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“It’s Too Loud!”: Responding to Volume Critics at Your Church

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The scene is set. It’s a Sunday morning, and the band is cranking through the second of a four-song set. You loved the latest Hillsong or Bethel song and things are moving in the right direction. However, at the back of the room is an individual you’ve seen before: the person who loves to say, “It’s too loud.”

Over the last 20 years of being a part of growing churches, I’ve noticed a constant din of people who complain about how loud church can be. Whether the music is blasting during worship or a speaker is simply turned on, these folks find a problem with the volume on any given Sunday. However, I’ve also noticed that churches that are growing and making a difference tend to run at a loud volume—it’s not an exception.

The reality is that if your church uses contemporary music to connect with and build up your community, chances are you’ve heard complaints about the volume.

I recently connected with executive pastors and leaders at some of the fastest-growing, most influential churches in the country to find out exactly how loud their weekend worship services are. As you can see below, a trend emerged: each of these churches tends to run loud volumes in their main auditoriums. Here’s a list of eight churches along with their speaker volumes in A-weighted decibels:

Each one of these churches make an impact in their communities and reach thousands of people every weekend. So their practices beg the question: if these churches are running at a loud volume, what are they saying to those in their community that complain about the “noise”? More importantly, what can you say in response to the volume critics at your church? This is a complex issue, but there are a few things to consider as you lead conversations about volume control.

Quick Lesson on Volume and Hearing Damage

One complaint lodged against loud services is that it could damage people’s hearing. While it is possible to damage hearing at many different volumes, it requires more than volume itself. Significant damage to hearing occurs through a combination of the following factors: proximity to the sound source, sustained exposure, and dBA levels. Look at the chart below for examples of the combined factors required to result in hearing damage:

dBA LEVELS EXAMPLE [ref] SUSTAINED EXPOSURE FOR DAMAGE [ref]
85 dBA Snowblower 8 hours
90 dBA Lawnmower 2 hours
95 dBA Inside a subway car 1 hour
100 dBA Riding a motorcycle 15 minutes
105 dBA Table saw 3.7 minutes
110 dBA Jackhammer 111 seconds (1 m)
115 dBA Emergency vehicle siren 57 seconds

Obviously, we don’t want to run our worship services in such a way that it would damage anyone’s hearing. However, most churches that do run loud don’t run loud enough to do damage in the amount of time that we worship. For instance, if your church runs at 95 dBA, you would need to sustain that level for an hour straight (which is virtually impossible to do given the dynamics of how music works) in order to sustain any damage. Obviously, pushing above 115 for any period of time could end up causing damage. However, typical levels average far lower than that across prevailing churches. The important thing to note is that growing and prevailing churches don’t run at a volume so loud that it would do damage during the 20-25 minutes of worship.

3 Reasons Churches Run Loud Services

It fills the room.

The reality is that when you run a loud volume during the service, it gives the impression of the room being fuller. There’s something about a full room that encourages engagement. Ultimately, musical worship is about drawing people in and inviting them to be a part of an experience, and when it runs louder, that full room encourages people to lean in and engage more.

A louder volume encourages more singing.

Trust me, you don’t want to hear me sing. If the volume of the music is so low that you can hear me sing, it may discourage you from singing, not necessarily because I’m such a terrible singer, but because you are worried about what I think of your singing. Louder volumes actually encourage people to participate.

Less somber, more celebration.

A significant reason for keeping the music loud is that most churches are trying to project a celebratory tone rather than somber one. This celebratory tone communicates that Jesus is alive and making a difference in people’s lives today

3 Things It Might Be Besides Volume

When people complain about volume in our churches, sometimes they are really complaining about other things. It takes training to understand how volume works within any given room; an experienced audio engineer can speak knowledgeably about the volume of any given experience. However, when others that are less familiar with the science of sound complain about what they call volume, it might actually be something else that’s causing them discomfort. Three examples of other things it might be are:

The mix

I’m convinced that when people complain about volume, they are often really referring to the mix but don’t know how to articulate it. It could be that there’s too much screeching electric guitar, or cymbals piercing through at an inappropriate spot, or maybe the bass is just rumbling and muddying the mix too much. If we’re hearing a complaint about volume, then we need to investigate whether it’s just a bad mix in the room.

Lousy musicianship

Maybe the electric guitarist isn’t quite up to be leading this audience, or maybe the drummer is banging too harshly on the drums; in short, poor musicianship could be causing a distraction. Sometimes people complain about the volume when what they’re really thinking is that the folks on the stage aren’t leading them in an efficient and effective manner.

Your style

Let’s just speak plainly: some folks simply don’t like your musical style. They wish it was something else—maybe quieter, more somber, more reflective, or more introspective—something other than your current style. Acknowledge that sometimes when someone complains, what they’re saying is not “it’s too loud”, but “it’s not how I want it.”

5 Practical Tips for Helping People Who Think It’s Too Loud

Acknowledge that you hear them.

Whenever anyone complains about anything at your church, you first need to understand what they’re saying, so slow down and listen to them. Ironically, if someone feels like he or she is not being heard when they are talking about volume, it will just upset them even more. Clearly acknowledge that you hear them when they voice their complaints.

Explain your purpose.

Always lead with the “why” of the volume. Any of the following may apply:

  • Our church is about reaching those who aren’t in church, and we’re trying to create the kind of church that unchurched people love to attend.
  • We are trying to reach those that aren’t currently connected to our church.
  • One of the things that we found is that a louder style of music helps draw in and engage people who might not otherwise come to church.

Don’t fight people at the level of dBA levels or a scientific number but start with the “why”. Explain it clearly to them and try to get them on board from a missional point of view.

Offer them a different place in the room.

Even in the most acoustically tuned rooms designed to create a uniform experience, there will be places that are louder than others. Try directing those who are bothered by the volume to a spot in the room that isn’t as loud. Directing them away from the volume can be a practical service to these folks.

Let them know you have earplugs.

A good best practice for churches that are running decibels anywhere in the mid-90s or higher is to have earplugs readily available for people to use. Make sure that your guest services team, the team at the sound booth, and those greeting guests at the doors have some available for anyone who might find the service too loud. A good set of earplugs will reduce sound 10 to 20-decibels in any room, bringing it down to a comfortable range.

Reinforce that your team is working to make this a great experience for everyone.

Please don’t throw your sound team under the bus. Those folks work hard on a regular basis to ensure a quality experience for everyone who attends. Go out of your way in these interactions to articulate that you support your team and that you want to work with them to make it great.

Finally, remember that it’s a minority of people who are complaining about your audio.

Even if one or two people complain about the sound at every service, the reality is there are lots of others who didn’t say anything at all. Consider what is happening to the interactions taking place in the room. If the volume in the room is driving down engagement, it’s too loud. However, I suspect that in most churches we don’t run sound loud enough to increase the engagement.

Finally, Revelation 4 paints this incredible picture of what it’s going to be like to be before the throne. While we can’t replicate all of that, we are trying to catch a glimpse of it by modeling our experience after what we see in the Bible.

I’d love to hear from you about what volume you run at your services and how you interact with the people in your church who think it’s too loud. Thanks for pressing on and for making the kind of experiences that people will engage with and be encouraged by. I’d love to hear more thoughts in the comments section below.


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53 Comments

  1. This is great practical insight into volume at church. I gotta day that I completely agree with you on this matter. This hits home with us. We have been asking some to move to a different location further away from the speakers. I think we will begin offering ear plugs as well. We typically run 92-95 with an occasional peak at 102.

    1. My husband and I left a church that we were leaders at because of the volume, not the type of music. It had been fine for 20 years – every church we ever attended (military family so we moved around), then all of a sudden – boom the volume jumped. The enjoyment went out of worship for us. We went to 17 churches after that, and my husband finally quit going. I kept going but I still struggle with the volume 15 years later. I don’t complain anymore – I don’t bother to chat with leaders – they just think of me as a complainer – but I have begun to ask God to do something about the volume at all these churches. Maybe even use his angels to turn it down…whatever it takes.
      I disagree with you – it does not need to be at concert levels at church. It isn’t just the volume that will convince the young to join our churches – it’s the mix of music – it is the heart of the worship. I DO NOT HAVE PROBLEMS WITH THE TYPE OF WORSHIP. & I DO NOT LIKE WEARING EARPLUGS…IT CHANGES MY ABILITY TO HEAR MY OWN VOICE AND THROWS ME OFF.
      TODAY I JUST ABOUT HAD AN OUT OF BODY EXPERIENCE BECAUSE THE MUSIC WAS SO LOUT THAT I COULDN’T CLEARLY THINK… COME ON!!

  2. We had people leaving our church in the 90’s saying, “that music hurts my ears!” Finally I called a friend who was one of the leading audiologists in the country and asked how best to respond. He said, “when they are saying ‘that music hurts my ears,’ what they mean is that music hurts their ears!” He went on to say that as we age, something happens to our ears that is analogous to our eyes – the don’t work the same say. He said that especially as a person is getting older (though may happen sooner), they hear fine to a point and then it’s like dropping off a cliff: it hurts! That was a true wake-up call to me. We run our music in the same range as those listed in the article, but we have jars in the back filled with earplugs so that folks can mitigate the sound,

  3. I think you mostly touched on it, but ultimately it’s the content of your program material that matters. Hitting a number on a db meter is fine, but there’s an infinite number of ways to do that and make it sound terrible. To your point, a bad mix can be a huge distraction, whether it’s at 88db or 94db. On the other hand, it can be surprising how “quiet” a really well-mixed worship team can sound at 95 db (or higher). Reducing the “it’s too loud” complaints is really about addressing the content and making sure that the average listener is hearing something well-mixed. The louder you get and the more acoustic energy (volume) you put in the room, the harder it is for the guy behind the mixer to control it. There’s a definite balancing act to make sure that “loud” and “good” are used together, not as an either/or.

    If the pieces aren’t in place that week to make a “good” 95db, backing off the gas pedal isn’t a bad thing. After all, if you had to pick from 5 people not singing because it’s “not loud enough” this week, or 5 people choosing to leave (or stay home) because it’s loud but doesn’t sound good, which would you choose? I would wager the first group, although probably less vocal about it (if at all), would be far more likely to come back in the door than the latter.

  4. We run ours at 86 db peak about 90 when voices hit hard. We had one person leave church for go due to it was loud. They never came over to us or even said anything. They left and sent a letter in a month afterwards. All of us think they sat right in the line of the horn. They said it should be run at 70db. So we are kinda pluzzle on that one. Most of the pastor like oh well.

  5. For the audio guys out there, an often overlooked area of the mix is stage volume. Especially for those in a smaller venue, that monitor mix your electric guitarist is insisting be even louder is likely reflecting off the back of the stage and muddying up your mix. You’re going to push the mains harder to over power that reflected muddy nastiness.

    It’s a good idea to take your mains to zero a few times during sound check so you understand what you’re dealing with.

    Convincing your band members to take a quieter monitor feed is going to depend on their skill and their level of trust that you’re going to make them sound great, even if stage volume isn’t optimal.

  6. For people like me on the autism spectrum and a Pentecostal, sometimes the noise complaints are justifiable. People who suffer from noise sensory issues (like some of us on the autism spectrum) have legitimate complaints.

  7. Good reading, some good points raised here.

    Some aspects not mentioned

    Our tolerance for volume before it’s too loud is also dependant very much on distortion. I recently attended a funeral in another church and as I walked in I immediately noticed the clean clear sound of the keyboard playing ( new installation) Its the Overtones and harmonics higher than the fundamental frequency that give the sound a lot of character. On the other end of the scale I’ve been asked to play audio tracks from the internet in church. Most are poor quality but some are just awful. They are not only very compressed, but very distorted by my standards, they are played at the lowest volume I can get away with.

    Good to hear about older people getting pain and being less tolerant to louder sounds. But it’s not just volume. High frequency hearing loss in old people is very real and very severe. High frequency loss is linked with intelligibility, you cant hear the consonants and its difficult to follow the conversation. Now what does a good thumping Bass do for them? It’s devastating and probably the last straw for some.

    Lastly room resonances and speaker coverage. If speaker coverage is not good and you can detect dull patches (loss of highs) in the seated area then this needs to be addressed at the start before anything else. This is basic first step. Room resonances likewise, acoustic material strategically placed may help and then a third octave graphic etc may just make the difference you are looking for.
    The best test is to ask the old chap in the back row..

    John Fickling
    Senior Audio tech.

  8. Great, thoughtful, well-reasoned article. I would also add that the age of the ‘ears’ and their components will play a role, as things change with age (we have an older gentleman-who loved the music-that wasn’t complaining just to complain but had a legitimate hearing issue). Additionally, I do think the acoustics of the room do come into play, maybe more on the perception of loudness end of things. Thanks again for your article.

  9. Thanks for this great article. This really articulates what our worship team has been trying to communicate to our complainers and even to some of our senior staff. We run at 86-88 dBA with an occasional peak between 91 and 92. The senior staff who complain to us tend to sit in the front row directly in line with one of the line arrays.

    We have started to distribute ear plugs, but some of the biggest complainers refuse to use them, I guess because they think they shouldn’t have to take those measures. I equate ear plugs to sweaters or jackets. If we set the temperature in our rooms to please those who like it very hot, the ones who like it cold will be uncomfortable, and there’s not a whole lot they can do about. If you set it cold, the ones who like it hot can wear an extra layer and everyone can be comfortable. With sound levels, those who like it quiet can put in the plugs and allow the others to enjoy the louder music.

    1. I don’t believe the sweater analogy works. If you have a thumping base the reverberations are not muted at all.

      I am one who is hearing impaired and I don’t use ear plugs because they don’t. I’ve tried them.

  10. I once was completely unsympathetic to the “too loud” complaints. Recently, compliments of a virus I’m told, I suddenly have tinnitus and some hearing difficulties. Loud music is particularly uncomfortable to me. I obtained an app for my iPhone that measures DB levels. Our church consistently averages over 100 DBs and peaks at 105 often. And the bass seems to be mixed at an extremely high level. Would you say this is too loud?

    I am an elder at our church, and I know most people like the music, but the discomfort makes me want to come late so I can avoid some of the songs. It seems like there ought to be a place for us to worship.

    By the way, ear plugs don’t work. It seemed like a good idea to me back when I was unsysmpathetic. It’s hard to have empathy without the experience.

  11. I appreciate the information you’ve provided, and the spirit in which it is delivered. The 5 practical tips will be helpful in many cases.

    However, as one who has in the past year begun having hearing difficulties, including tinnitus, I believe the 5 tips will ring very hollow for most of the people experiencing the discomfort. It frankly sounds more like “Our church is no longer for you.” For people who have spent years helping to build the very church that is no longer for them , hearing that is sad. It leaves the hearer to make decisions they shouldn’t be forced to make. And the church suffers because some of its most faithful followers will opt out.

    It would be nice if an effective method of dealing with these difficulties could be found. Perhaps a separate service with the decibel levels promised to be < 90 would be an option. Or perhaps one of the existing services could be designated "low volume." Another option might be to separate a small room for them to sit in, though I have a feeling they would feel ostracized, not to mention the cost. That's probably not a viable option.

    I lead a small group of empty-nesters in our church, and nearly every member has complained to me about the volume. As an elder, they expect me to act on the problem. In the past, before I was forced to be more empathetic by my own condition, I would pass on the comments to our pastors, and they would tell me the five tips you mention, and one time they told me volume would not exceed 90 decibels. At the time I didn't have an appreciation for what that meant. I would then feel like I had been helpful.

    However, the decibel levels currently run between 100 and 105 at our church. I now have complete empathy for the "complainers", and now I am faced with the same dilemma. It's funny how God finds a way for us to be empathetic.

    Please continue to think about this issue, as baby boomers need a place to worship too.

      1. Our small group is experiencing the exact same challenge. Our core group of 7 married couples has been together for 13 years.

        Within this special group, we are the youngest couple at age 58 – and feel amazingly blessed to be in a group of older mentors who are deacons / elders and have faithfully loved and served our church for 20-25 years.

        Believe me when I say none of us are “complainers”. Far from it. We have supported and remained faithful to our church through good times and bad. We worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – not a church, denomination, or particular pastor. We continue to experience the unconditional love of Christ as we go through the trials and joys of life together.
        Bottom line – we love the Lord and we love our church.

        As for me, I am in a unique position to comment as a both a musician and music educator. In my younger days, I played keyboards in all sorts of bands including very loud rock bands. As a child of the ‘70s, I have always and still love very loud, well mixed music of all genres. My background includes both live performing in large arenas as well as intimate settings and professional recording – both in pro studios and in my home studio.

        As a music teacher, I rely completely on my ears to earn a living. I simply cannot afford to have them damaged. I have personally experienced the devastating effects of hearing loss within our family.

        My 80 year old Mom cannot hold a conversation without very strong state of the art hearing aids. She’s been wearing them for 8 years. She also suffers from tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears).
        I often wonder if her hearing loss was brought about by attending my performances in rock concerts. 🙁

        During prayer request time at our recent small group Christmas party, a new couple in our group brought up how they are grieving being so uncomfortable with the high music volume that they are considering leaving our church. They also reported that many of their friends had already quietly left our church for the same reason.

        All agreed and began to express what we were all privately struggling with – we can no longer enter into a true state of worship because of the physical pain in our ears. None of us wanted to share because it is never in our hearts to complain or disparage our church.

        My husband and I had quietly stopped attending services regularly for the past two years choosing to watch livestream at home instead just so we could control the volume. We were ashamed to tell anyone as we are not “complainers”.

        Labor Day weekend brought tragedy to our family as my younger cousins were killed by a drunk driver. We were overcome by grief and the need to be back IN church. Armed with my special musician earplugs, we sat in the last row as far back from the stage as you can get. Even with earplugs, the volume was once again physically painful to my ears. I was so sad and felt as if I no longer belong to the church we have attended for 25 years.

        The leader of our small group offered to email our pastor. The kind response was to seek a place to sit away from the direct line of speakers and to wear ear plugs. We are all still in shock and very saddened that this new development is actually occuring?

        To read your article makes it even more real. We of a certain age are being placed in a position to decide between preserving the hearing we have left by leaving our church or just deal with it by wearing ear plugs.

        A quick google search reveals that 85 decibels is the point where hearing damage begins. Yes – a prolonged exposure is necessary for serious loss, but attending services week after week IS prolonged exposure.

        The simple solution is to keep decibal levels within a scientically and medically safe range – 85 or less. Decibal meters should be placed and monitored in multiple areas of every sanctuary. This is the responsible thing to do. No one should suffer physical harm by attending church.

        Music does not have to be at ear damaging levels to be more effective. A skilled professional sound technician can balance the sound removing distortion for a full, exciting, loud non-damaging worship experience.

        I’m not sure where the idea that ear damaging volume is needed to make the modern church grow? I will submit that this dangerous concept is a tool for the enemy to cause division in the church.

        Please pray. Is the Lord guiding these decisions to harm and divide the church? Imagine the future when you are 20 years older and you and every one of your peers has to wear hearing aids to hold a conversation, will you then agree that this was a good decision?

        Please do your research. (as I am about to do) Let’s continue the conversation. Thank you and may God Bless us all with clear and respectful communication. 🙏🏻✝️

  12. You have made some excellent points in the article. As an audio engineer, I’ve dealt with these issues first hand. A couple of additional thoughts:

    First, a lot of churches try to be something they are not. A small church with a mediocre band and a terrible PA will try to recreate Hillsong. All they can do is attempt to match the volume, and with a bad PA, it’s painful for everyone. An extra 10 dB SPL A doesn’t make up for ability.

    Second, we see more and more over-use of compression. It’s a bigger problem today than 10 years ago because digital boards have compression on every channel, buss and output. Inexperienced engineers crank the compressors to oblivion and remove all dynamic range from the mix. So, what would have been a mix with an average SPL of 85-88 with peaks up above 100–which would be very comfortable—the entire worship set is a steady 98. This is exhausting to listen to.

    I heard this recently at a conference and what should have been a good band on a good PA sounded like an incredibly loud AM radio. There was no life , no energy, just loud. I left after 60 seconds.

    Putting up a great mix takes a lot of skill. Churches would would be wise to bring in highly qualified engineers to train their audio teams. Yes, this costs money, but probably less than the annual tithes and offerings from a 60-year old couple who has been there for 30 years, but left because of the sound.

    1. Thank you, Mike! A great audio engineer is every bit as important as the musicians on the stage. You sound like a great one.

      Please continue to speak up and help turn this unfortunate tide back to what is medically, scientifically, and spiritually sound for everyone. No one should be patronized, excluded, or dismissed when it comes to this important issue.

      Facts are facts. 85 decibels is the point whereby hearing loss damage begins. There is no reason to cause physical harm to anyone attending church no matter what their age is.

      How do we now KNOW how dangerous it is to look directly at a solar eclipse?

  13. Earplugs? Seriously? Would you suggest people wear earplugs during an over-amplified sermon? If not, then why during the music? Others here have commented on the technical aspects of audio, mixing etc. But I take issue with the idea that higher volumes from the band encourage people to sing – they don’t. In fact it is noticeable that with louder volumes the focus is often towards the band rather than the congregation, and for those of us who do like to sing and (if I may say so without being immodest) are good at it, it is discouraging if you can’t hear yourself do it, and worse, if you can’t hearhow your voice is blending with others. This is not trivial point. Music, especially singing, has the capacity to build and enhance community, and this is impaired when the stage musicians are allowed to dominate in what should be a communal act of worship.

  14. One further point. You mention one reason for loud volumes being a desire to project a celebratory atmosphere. This is not always appropriate, and one discussion in the church circles in which I move is the concern that the contemporary church is losing the capacity to lament. I’ve come across significant numbers of people who have, after a while, become very disillusioned with the rather relentless celebration in their churches and long for a more rounded expression of the Christian life.

    1. Simon!

      I appreciate the push back and well thought out critique.

      In the interview that’s attached to this article, I go into more nuance around volume and it impacts.

      Again, thanks for doing everything you can to reach more people in your community!

      – Rich

  15. Great article, Rich. It’s not enough to “set it and forget it.” Worship leaders, production directors, site pastors and lots of other kinds of leaders need to know how to receive and address criticism which WILL come around volume – either because it’s too much or not enough!

    Over the years I’ve definitely found that making sure I listen to someone’s concern and do everything I can to clearly understand why they are upset is 90% of the solution. I’ve found often that sound guys and worship leaders push back but don’t really take time to listen and hear the person who is making the complaint.

    Another factor in all of this is helping people from the congregation understand that our production team (in most cases, anyways) are volunteers. These are not paid professionals. Sometimes volunteers get things wrong and that’s why we need grace for each other. We’re not going to be perfect. We have a target that we’re shooting for. Most weeks we hit, sometimes we don’t. The people running production on our teams aren’t robots and their heart is to serve, to help and, ultimately, to see people worship God together in our services.

  16. I am of the opinion that if you need to supply ear plugs to people when they come to worship, the music is too loud. You also have to remember, especially in smaller churches in smaller communities, you don’t often get visitors. We need to respect each other and have regard for the elders in our congregation. If we don’t think they are as important as we are we’re not really being part of the body.

    I also had something happen to me which changed my opinion of things. We had 4 young adult males come in to our church that had never been to church. They didn’t have good family situations so the church loved them and became their family. Within a few months they all came to Christ and we rejoiced with them. One weekend we went to a Christian concert. We all came out with our ears ringing but big smiles on our faces cause we thought the music was great. We excitedly asked the 4 young men for their opinion of the music and they shrugged their shoulders and said it was ok. We asked them how come and their answer really got us all thinking. They said the music was very similar to what was in a regular concerts they used to go to except it had “Jesus” thrown in occasionally. They said we don’t want the “same old”, we actually enjoy church music and we want to worship. It doesn’t need to be so loud.

    People it’s not the rock gods we are trying to impress. Our music is to be projected as a love offering into the heavenlies. So please don’t make your music so loud that it makes the angels cry.

  17. Well I am a cancer patient and I love my church and encourage the music. I find certain instruments are painful when they are so loud I can’t hear the other musicians and even my own singing.
    We chose to move away but I would still ask you to think about the decible level is for healthy ears. Older folks have problems. As a cancer patient I have fibrosis and have been in constant treatment, since 2014.
    Again I don’t usually complain. My nephew has a praise band. His music doesn’t hurt my ears and they are contemporary. I think acoustics play a part. Our church does have good acoustics.
    I love your site and posts and thank God for you.
    Thanks for listening.

  18. 1. It seems to me that if worship is going to be truely corporate, you ought to be able to hear the voices of the people around us. Are we not in danger of negating the worshiper when the worshippers can’t be heard?
    2. As we pattern our corporate worship after rock concerts, we are in danger of training young peopleto leave there church. If they are attracted by the music, they will eventually go to where the music is better–at the rock concert. https://trentdejong.com/worship-music-should-be-different/

    1. Trent,

      Thanks for dropping by and for linking to your article.

      I can point to churches who are attracting young people through this approach. I’d love to talk with churches what are reaching young people at scale through a contemplative and quiet approach. Seriously … point me in their direction, I’d love to talk with them on the podcast.

      – Rich

  19. Baloney IMHO. Why sing when you can’t hear yourself or anyone next to you. It’s not a concert. It’s become more about lights, smoke machines, skinny jeans and guitar rifs, than Revelation 4 and 5 worship. I recently overheard 3 young visitors that sat behind me at a church I was at. They said, what’s the deal with this church? Are they trying to make it like a bar? The music is so loud my head hurts. They came needing an encounter with Holy Spirit and got offered entertainment. Very sad. That is of course MHO. Pray for an anointing to heal deafness it’s going to be needed. 5 years ago before the soundboard men went deaf the place was filled with young people. Oh well, what I think doesn’t matter. Crank it up.

  20. As an audiologist I hear patients with hearing difficulty – ages 15-95 – report the loudest environment they’re in is church. They all have similar reports; it’s painful, unnecessary, and any conversation they’ve had with the sound people has been acknowledged then immediately dismissed. How sad. I appreciate your approach to reply meaningfully to them but essentially you’re saying “you have to adapt, we won’t”. Equally sad.
    As churches attract younger people with louder volume, an assumption that seems very thin and misplaced, you are pushing an entire group out of the backdoor. And this at a time where they need the connection offered by a loving church family. We are commanded to pastor widows and orphans (the weakest among us). And these folks don’t make a fuss, they mildly vanish away and their wisdom and experience is forever lost to all of you. Simply because you can’t lower the volume to 70-80 dB.
    I pray for every worship minister who must balance all these needs.

      1. Well said Scott. And to Rich, one day you too will have first hand experience with painfully loud church music and a church staff who points out these 5 rules to you. The message you are giving to me (and to your future self) in these 5 points is, in essence, you aren’t our target audience, you are a minority, and you have no rights here. Ear plugs don’t work. Noise cancelling headphones work, the kind worn by machinists, but who wants to wear bright red, bulky headphones to church? Plus, with those and with ear plugs, a person can’t really join in the singing, at least if he or she wants to sing on key. Also, a person with hearing aids can’t wear ear plugs, and they can’t take hearing aids in and out easily between songs. Church should be for everyone. Turning down the volume will not make young people run to a different church. It will still be the same music, the same church family, and the same good sermons. If loud music is the only thing you have to offer people, something is wrong with your church.

  21. Thank you for the comment. My church runs at 95 DB at the board in Peaks at 115 at spots in the front. As a former musician and engineer, it’s too loud. Damaging loud as you repeat it twice a week for years. I already have tinnitus from ignorance in my early years thinking I could sing in a rock band without hearing protection. I always wear earplugs during service. I just don’t want anyone to overlook the long-term effects with this, especially with infants and small children. Even though people in the congregation say it’s too loud oh, it will not get turned down because that’s the way the pastor wants it. So my question is, is this seeking the Fruit of the Spirit?

  22. In your section on “Quick Lesson on Volume and Hearing Damage”, your main point is that the volume isn’t loud enough and long enough to cause damage. However, if you study the source reference you will also see that the chart is just a guideline:
    “Because different people’s ears differ in their degree of vulnerability to noise, noise exposure levels that are well tolerated by some people may cause harm in others….
    Be aware: Your ears aren’t able to “get used to” noise levels. If a certain noise level doesn’t seem to bother you as much as it did before, it’s not because your ears have toughened up to it; it’s because you’ve lost some of your hearing. In this case, it’s all the more critical to protect the hearing you have left.”
    The bottom line is – many people WILL suffer permanent irreversible hearing loss because of 95dBA worship music for 20mins every sunday.

    The few that are aware of this danger will wear hearing protection at church, but most people won’t because they trust the church. Are you ABSOLUTELY sure that you won’t damage their hearing?

    I just want to close with a final thought: why is it necessary to run worship at that loud a volume? Is there no other way to draw people to church and have a great worship experience? Instead of dismissing concerns as “these folks always find a problem with the volume on any given Sunday”, consider Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 8:9 “But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak”. You might be alright with eating food sacrificed to idols, but not everyone is.

  23. I am almost 55 and starting to get tinnitus. I have been going to my church for about 2 and a half years. And although it has a lot going for it- missions, programs for everyone, outreach, Bible centered teaching and good music to name a few, I am probably going to have to leave because of the volume of the music-particularly the drums. Its seems ridiculous to sacrifice my precious hearing. I agree with above responses. What has happened that churches are more focused on entertaining attenders instead of Christ centered worship? Why can’t we have one without the other? I will be frank, the above excuses just don’t cut it. God gave us brains and I think that we can find a happy medium. I know we can’t make everyone agree on everything, but this is pretty important. My friend and his wife who are in their 70’s cannot sit anywhere in the sanctuary where they are not in pain. When they spoke with the worship leader about this concern his response was that it really wasn’t that loud and basically blew the guy off. Yes, the majority of the members are in their 30’s and they are catered to. Let’s face it, the church has to be financially supported to exist. Bottom line – does this align with what the bible teaches? And hey, didn’t God create the body, including the ear? I guess man knows better, huh?

    1. Vivian … thanks for your feedback.

      Obviously, it’s about reaching people who are far from God. We need to be willing to do whatever it takes. Thanks for helping us think about these issues clearly.

      – Rich

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.