Transitions III – Start Where the People Are
In the first post on transitioning your church’s worship, I quoted an article by Mark Cole:
Start where the people are. Begin with songs they know and love and worship God with those songs. Gradually introduce new songs that especially lead people to worship. Make sure that you, your musicians, and your sound people are doing a good job musically with the songs.
Today, I want to explore this concept in more detail.
But first–three foundational thoughts, necessary as you embark on this journey:
- Pray. Serious spiritual warfare can result in seeking to make worship all God means it to be. Be prepared. God will provide all you need.
- Educate. Help your people understand the vision of worship transition. Help them to understand what true worship is and what it is not. More on all this in future weeks.
- Have a pastoral heart. Just because you can see the goal, don’t push it on the congregation in a way that will cause conflict. Yes, people will have a level of discomfort–all change can be difficult, but you can walk with the people lovingly through the change as you minister to them.
Here are some practical steps and concepts to consider, many of these reference other articles that will help you in the journey:
- Develop a congregational song list. Last week, I talked about the importance of having a congregational song list and how to put one together. It’s best to have a full understanding of your starting point.
- Identify great new songs that you will be able to include in your church’s worship. Several weeks ago, I devoted an article to finding new songs. Read the article carefully and dive in to that challenging, but enriching, project.
- Use the new songs in worship. Once you identify songs that will work in your context, then you must determine how quickly you can introduce the new songs. At the most, you should never introduce more than one new song per week (here’s why). However, if your church has not sung a new song in 40 years, you probably need to ease in to more contemporary forms of music a bit slower–perhaps one new song every 2-4 weeks. Remember, once you introduce the song, you should sing the song again the next two weeks so that it becomes a part of the church’s worship vocabulary (more on this). Here are some additional articles that will help you in introducing and utilizing new songs in worship. Once the new song is properly introduced, then add it to your song list for future use.
- Consider music written in the last decade. I see so many churches that are seeking to transition by starting with the praise and worship choruses from the 70’s and 80’s and ignore the great, rich songs coming from this decade. To ignore the great music of this decade ignores how God is active in the church TODAY. Also, in general, the music of this decade is much more rich in theology than the 70’s and 80’s. The songs of the earlier period are often the ones that are referred to as “7-11” choruses–songs with 7 words that you sing 11 times. Some of those songs are very useful, and they certainly were pivotal in our worship transitions of the last century, but I urge you to not use that era of songs as your main diet for adding new songs to your corporate worship services. The vast majority of the songs in the top CCLI lists do not come from the earlier era. Also, the songs of the earlier era don’t necessarily speak in styles that are comprehensible by the non-churched community as well as more recent compositions.
- Consider how you accompany the new songs. Many churches try to provide transition to newer forms of worship by putting “old wine in new wineskins,” i.e. they merely replace an old hymn with a new song in the worship order and accompany the new song as they would the old song. Remember in the discussions of worship wars that we need to have a missional mindset in our church’s worship. If we continue to offer only older forms of music and older forms of accompaniment to that music, it may not connect with our community. In adding new music, but still accompanied with older forms of instrumentation, you will defeat much of the benefit of bringing the new music to your church’s worship. Consider ways to contemporize not only the songs, but the accompaniment as well. “Everlasting God” accompanied by pipe organ just won’t cut it. If your church has limited resources to accomplish this. There is great hope. We will be offering conferences on leading worship with limited resources next year. Also, I will be writing about this in upcoming blog posts. Just know there are lots of resources that can help you along this path.
This is probably enough to consider for today. There is so much more to say, and I will continue to discuss transitions in worship next week.