t’s not a rhetorical question. Really, how do you (yes, you) teach your congregation a new song? The way a new song is initially included in worship can have a huge impact on how readily it becomes part of your church’s vocabulary. I can’t prove it, but I have this theory that most congregations can follow just about any style (or learn and absorb just about any new song) if they can follow the concept and the progression of a particular worship setting.
So, really, how do you introduce a new song to your congregation?
- You can build a prelude around it so that the melody becomes familiar – keyboard, keyboard and solo instrument, band, orchestra.
- You can ask a soloist to sing the song as a more “presentational” piece. Depending on the nature of the song, you could also invite the congregation to join in singing say, the chorus, once it’s been sung enough times to be memorable.
- A shorter portion of the new song could be incorporated as a “response” to a prayer time or a scripture reading, sung by a soloist, worship team or the choir. Be sure it connects to prayer, to petition, or to thanksgiving if it’s a prayer response; or to the particular scripture passage if it’s that sort of response.
- A new song presented as a choral anthem or call to worship is effective, especially if it lends itself to congregational participation. Remember, the anthem doesn’t have to specifically say “congregation enters here” for you to involve them. These printed choral arrangements often become the basic arrangement for congregational use later.
- The new song can be incorporated into a congregational worship set and introduced by a soloist, the worship team, or the choir. This has the most impact when the new song is surrounded by familiar material of the same thematic content and direction. (Familiar song / familiar song / new song carefully introduced / familiar song – all with the same thematic thought and a similar tempo or feel)
The idea is to avoid the impression that you’re “teaching” a new song. Let it flow in the order of things in a natural, organic way. By the way, this idea doesn’t apply only to modern worship songs. It’s possible that there are classic, but less familiar, hymns or gospel songs whose rich theology and vivid imagery need to be imbedded in your congregation’s worship life.
Marty Parks is a composer, arranger, orchestrator and producer with over 900 songs and arrangements in print. His work is represented by major choral print publishers around the country. He is a frequent conference leader and workshop speaker whose first devotional book, Quiet Moments for Worship Leaders, came out of his own experience in reflecting on the word of God, and out of his passion to see the same developed in others. His work, as well as current projects, activities and appearances, can be found at martyparks.com. He is a regular contributor to discoverworship.com an online subscription service for choir directors and music ministers.