Recently, I have read many articles and blogs regarding the lack of congregational singing. In most of these articles, the lack of singing is attributed to people not knowing songs very well. Some have even used this as a defense of hymnal usage.
The argument goes something like this, “I went to a church and noticed that no one was singing. It was like going to a concert. People were just standing there while the loud music blared and the lights flashed.”
Now, you may expect for me to disagree with this argument. On the contrary, I agree with it whole-heartedly. What I disagree with is the reasoning behind the lack of congregational singing. Most people writing on this subject are convinced that “new music” is the issue. Doing this only enhances division and uses this as yet another catalyst to advance the “worship wars.”
My argument states that it is not the music style that is the issue, but rather it is the way worship leaders are introducing new music. Many worship leaders are presenting multiple new songs weekly. Many of these songs are obscure or even original compositions. While the band may be comfortable with this, the congregation is not. Most congregations do not consist of trained musicians; therefore congregations cannot absorb new music as quickly as trained musicians. On average, I have found that a maximum of one new song a month is more than sufficient. Even then, one must be careful how the song is introduced.
The following are some suggestions I have for introducing songs:
- Invoke – Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance regarding music for your local congregation. As the worship leader, this is crucial. Don’t teach a new song simply because it is the “cool” song of the day. This can be a recipe for disaster.
- Interpret – You must know what your people relate to. Many times we as worship leaders fail to understand the body God has given us to serve. Often we will create these elaborate plans of new ideas and music without once giving thought to whether it is relevant to the congregation.
- Inform – I have found it helps to tell the congregation you are about to sing a new song. This gives them time to process this info and put their brain in “learning mode.”. It also helps break down defenses than can unconsciously be erected when a new song begins to play.
- Introduce – Many times I, or one of my worship team members will sing through the song (at least the verse) before inviting the congregation to join. This also adds another level of comfort as the congregation is now aware of the melody line. (As an aside, always make sure your worship team, choir, praise team, etc., is comfortable with the song! This is an imperative! If the leadership is not comfortable with the song, the congregation will know immediately and be less open to learning.)
- Invite – The leadership must invite the congregation to sing! Sadly, we have become a society of observers where people must be invited to join in. Many times I have gone to churches where the instruments begin playing and it is just assumed that people know what to do. No longer is this the case.
- Include – Include the song in upcoming weeks. I will usually repeat this song a few times during the month to solidify.
- Inspire – Share with your people the message of the song. Perhaps there is a special story behind the writing of the song or a scripture passage that closely relates. Giving your people this type of information allows them to personalize the song and helps to ingrain it into their hearts.
I hope these suggestions have encouraged you to evaluate the way you introduce new music to your congregation. While this list is not exhaustive, I feel it will assist in planning and implementation. Regardless, I want to encourage you to let your people sing! God loves to hear the praises of His people. There is nothing more rewarding for me as a worship leader than seeing my congregation that God has entrusted, worshiping Him in spirit and truth. This may be with a hymn or the newest praise song. Either way, I am doing what God has called me to do, leading His people to worship!
Ronnie Reid has been leading corporate worship for over 20 years and has a passion for assisting churches to transition into an intergenerational worship style. He holds a bachelors degree in music, a M.Div. with an emphasis on worship and a Doctor of Ministry in Worship Studies. A certified Mac nerd, Ronnie lives with his wife and two children in an Atlanta suburb where he serves as the Worship Pastor at Fayetteville First Baptist and blogs at www.ConvergingWorship.org.