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Posted on Feb 3, 2014 in Featured Slider, Resources, Worship Ministry | 6 comments

The Truth about Teaching Your Church New Worship Songs

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You’ve probably read a lot of advice about taking your time with teaching a new song. There’s a lot already out there.  So why bother adding my voice to the mix? Partly because I don’t think we take the advice seriously enough. But also because I try to tailor this blog’s focus to a specific group of worship leaders–blue collar worship leaders–and our ministry context is a little different than the context of the average worship advice-giver. For starters, we generally lead worship in churches of 500-ish or less people and those folks often have a higher median age.

Reality Checks about Our Churches:

  • They aren’t Tomlin concert attenders.
  • They aren’t listening to the latest worship music in their car every week.
  • They don’t learn these new-fangled melodies and rhythms very fast (or sometimes at all).
  • Their attendance is very hit or miss from week-to-week.

So to assume they’ll pick up a new song in a week, two weeks, or even three weeks is a rather large leap of ill-founded faith on our part! I mean, it’s going to take 2 or 3 weeks just for most of your church to have heard the song once.  If you don’t believe me, it’s time to pay attention to modern church attendance trends. I’ve even heard of pastors who preach virtually the same sermon for more than one week in a row so that most of the church actually catches it.  You might believe this to be a big-church problem or an urban problem but I don’t think so. I’ve seen this sporadic attendance phenomenon in my blue collar, bible belt church in the decent sized town of Springfield, MO. And friends of mine in small, rural churches report the same findings.

I’m not complaining about it and I don’t think you should either. The church has spent too many decades complaining about trends we don’t like rather than working out how to best minister to people as these trends unfold. So, instead of shaking our fingers at folks who don’t go to church as often as we’d like, don’t listen to as much Christian Contemporary Radio as they should, or don’t have the musical savvy we wish they did…let’s talk a moment about how to responsibly teach them a new song.

We’ll do it with the metaphor of a seed:

plant seed 2

Planting the seed. Figure out a way to let people hear the song before we ask them to sing it. Maybe you do some sort of pre-service music or something.  Maybe you can post a YouTube video to your church Facebook page or send a link out in an email (I know that won’t reach everyone but some people is better than none). Our church does a pre-service countdown each week and I’ve been trying to plug upcoming songs into those so people at least hear it playing in the background as they’re finding their seat and talking their heads off.

Watering the seed. Start teaching them the song without placing too much pressure on them to be singing it. That’s going to mean communicating clearly that “this is a new song we’ll be teaching over the next few weeks and we’d love to have you sing along with us as you catch on.” Placement also helps. I’ve found the “Offering” to be an ideal time. Folks have something else to do during that time which takes some of the pressure/expectation off. So, no more “offertories” for us!

Watching it grow. Once you feel they’re familiar with it, move it to a more prominent place in the order where you can expect them to sing along. But don’t abandon it right after it has sprouted. Bring it back soon to help solidify it in their minds.

What works for teaching new worship songs in your context?

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  1. Awesome post Neil, I like the metaphor and the idea of playing the song as a pre worship so people are familiar with it (whether they realize it or not) ;) You’re so good!

  2. Great advice !

  3. I like that the blade of green grass image that looks like it’s worshiping, or am I being Capt. Obvious, ha! Great points on introducing new music. I am definitely guilty of being overly optimistic that our congregation is going to pickup every new song I add. We have probably 80 songs in our Planning Center song database and many more that I haven’t yet added to Planning Center that we used to do. I guess what I am trying to say is that I have plenty of tried true worship songs to choose from, yet there is that gnawing that you want to add a new song. One thing we started doing recently is playing the songs for the following weeks service during the pre-service, Our sound man also setup a Bridge Church playlist on Spotify that has a large set of songs we do. I like the idea of adding a prospective new song to that pre-service music to familiarize folks with it.

    • That is a good idea and you cracked me up with the worship-grass! HA!

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