A recent post by a respected church leader described several trends in the church that give him hope. One of these was the settling down of the “worship wars”, the clash within churches over worship styles. As he says, “We have wasted far too much time and resources insisting on our preferences rather than engaging in true worship”.
While I hope this is true on a larger scale, I still see many churches in worship lockdown. Either the battle hasn’t been fought yet, or it is just beginning.
One of the biggest issues is knowing what to do when a worship leader teaches a new song to the congregation. When you hear your music or worship leader leader say the words, “We have a new song for you today,” let these Seven Tips help you on the path of discovery.
The role of a worship leader
Before I give those tips to you, let me add a quick side note. A worship leader is someone who does more than pick out songs and have the loudest microphone during singing.
Like any other good leader, the role of a worship leader involves going ahead of the group, and then returning to lead the group into the new and great things the leader explored.
Before they bring a new song to the congregation, worship leaders (hopefully) go through a process of their own. They search for something new, listen to it, learn it, and choose it for a purpose. It is brought forth to encourage and inspire, not to harm or push away.
With these thoughts in mind, here are Seven Tips for When Your Worship Leader Teaches a New Song:
1. Open your music vault
Sometimes we forget how every song we know started as a new song. Our tendency is to latch onto some songs because they entered our lives during a season where we were open to its message.
We need to learn to keep our hearts open to new songs at all times. If we lock up our favorites in a vault, we close ourselves to new possibilities. When we open our vault, and leave it open, we have a better of chance of being touched by something amazing.
2. Take time to learn the song
I hope you get a chance to hear some of the song before you are expected to start singing. If you don’t get the tune right away, wait. Your leader had to learn the song, too. They shouldn’t expect you to start singing on the first note. Don’t feel like you have to.
3. Listen to the words and message
Every song has a message. The worst thing we can do is choose or reject a song without knowing its message. Worship is about confession and proclamation. We confess truths about ourselves and proclaim truths about God. When worship turns into just singing and enjoying music, it ceases to be worship.
4. Don’t let your gut reaction close you off
We have could have looked at this tip earlier, but it may have kept you from getting this far. You will love some songs instantly. Others will take some time to learn and appreciate. Give them that time. As a side note, it is aid that some people were upset by one of the popular tunes associated with Amazing Grace because it was a familiar bar tune.
5. Try the song
Sounds too simple? Hardly. If you haven’t had the “pleasure” of standing on a stage and seeing blank faces during worship, you are blessed. Unfortunately, there are people who prefer to watch and listen instead of join and sing.
Worship was never meant to be a entertainment or a performance. It is personal participation in an individual and corporate experience with the living God. Don’t just sit there. Sing!
6. Invest in a copy of the song
There are a few reasons why owning your own copy of the song can be helpful. Practically, you get a sense of the inspiration your worship leader felt when they chose to learn and consider the song for your congregation. You can also hear the song more often than just at church. Even if your leader uses the song for a few weeks, it won’t be as available to you like owning the song.
Finally, owning worship songs builds your personal worship library. I mentioned earlier that worship is both a corporate and individual experience. When you build a worship library, you give yourself a chance to have the most personal worship experiences as you worship on your own.
(Another tip is to use YouTube. If you have Gmail account, you can save songs and make playlists for future use. You also have access to different versions of the same song, and tutorials for playing them.)
7. After some time, offer some helpful feedback
I added a couple of big qualifiers here. When a worship leader introduces a new song, they are excited about its message and the chance to share a piece of their heart with the congregation. While it is encouraging to hear when a new song has is received well, it’s deflating and discouraging to hear grumpy rants and complaints in the foyer after church.
If you’ve taken the time to truly give the new song a chance, and you still aren’t sure about it or it doesn’t seem like a message that speaks to you, have a positive chat with the worship leader. It’s okay to ask why they chose the song. Find out their heart, and keep yours open.
We are usually open to new songs on the radio, in our movies, and even in the background while we shop. I often catch my wife humming along to something at the mall without having a clue to what the words are. Music is an incredible part of life, and we seem to be open to so many new contributions.
Why are we afraid to embrace something new at church? Our relationship with God is supposed to be growing, deepening, and constantly renewing. Appreciate the work of your worship leader, who goes ahead. Let these tips help you be a better follower and help your heart remain open to the “new” ahead of you.