Four Rules for Teaching New Songs in Corporate Worship

Stephen Miller offers helpful hints to help your congregation sing:

Imagine yourself standing in an ornate church building as beautiful music washes over you from the platform. As gorgeous as the songs are, you notice that no one is singing along. It’s not because the song is too high or the rhythms are too complex.

The people’s hearts are not distracted by the beauty of the architecture, or the lights streaming in through the large gothic windows. No, the reason no one sings is because the worship leader is singing in Latin, and no one knows the songs. Even if they could catch the melody, they would be hard pressed to jump in, sing along, and understand what they were singing.

This is what corporate worship was before the Reformation; a spectator event we participated in vicariously.

Fast forward a few hundred years and much of our ornate architecture has been replaced with graphic arts projected onto a screen, while gothic windows have been swapped out for environmental lighting.

We may not sing in Latin, but we certainly teach a lot of new songs. It seems like every other week a new corporate worship album comes out that has one or two new songs on it that we “need” to do in our services.

While new songs are not a bad thing at all, and are in fact commanded in Scripture, if corporate worship is about corporate engagement, then we need to think through how we teach new songs intentionally in ways that help the family of God come together for the common goal of making much of Jesus, encouraging one another to repent and believe, and shaping our hearts for eternity.

Here are 4 helpful rules for teaching new songs in corporate worship

Be picky about new songs. New songs must be singable and memorable, while remaining clear and truthful. Once you’ve passed a new song through those filters, try and foresee “staying power” for your context. You don’t want to teach a new song that will alienate a ton of people or that everyone will be tired of after a month. You’re not being a jerk by being picky with the new songs you are teaching. You are serving and leading your people well.

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