

I don’t think that anymore.

Now that I’m free from the weekly grind of the music director’s life I’ve been able to visit a lot of churches. I’ve been to huge megachurches with thousands of people and so-so, bland music. I’ve been to tiny, struggling churches with superb, cutting edge-music.

Recently in LA I was at a faaaamous church that had one of the worst, off pitch background praise singers ever. Another LA megachurch had the most horrible worship flow of any church I’ve ever attended. Sing a song. Stop cold. Sing another, random song. Stop cold. Sing another. What??

I’ve also been to huge churches with great blended music and huge churches with superb, cutting edge music.

Great music, huge churches. Lousy music, huge churches.

Small churches, great music. Small churches, lousy music.

Great music sure won’t hurt a church, but my worship algorithms are telling me that it ISN’T the music that’s primarily growing churches. It’s the PREACHING. Gasp.

If the preacher is theoretical, boring, irrelevant and clinical, the hottest music in town isn’t going to help draw a crowd.

If the preacher is relevant, personable and preaching on spiritual issues that matter to the common man, the lousiest music in the world won’t keep the throngs away. They’ll put up with anything to hear the Word speak into their lives.

So just what does music accomplish? It simply sets the tone and flavor of your church.

Your music style will attract a certain style of crowd. It’s no different from a radio station. Think of the different crowds associated with these music styles: Country. Heavy Metal. Classical. Can you picture what someone looks like who would listen to each style? How about: Cowboy hats. Long hair and tattoos. Suit & tie.

I see blended, orchestral churches attracting a “churchy” bunch in suits & ties and Sunday dresses.

Churches with cool rock bands and cutting-edge music are attracting the 20-30s.

The typical WillowCreek-esque church with 90’s praise band (which, I believe, is currently the mainstream of churches) is attracting younger baby boomers who are bored by the blended stuff, plus young families. I suspect the young families probably would prefer the cutting edge music church but those churches, attracting younger people with no money, generally have weak children’s programs. So young families put up with the baby boomer music style since they have the funds to afford nice nurseries and youth activities.

Different styles attract different looking people, but there’s another element to put into the mix: personality types.

One personality type revels in the mediocre; the other loves quality.

Ministries with a low standard of quality, no matter what the style, will attract people who have a low standard of quality. If the church allows off-pitch people to sing on the praise team, they’ll attract people who like to hear off-pitch singing. Believe it or not, there are actually people in this world who thrill to hear off pitch singing on mic. These same people also enjoy karaoke.

This mindset would prefer to see a bunch of people who wanted to sing in a constant rotation so they can use their “gifts,” no matter how bad things sound, rather than see the talented few leading week after week.

Call me spritual or something, but I really don’t care who’s up there as I go into my own personal world of worship. What gets me out of that world is the jarring effect of hearing someone yelping the wrong notes.

A church, contemporary or traditional, who insists on a high standard of quality generally attracts people who like quality.

The two personality types don’t mix. If you’re trying to build a quality music ministry, have you ever experienced this phenomena: an off-pitch singer demands to sing in church, you won’t let them and they throw a tantrum… threaten to leave the church… etc.

I know of a case where a talented vocalist found themselves in a low-quality church. This person is a dream vocalist you’d give your left leg to have in your ministry—and spiritually minded to boot. This person was rarely asked to sing and was baffled. I’ve heard the same story over and over.

I found an answer to these mysteries from Oprah, of all people. For some reason I flipped on the TV one day and watched her for five minutes. In that span she said something that rocked my world: “Mediocrity hates quality.”

Worship leader, have you been banging your head against the wall? Now you know why. Maybe you’re the right type of person in the wrong type of church.  

Don Chapman Arranger/composer Don Chapman is the creative energy behind several websites devoted to contemporary worship: HymnCharts, WorshipFlow, and He's the editor of the weekly WorshipIdeas newsletter that is read by over 50,000 worship leaders across the world.

More from Don Chapman or visit Don at

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