Q I am tone deaf, so singing in worship doesn’t do anything for me. How can I still worship?
A The number of people who are truly tone deaf (4 percent) is much lower than those who self-report tone deafness (17 percent). Before writing yourself off entirely, consider getting some help. A music teacher, for example, may be able to help you discover your singing voice. Singing has a multitude of benefits, including bringing a community closer together. If a few singing lessons would allow you to take part in congregational singing, it would be a source of great joy for the rest of your life.
What if you are truly tone deaf? At the risk of sounding glib, you can “sing and make music in your heart” (Eph. 5:19). There will always be worship actions that will be less fulfilling—perhaps even impossible—for some individuals of the congregation. In those times, we can take part in worship by reveling in the sound of the congregation’s heartfelt praise, speaking a song’s words, or praying for someone nearby. Perhaps you could find an entirely different role for this part of the service, running the sound system, serving as an usher, or helping a young reader follow along.
Finally, we can remind the church’s leaders that on any given Sunday some people just won’t be “feeling it.” A half hour of impassioned singing may be just right for some, but others might not be able to engage at all. Those planning worship should attempt to connect with people of all abilities and dispositions with singing and speaking, standing and sitting, reading and rote, thinking and feeling. This allows us to be one Body; different gifts, but united in Christ.
Greg Scheer (musicblog/gregscheer.com) is a composer, author, speaker, and music associate at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. His latest book is Essential Worship (Baker, 2016).