The New Songs We Sing
I’ve always found statistics to be a fascinating part of life.
- There are 360,000 babies born each day.
- There are over 60,000,000 passenger cars produced each year.
- Americans spend an average 43.5 hours on their phones every month.
- There is a new worship record released every hour.
Ok, ok, that last one was a joke. But it certainly feels that way, doesn’t it? As a songwriter and Worship Leader, I am absolutely in love with the generation that I was born into. A generation that has found itself squarely in the center of one of the most exciting eras in the history of the church regarding creation, production, and distribution of new music. These really are unprecedented times for the Worship Leader/Songwriter/Artist.
As Worship Leaders, an increasingly important part of our job is to navigate the fairly unstable and overwhelming waters of “new worship music” and somehow return to shore with something to give our congregations, something to edify our gatherings, something that expresses our worship to our magnificent Lord in a “new way” (Psalm 96:1).
So how do we do this? How do we fight the battle of successfully finding, selecting, and introducing new songs to our congregations?
In a word: carefully. In my experience, nothing will frustrate a congregation quicker than introducing new songs too often, introducing them incorrectly, or simply selecting the wrong kind of new songs.
So here are some helpful tips, from one Worship Leader to another(s), that I have gleaned over the years (some rather painfully) on how to find, select, and introduce new songs.
FINDING NEW SONGS:
- Other Worship Leaders- Make friends with WL’s in your area, or online. This is such an easy way to find and share new music. Plus, they usually have charts, arrangements, etc. to go along with any song recommendations.
- Social Media- Worship Leaders love to share about artists they love, new albums they’re listening to and new songs that they’re singing in their churches. I follow dozens of WL’s on Twitter who are constantly introducing me to fresh music that I would have never found on my own.
- Concerts, Worship Events, Conferences- Always a fantastic way to find new music.
SELECTING NEW SONGS:
Whenever I select a new song to introduce to our church, I always put it through a heavy vetting process by asking several questions of the song.
- Is the song sing-able?
- Are the lyrics biblical?
- Is the song more suited for personal worship time?
- Is the song too similar to another song we are currently singing?
- Will my team be able to pull it off?
- Will it work in my congregational setting?
INTRODUCING NEW SONGS:
I have found that this can be the trickiest part of this entire process. If you introduce too many, you might overwhelm your congregation resulting in them not singing because they don’t know any of the songs. This can also be very frustrating both to the WL and the congregation. On the other hand if you introduce too few, this could lead to complacency or even unengaged, uninterested, or passionless singing due to familiarity or overexposure. Whenever I introduce a song I usually follow these guidelines:
- Pray that God would use the song to lead His people in worship
- Share an anecdote about the story behind the writing of the song or share the passage of scripture that the song was inspired by or pulled from.
- If there is a Biblical word that is potentially unfamiliar or obscure (i.e. sanctify, consecrate, Yahweh), take time beforehand to explain what that means maybe even giving personal application for the congregant.
- Place the song in a part of the set that is typically less participatory for the first couple of times you sing it. I do this so the unfamiliarity isn’t distracting or offsetting but they can hear it and start learning it. (i.e. First song, Offertory song)
- I always follow a 2-1-1 template: Sing the song for two consecutive weeks, take a break for one week, and bring it back the week after that. I will always observe congregation participation and ask for feedback from key members, pastoral staff, and elders during this time. If it is positive the song will be put into our rotation. If negative, the song will be put back on the shelf.
- I never introduce more than 1 new song a month… and honestly that is pushing it for our congregation. I have found that right around the time I am absolutely sick of a song, our congregation is finally feeling comfortable with it.
I truly believe that all of these tips listed above are driven by a heart desire to deeply know the people that make up my congregation, to know what stirs them up to worship the Lord, and to serve them in picking songs that lead them to the sing to the Lord with hearts full of adoration. They are in no way etched in stone tablets, but I certainly pray that they help you as you search, select, and introduce new songs to your churches.
What tips do you have for finding, selecting, and introducing new songs?
Jason Dunton serves as the Worship Pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Houston, TX. He holds a Master of Arts in Worship Leadership degree from Dallas Baptist University and is also a songwriter, producer and Nutella addict. He lives and loves with his wife Joanna, daughter Penelope, and English Bulldog Grubby.
Twitter and Instagram: @jasedunton