“Of course he’s doing his songs…” is what some may be suggesting when you use your own songs in church. But more on that in a little bit.
We’ve heard it many times before from Psalm 96: “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth”, which could refer to spontaneous times of worship or, for the purpose of this post, a new song you and your team have planned. For example, you’ve heard the new Passion or Hillsong album and you want to try the title track on a Sunday… what do you do?
When I select songs, I’m very intentional. What I mean by that is I make sure I’m not slapping together any 4 songs together as an “emergency setlist”. In fact, I often prepare setlists weeks in advance. This may come as a surprise to some of you, while for others it may be the norm already. But introducing new songs is the same deal: we don’t want to impulsively throw a new song at our congregation or even our team. It takes planning! In addition to my previous post “What Song Do I Pick“, here are a few thoughts when it comes to new songs:
1. Listen to the song carefully. How easy is it for your average congregation to learn the melody? How many times would you need to “introduce” it before it’s more naturally sung? When we introduce a new song at our church, we use it about 3-4 times within 2 months (which may even involve back-to-back Sundays) before including it in our regular rotation of songs.
2. In a given year, I only allow a handful of new songs. That means I may not even get to the latest single by “So-and-so Worship Artist” because I don’t want to overwhelm the church with too many new songs at once.
3. If you plan on introducing a new song, always take a closer look at the lyrics and even ask your worship pastor (if you have one, or another one of your pastors) if it is scripturally sound.
4. What other songs are you including when you lead this new song? Make sure that you are surrounding it with more recognizable songs to balance the familiarity of songs and flow of worship.
5. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, notify your team in advance! The only thing that makes teaching a new song harder is a band that doesn’t completely know the song either. Imagine if you were out in the pews trying to learn the song but the lead vocalist is unsure of the melody… or the words on the screen don’t match… These factors make your job that much more difficult.
6. Added bonus: if the song in question is played frequently on the radio and your church has some avid Star 99.1 / KLOVE / etc. listeners, then half the battle is won!
Once the new song is in place, feel out how the congregation is responding to this song to determine if it works (or will continue to work) in your church.
Now onto originals…
If you write your own songs, like we do, you may feel led to introduce some of them in church. This is where you really need to get objective and answer the same questions as unbiased as possible! With the songs that you write, do they fit in Sunday worship context? And feel free to check out other factors here.
We want to be careful that we don’t come across as “self-promoting” because that shouldn’t be the reason why we’re writing these worship songs in the first place. We’re not worship leaders to promote ourselves, but to promote Christ. And if we’re called to be worship leaders, we ought to be leading both on and off the stage. If we’re leading both on and off the stage, then your fellow brothers & sisters in Christ will probably be eager to learn something new with you!
For us, we generally use our original songs if: A) it fits a sermon topic or theme for that particular day/event or B) if the song was birthed out of something we experienced together as a church. If you can relate to B, then that’s great! That means it’s not so much “my song” (you, the writer) but “our song” (us, the church)!
It’s easier said than done, for sure. You’ll find that you like these new songs, while your drummer will like those new songs, etc. But it goes back to what I wrote in my previous post: it’s important that as leaders we lead intentionally – this stems from the very beginning when we select the songs to how we decide to actually lead and connect these songs. Let’s be intentional and humble in all these processes. We’re merely the vessel for these songs to be led & sung in worship by the church to our Lord Jesus Christ!