New Does Not Mean Effective in Worship

New songs.  Everyone likes new songs.  Worship planners and congregations are exposed to new Christian songs week by week, whether they are introduced during a worship service, by listening to the radio, or somehow engaging online with their favorite band or artist.  New is cool!  New is exciting!  New means we won’t be left behind.

Or does it?

There are so many issues with introducing new music in worship that it’s difficult to know where to begin.  That’s not to say that we should NOT introduce new music to our congregation.  I have written in the past that it’s important to “stretch” our congregation in this way, while it is balanced with familiar songs that people already know.  So, it’s not that new music is done, but rather how it is chosen and how it is taught

Let’s focus on just a few specific areas that lead to frustration on many levels when introducing new music to a congregation, especially when it is intended to be sung by the congregation.  Frustrations may occur on several levels, whether that be the Worship leader, the musicians, the Pastor or the members of the congregation.

First, song choice is critical.  The absolute golden rule is that a song must be accessible for a large group of people.  In other words, they have to be able to sing it!  This means that the range of the song is important.  It cannot be too high, nor too low, which discourages participation.  The song must have a reasonable overall range.  Octave jumps, or repeated choruses an octave higher (like the album) does not lend to a positive experience for the congregation.  Complicated rhythms also pose a problem which many congregations never overcome.  Often those melodies must be simplified in order to be usable.

Second, song style is important.  Although a Worship planner finds a song that carries a lot of emotional impact, or is a perfect fit for the theme of the day, the very style of the song may be difficult (or impossible) to pull off with musicians of varying ability.  Although there are many quality musicians even in the smallest churches, it’s rare to find an entire group of musicians at the same level in the same church.  Some will be better than others.  The worship industry produces a lot of music which may be fun, upbeat, cool or moving – but just not fitting for a church that has a guitarist, vocalist and keyboard player of differing ability.  To put it another way:  Rock-n-roll is just hard to do without drums and electric guitar.  Poor song choice can lead to a bad experience for the volunteer musician.

Third, the fact that the Worship leader or Pastor likes a song does not make it a good song for congregational singing.  Over and over again I sit through worship services in which someone’s favorite song is planned – and executed poorly.  Singing along in the car is different than singing with 100 or 1000 people.  Trying to duplicate the recording is a recipe for disappointment, except in churches with deep pockets and professional musicians.  Not only does the congregation get frustrated, but the musicians are disappointed with their inability to make is sound “cool,” and the one who “loves that song” wonders what happened to ruin it!

Generally, a good rule of thumb is that we remember that corporate worship is, well, corporate.  We must keep in mind the whole congregation and seek to make the worship experience something that can be entered into by everyone who is there.  Song choice is something that can discourage and distract from that unity, so we must be careful in our planning and introduction of new songs.

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Posted on November 10, 2015, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology, Worship Leader and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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