Last week, I continued my series on things we do to create spectators in our church rather than active, participative worshippers. I began my discussion of how new songs can be a worship enhancer or a worship killer. Be sure to take a look at that post if you have not yet done so.When new songs are first introduced, the people have to take their eyes off the Lord and concentrate on the task of learning the new tune. There are ways we can introduce new songs that reduce the negative impact and promote the tremendous positives.
If the song is intimate in style, simply introduce it at the beginning of worship. Tell the congregation that this is a new song, that you’ll be playing it again later in the service and that you want everyone to get familiar with it before the worship time begins. Then play through a verse and a chorus (you can do this with just the acoustic guitar or keyboard). In a sense, you open worship with a teaching time, introducing a new song that can then be used later in worship.
If the song is upbeat and more geared toward praise, then consider beginning your set with it. It is also good to keep in mind that it is best to repeat the verse and/or chorus several times. This way the melody and lyrics have a better opportunity to imprint themselves on the congregation’s hearts and minds.
The new song needs to be played several weeks in a row. This will help the congregation learn the song more quickly, but it is also for a very practical reason. Statistically, one-third of your church is absent on a given Sunday. There are vacations, illness, relatives visiting, etc. all at work to pull at the overall attendance numbers on any given Sunday. I use the Rule of 2-1-1 or 3-1-1. This means that I repeat a new song for two or three consecutive Sundays and then give it one Sunday of rest. On the next Sunday I add it back to worship and see how well the congregation has taken to it. With this kind of repetition, you are helping the congregation take on the song as part of their worship vocabulary. If you do the song one week and then not again for a month or longer, the song may seem new all over again.
Introduce new songs in small group settings before you use them with your congregation. When more people are familiar with the song, the congregation grasps the new song much quicker. Teach the song in youth worship venues, small group Bible studies, choirs, men’s groups, or any other smaller setting that occurs in your church’s life. The more people that know the song before you introduce it in worship, the better the experience will be.
Introduce the new song as “special music.” A soloist or ensemble could sing the song the Sunday before using it with the congregation. A nice instrumental arrangement can help people learn the tune.
Play a recording of the new song as people are gathering for worship. If I had selected ten new songs to introduce in the coming months, I would burn a CD of all of those songs and have them played as people gathered for worship. Little by little, the people became familiar with the songs before we formally introduced them in worship.
I have to say this one more time: remember from last week’s post, never introduce more than one song per week in worship.
Share with us more ideas of ways that you have successfully introduced new songs in worship. I look forward to reading your comments.