March 9, 2015

Epilogue: Posture Helps Us Sing on Sunday (Part 9)

Other Things That Help People Sing on Sunday (Part 7)
Make Room for Singing on Sunday (Part 8)

I was stuck in traffic the other day and since left-turn arrows take FOREVER here in Omaha, I got to looking around me to see whatever there was to see. And the first thing I noticed was a huge argument going on in the car behind me.

How did I know?

Though I obviously couldn't hear anything, and though their eyes were obscured by sunglasses (seriously, what is with the ever-increasing size of women’s sunglasses?), body language told me a lot. She was extremely animated. Her arms flailed all over the place in large, exaggerated gestures, making herself bigger. The way her shoulders moved up and down in rhythm with her wide-open mouth made me think she was probably yelling. He, on the other hand, was quite obviously tense; his arms were crossed and he kept shifting in his seat while folding and re-folding a newspaper - anything to avoid her eye contact. If his mouth ever moved to say anything, I never noticed. She was angry. He was in trouble.

Our postures give us away.

When leading worship, I notice things like this too. I can tell when my congregation doesn't know a song (or doesn’t like it / resonate with it / understand it) by their posture: folded arms, eyes wandering the room, and oh yeah, closed mouths, usually with a slight (or not so slight) frown. Likewise, I can tell when they DO know a song and resonate with it: open postures (arms at their sides or raised), heads up, and open mouths - OR - bowed heads, the hint of a smile (if they’re not singing), and closed, slightly crinkled eyes. The posture of our congregations can be a strong indicator for us as worship leaders to know when things are going well (when people are able to use the environment we’re creating to respond to God), and when things aren’t (when they’re focused on us, for whatever reason).

The question is, are we paying attention?

The funny thing about posture is that it works the other way too. We all know that our physical posture reflects our mental posture, but our mental posture can also be influenced by our physical posture. The two can become a self-reinforcing loop, and while this can be problematic at times (like when we’re angry or upset), we can also use this to our advantage. Just like closed postures reinforce our anger, teaching your congregation to be intentionally open-postured can help them engage, whether in song, prayer, or silence.

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