We can totally leave members/regulars/visitors/guests/first timers behind if we plan worship services that aren’t accessible. By accessible, I mean, worship gatherings that lack handles and don’t give everybody a chance to grab on tightly. As worship leaders, we all have a basic understanding that the worship services we plan are to and through the Lord. I would submit to you that there is a communal/social element of united groups that has to factor into our planning.
The mandate of every believer is to love God and love others. A way to love others is to learn to speak their language. This might mean spending a few extra hours each week getting to know whom you are serving. Worship leaders direct the congregation vertically (to look at the Lord) and horizontally (to declare Him to the people around us).
Once we understand whom we are serving, we are going to begin planning better worship services. Not only will you be leading familiar content, you will also be bringing your congregation along to new places of expression through new music.
One of the understood axioms that I find super-helpful is to use the 80/20 rule. This means that during any given gathering, people will be singing 80% familiar songs and 20% new or unfamiliar songs. I find that the average church attender is not as familiar with the “latest & greatest” worship tune that has just hit the air. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is introducing too much too fast. Once I hear a great song that I think it going to be immediately accessible to my church, I want to throw it in Planning Center and start singing it! I’ve found it best to hold off for a few weeks or months and let the song “bake” in me in my times of private worship before “going public” with it.
I guarantee your congregation will engage more quickly if the are singing something that doesn’t really depend on the screens. Once engaged in what the Lord is saying to them, they will be more likely to adapt to songs that might express their hearts to God in a fresh words.
With all that said, its still not canonical. I’m no worship wizard. David challenges us to sing “new songs” to the Lord. Paul admonishes us to be all things to all people. So, the question for us is how to know when a song is familiar enough to be placed in the 80th percentile? Any thoughts? Would love to hear your feedback on song familiarity and accessibility.
Stephen Smith (@stephenandstar) serves on the Leadership Team at Houston’s First Baptist Church. He shepherds four teams within the church: Music, Multisite, Media, and Marketing. He spends the remainder of his time these days with his head in a book or dealing with an unruly yard. His passion is leading worship through song with his wife Star and leveraging their lives to see ministry multiplied in their home church and beyond.