Here is a “holy cow” I just cannot keep away from… How do you introduce new worship songs successfully, for both you and your congregation? Most worship leaders have an insatiable, obsessive, almost crazy lust for new worship songs, and I am telling you now, the congregation HATES IT!!!!
The question arises, what is a new song? You see, from the congregation’s point of view, a new song is any song introduced in the last 3-4 months. The band thinks a new song is one played for the first time, so the second time you do it, the band doesn’t think it is new any more, mainly because they have playing it a hundred times at practice during the week. Here is a basic conflict of interest.
For any service, I believe 80%+ of your songs must be well known to the people. Add too many new songs, and they will not relax and enjoy worship, and your job description is not to teach people new songs, but to lead them into meaningful worship. Given the choice, most people in the congregation would prefer to just sing the old songs they are familiar with, so you must win their trust by carefully and lovingly introducing new songs.
Now, I know you want to be cutting edge and do the latest material! We need to be introducing new songs, lest we be left behind forever (not a bad thing some would say). However, this does not mean you are under compulsion to do every song on the latest Worship album! Be thoughtful, be prayerful and be smart! Here are a few thoughts on new songs, and their introduction to your repertoire.
- Pick the best: You don’t have to do every song on a new release album! Some you mightn’t like, some are not where your people are at. Some might be too hard, complex, difficult to sing or theologically suspect. Choose wisely, carefully and prayerfully, introducing new songs to church sparingly.
- Don’t introduce too many, too quickly: I usually only ever introduce one song in a service. Any more than that means people are not worshiping, they are trying to learn. I might introduce 2 songs across a couple of services. Take it slow and steady, and remember, when you hate the song and are sick of it, the congregation has just about learned it and it is no longer a new song to them.
- Do it every other week for 6 weeks: Do it each week, or 2 weeks and the people will begin to be familiar with the song. A classic mistake for worship leaders is to introduce a song, consider that people now know it, and move on to introduce another new song a week later. The audience hates it, and feels pressured by such actions. Take your time! That’s why you should only introduce the very best ones!
- Have a coordinated approach: The Music director must control the introduction of all new songs. Otherwise, every worship leader you have in the church introduces new songs, and the people are inundated to the point of overload by new songs. Get all of worship leaders to introduce the same songs, and take it slow. If you have 4 worship leaders in a month, and each introduces a new song (their own choice), then the people don’t hear it again for another 4 weeks. So, their learning is never reinforced, and every song sounds new each time they hear it. Don’t laugh, I have lived through this very scenario, and the congregation hates it!
- One or two at a time: Worship is not supposed to be a memory test. The more new songs you introduce, the more people will be READING off the overhead instead of WORSHIPING. So, keep them worshiping by limiting the number of new songs being introduced.
- Try introducing new songs initially as an item: A really pleasant way to introduce new material is as a feature item, sung by one or two of the worship team. This decreases the pressure people feel that they have to learn the song, and allows them to relax, absorb the words and what the song is saying, and fall in love with the song, just as you probably have. They will always find it easier to learn a song they love already!
- Your Own Songs: I believe every fellowship should be using some songs written by local church members. Now they should not use only these, because then the people miss out on the best that is on offer across the world, and when churches get together for combined meetings they don’t know any of the songs! But your people and perhaps you yourself may have a song that is from the Lord, fresh for your congregation! Ask Him and see!
Follow this through with me. Consider this wise advice…
- For the congregation to really accept a new song, they should sing it at least 2 weeks in a row, miss the third week, and sing it again in the fourth.
- You should not try to teach more than one song at one time.
Therefore: According to the parameters listed above, if you can only introduce one song a month that the congregation will effectively learn (and that is pretty much the way it is), guess how many new songs you can introduce in a year??
12… maybe 14 or 15 if you are lucky!
I recognize that most worship leaders are introducing new songs by the truck load, and the really crazy thing is that they throw most of them out after a few weeks, never to be heard again!
Now, come on worship leaders, who is guilty on this count? I have to confess, I was doing this (like most other worship leaders I know) for many years, until the futility and, indeed, utter stupidity of the situation struck me. I was hammering my people with new song after new song, many of which were tossed aside a month or two down the track.
So, according to what we have seen, we can only effectively introduce around one new song a month, so that the people learn it and are comfortable with it.
Therefore, when our team looks at new songs, we ask each other, “Is this song worthy of being one of the chosen 12?” Think of it this way: when you know you can only get to introduce 12 new songs a year, you find that you are very, very particular about the new ones that get through. You watch the words, and the tunes, and the feels, and narrow the field so that you get something your church is really up for.
After all, this whole process is NOT about you, it is about your Pastor and your people, and the level that they can cope with.
So, introduce new worship songs wisely, carefully and sensitively, and at a pace that your church can happily cope with.