Finding the Balance
As musicians and artists, most worship leaders are excited and eager to introduce new songs to their churches or groups on a regular basis. We like new and shiny, especially since we get “over” songs much quicker than a congregation might.
I mean, we play them up to 10 or 13 times a week when you count all the practice time and rehearsals, when the congregation only hears them once. Its an understandable inclination, and I’m the same way.
Part of our roles as those who shepherd the corporate worship diet of our church family, so we need to be aware of this natural lean. There is nothing wrong with new, and using new songs is a wise practice of a healthy worship ministry.
However, there is a right and a wrong way of doing it. Maybe that isn’t the best way to put it. How about this: we can do it well or we can do it poorly.
- Doing it poorly might look like this: the church constantly feels like they are on their heels during a service. They feel uncomfortable because of the discontinuity and, therefore, are skittish about engaging in worship as a body. The songs fit the worship leader’s preferences and voice, ignoring what might be best for the congregation.
- Doing it well might look like this: we aren’t throwing curve balls at our church every week. They feel comfortable trying new things, and there is an established trust between the congregation and worship leaders. The new songs are songs that fit our congregation well, and encourage them to engage their hearts and voices in worship.
I don’t think any of us want to bring new songs to our churches poorly, so this begs the question: How can we introduce new songs well? I’m not a master at this, but I’ve talked to a lot of people who are much better than I am at this, so here’s the first of three tips that have helped me get better.
Teach the Songs
Sometimes, since we do know the songs so well and are so familiar with them, that we forget that the song is brand new to the church. For every 20 times we’ve heard it, they have heard it maybe once, if that. I was notorious for just jumping into new songs, maybe saying something during the intro like, “we’re going to show you this new song, so jump in when you catch on.” Real engaging, eh?
Think of football. The coaches don’t expect the players to know the plays when they’re handed a brand new playbook. The coaches take time to break down the plays for the players, helping them to understand and learn them. The coaches care deeply about the players internalizing the plays. Isn’t this what we want for our churches?
When we take the time to teach a chorus of a song, we invite them into the process. We aren’t trying to force-feed them something, but we are instead helping them to be ahead of the curve with something new. This way, even though the verses may be brand new, they’ll have the chorus to latch onto.
Also, if we let the church in on the scripture or story that inspired the song, we can help them internalize the song on a deeper level. Ever heard the story behind “It Is Well”? Search it on Google, and tell me it doesn’t pull you further into the song.
Bottom line: Teaching a song helps give people a stronger foothold in a potentially uncomfortable situation. Also, telling the congregation that its ok if they listen and take in the song before singing it will ease the tension. If we come across as “you should be able to sing this Chorus really loud by the end of the song,” then we’re not building trust, we’re developing frustration.