Win at Clapping in Church

I am a participation kind of worship leader. 

I am a participation kind of worship leader. I can worship God anytime I want when I'm by myself, but I Iove it when our church community engages in song together.

Knowing this, you may find it surprising that there are few things I loathe more than being pushed to clap with a song.  It's not that I have a problem with the act of clapping itself, I just have rarely seen it done well.


This is how it usually goes down.  The worship leader starts clapping as the band kicks into the intro.  About 75% of the congregation claps along but the leader abandons the clapping to sing or play an instrument leaving everyone to wonder "How long am I supposed to do this?"  About halfway through the first verse, everyone starts looking around at everyone else to know if they're supposed to keep clapping.  By the pre-chorus you're already down to 20% participation and about half way through the chorus the remaining clappers are slowing down and fading quietly in shame.

So what have we accomplished with this?  Rather than focusing our hearts and minds on Christ and engaging in communal worship, we have spent the first song navigating an awkward social situation.


It's so easy to fix this! You simply need to set a reasonable expectation.

Before you launch into a song, give a "what" and a "when".  A whole song is too long to clap.  There is just no way a room full of non-musicians will have the timing and energy required for such a task – it doesn't even sound good!  When was the last time you heard a song that had hand claps through the entire thing?

Instead, choose a part of the song that clapping really fits.  Maybe it's just the chorus or the bridge.  If there is an instrumental, having everyone clap on that section can keep them engaged rather than letting them fall into spectator mode as the lead guitarist shreds.

A simple "Hey everyone, the chorus on this song really needs some hand claps and it's going to be awesome if we all do it together" will get the job done.  When the moment arrives give a vocal cue and then a "nice job" when it's over.  You've now made everyone feel a part of making the music and it sounded great.  If that feels too technical for you, have one of your singers be the "clap leader".  In practice, make sure they have specific parts where they clap and usually the whole group will join in.

Singing music in groups isn't as culturally normal as it used to be.  Church is pretty much the only place we do it so teaching how to do it can make all the difference.  The less we are focused on what we are supposed to do, the more we can focus on what God wants to do.

Worship Artistry exists to help you bring your best in worship, whatever your skill level. We are an online worship teaching resource that features 5-piece, label-approved arrangements, tutorials, and technique lessons for guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, and vocals. Our library includes over 500 licensed worship songs by over 100 artists– including Hillsong, Passion, Bethel, Elevation, and more, with transposable tabs, sheet music, and chord charts. Try it out for free


Jason Houtsma is the co-founder and guitar teacher at Worship Artistry, where he is helping musicians of every level answer the call to worship with passion and confidence. Jason has been leading worship and writing music since he was 15 years old and currently serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA. He is husband to Alli and father to Bjorn and Asher.

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I can totally relate to this,

I can totally relate to this, can not count how many times I've been in the middle of this and notice everyone looking around wondering where it is I need to stop. I don't want to stop to early and feel awkward or stop to late and feel awkward.

Awesome Idea, and it engages the people.

Have you laughed into the mic?

This has happened a few times to us, trying to get a clapping part going somewhere in a song, with a congregation that hasn't had more than a piano for 5 years...I've actually found myself getting them clapping, I'll keep strumming, and a few bars into it...there is the sound of "machine-gun-claps" radiating through the Sanctuary...I think we have some non-conformists who just don't like clapping with the band-wagon...twice I've actually started giggling into my mic...(for the record, we had a new family come up to us and say that the way we laughed it off and had fun with the song, not getting frustrated, made them come back for more)

All the time.

As the leader everyone is looking to us to set the culture. If we set a culture where it's embarrassing when things don't go the way we intended, it creates tension all around us. When we are able to laugh at ourselves, we take the pressure off and we can all laugh together. We do our best but we're all flawed humans. It serves us well when we can recognize that and enjoy the quirks of those flaws.

To God Be The Glory

As the psalmist writes: "O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph". Ps. 47:1

Don't want to come off as super-spiritual, but if it is done from the heart to God; it can never be awkward and can never be too much.

Blessings - David

PS - Jason, your instruction and the resources you provide are such a blessing. WA is truly the best out there. Thanks & keep it up!

Congregation involved !

It is so much fun when we allow the congregation to be part of the band and contribute to a song. I think it's what Paul meant when he described church music to be "speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, making melody in our hearts to the Lord." By the way, one of the first, if not the first song written and published in a hymnal in early America is "By the Waters of Babylon." Check out how Don McLean does it. We did it with our church and had a blast of fun. Nothing awkward here.

Sorry if this is too unrelated.


Participation is so important and we miss out on it when we're too focused on making it through a song.