If you’re serving on a Worship team, chances are you love new music. We are musicians, the desire to sing and play new songs seems to have been established in our DNA. We are constantly looking for new music and perhaps even writing our own. This is great. It shows passion, desire, and yes it’s even biblical to sing new songs unto the Lord. But all too often we realize that the rest of our congregation just isn’t quite on the same track as us. The people we worship with each Sunday aren’t all musicians. Some are unable to hold pitch while others struggle to clap on 2 and 4. However, they are the people we are called to lead into praise and worship of our awesome God. If we can help them do that by being a little more intentional when introducing new music then I say we should do so joyfully.
How do we do this?
Sometimes it really is all about choosing the correct music for your congregation. A current example of this comes from Hillsong United’s new album, Empires. One of the songs on the album, “Even When it Hurts”, has a line that says … “Even when it hurts like hell, I’ll praise You.” I love the music that Hillsong United puts out, but I also know that the congregation I lead is not ready to shout that out on a Sunday morning. We could have debates and discussions as to why the song is great and truthful and real and relevant and honestly I agree, it is all those things. But, I know the people I lead. Introducing this song from the platform on a Sunday would just not work and the church I serve would not be worshipping through it. We aren’t called to lead our favorite songs (look for this great article coming from Ryan Loche on TCC soon).
When choosing new music for your church, keep the church as a whole in mind, not just what you enjoy. Will you be going through a series on Kingdom Building? Does the church really need to address forgiveness? What is going on with the people you worship with and where is their comfort level? Getting a good feel for the worship culture of your people will be invaluable in this process.
How many new songs will you introduce in a year? I won’t give you a magic number to answer this question because all of our situations are so drastically different. I’ve heard of churches that only introduce 3-4 new songs a year and I’ve heard of churches that teach a new song every month. The main idea is to have a plan. Be intentional about new music. You are more likely to follow through on something that you write down, make a plan for, and tell other people about. Include your team on the decision and have them hold you to it. It is common to start the new year off with big ideas but then six months goes by and you realize that you’ve been so busy doing ministry that you haven’t even begun following through on the strategy. Take some time to evaluate what you have been doing so far. Has it been working? Should you change something? Estimate the best number or frequency for your church, make a plan, and stick to it! It may not work out perfectly but at least it’s a start. You can always re-evaluate and try again.
3. Prep Your Team
You’ve found or written some great music. You have a plan as to when you will roll these songs out. Now you need your team to start prepping. While the congregation may never know how much time truly goes into a Sunday worship service, we do, and it’s way more than just one rehearsal. Your team needs a few things to help them latch on to this new music.
a. TIME. If we want them to know it, they need the time. Most of them are working 40+ hours a week, have a family, are going to school, and just need time. If we throw a new song at them 4 days prior to Sunday they will not know it the way you want them to. They just won’t.
b. RESOURCES. Give them what they need to practice effectively. In addition to sheet music, chord charts, mp3s, YouTube videos, and arrangement notes, I absolutely love Rehearsal Mix ( rehearsalmix.com ). Through this vendor you can pull up individual tracks by instrument for the song you are planning to teach the team. For example, your piano player will be able to get a mix that plays the whole song quietly while having just the piano part predominantly displayed. The resources are out there we just need to use them to our advantage. What resources are you using?
c. COMMUNICATION. Tell everyone prior to rehearsal exactly what you want. Who is singing on this song? Are the drums doing the 45 second intro exactly as it sounds on the recording? Are we changing the arrangement? The more you communicate with your team, the more prepared they will be on Sunday.
4. Prep Your Congregation
Before you officially introduce new music to your church there are ways to subtly have them become familiar with the songs you intend to teach. Do you have music playing between services or in the auditorium before service on Sundays? Add the new music to that playlist. Hearing the songs in the background over the course of a few weeks will enable the congregation to grab on to it quicker than if they have never heard it. What about social media? Can you include the song on your church’s Spotify playlist? Why not post a video of it with text from a lyric on Facebook? Can you Periscope a rehearsal? Get creative with this step and see how your church responds.
5. Teach & Repeat
Ok it’s Sunday. Will you just start playing the song? Will you teach the chorus first? Most worship songs are repetitive and easy to follow, creating no need to teach the whole song from beginning to end. However, some instruction always seems to be beneficial. Which part of the song really stands out to you? The chorus? The bridge? Teach them those words. Perhaps you can share your heart behind the decision to add this song to your Worship service.
After you introduce the song and teach it, repeat it! Meaning, include that song in your set lists for the next few weeks. Give the church some time to become so comfortable with this new music that they could sing it without you leading them. Over the course of a few weeks the majority of your church will hear the song, sing the song, and know the song. Remember, even though we are playing and singing that same song around 20+ times over the course of 3 weeks, they are singing it once each Sunday.
We would love to hear how you use some of these steps to increase your worship catalogue! Have you been able to stretch your church out of its comfort zone? What resources are you using to prepare your team? Have you used creative methods to introduce new music?