Introducing a New Song: Leading Worship, 010

Hello from Seattle!  Can I hear it for the Seahawks’ victory at the Superbowl?  The entire city of Seattle has been going absolutely crazy for days now…  I love it!!

Recently I blogged about why we ought to introduce new songs to our churches, and today I want to build on that, specifically how to introduce a new song.  I admit that there are stronger worship leaders and better worship pastors out there who have been serving faithfully for a lot longer than me, so I offer this post humbly.  The following are some of what has worked in my context in the years that I have been worship pastor at Transit Assembly.

So how do we introduce a new song in our churches?

  • I think firstly, and perhaps to the surprise of some, we must create a culture where a new song will be accepted.  Our churches must embrace change.  All living things grow, and the very moment growth ends, death begins.  This culture that embraces “new” is both a top-down movement (the example of leadership) and a grassroots movement (happening individually and relationally).  Shepherd the people you have influence over to embrace the new, whether it is your band, creative team, choir, small group, and so on.  To give a new song a healthy chance to thrive, we must plant it in a culture that will nurture it.
  • Get creative in working a song into the hearts of people.  We have a 10-minute countdown that plays on our screen while people are filtering in and noshing on food, and I carefully choose the songs that play during this time.  Often I will include a song that we will be learning in a few weeks, and by the time we actually do the song for worship, people are already familiar with it.

Perhaps your church does a special number during the offering or at the very end of the service.  Explore utilizing these times to do a new worship song before you include it in your actual worship set.

  • Be a good teacher!  A not-so-good teacher throws new material at students with little or no explanation or appropriate set-up, frustrating the students who want to learn and solidifying the apathy in the students who don’t care to learn.  A good teacher is well-prepared, explains clearly, and encourages.  So it is with worship leaders who are teaching a new song.  I think it is a rookie worship leader (or maybe one with a rock-star mentality, ackk!) who dives into a new song without set-up and consideration, but a pastoral worship leader will set up the new song well and encourage the flock.

For example, if I were to introduce the song “Not For a Moment,” I’d probably say something like, “Today we want to teach a new song called ‘Not For a Moment.’  It talks about how near God is to each of us, and that He will never leave us or forsake us, even for a moment.  Really reflect on the words of this song – they’re so powerful and true.  We’ll sing through it a couple times, and then we want you to jump in and join us.”  Takes less than a minute and makes an important difference.

  • I usually try to sandwich the new song between “home-run” songs.  With few exceptions, I don’t recommend starting off your set with a brand new song.  The first song is critical – it sets the tone for the rest of the service, and if your church feels lost during this first song.. well, that’s not a good way to start!  If it’s a new upbeat song, try it as the second or third song on your list.  If it’s a new slower song, try not to end with it.  Reassure your church by ending the worship set with a song they know they can sing along with.
  • 3 on, 1 off, 1 on.  This is a general rule of thumb that I picked up from worship pastor Thomas Miller of Gateway Church (Revelation Song, O the Blood) in some of his writings.   When scheduling a worship set, he suggests planning to do your new song three consecutive weeks.  This gives your church ample time to learn the song.  Then don’t include it in the fourth week; give the song a break.  On the fifth week, do it again.  (3 on, 1 off, 1 on.)  Gauge how your church responds.  Usually by this time, you’ll be able to decide if the song should live on in your worship repertoire, or if it should retire.

The above is not a hard and fast rule, of course.. more of a guideline, but I would definitely recommend doing a new song at least two consecutive weeks always; otherwise your church has no opportunity to latch on.  Also, it is important to note that it has sometimes taken Transit upwards of 5 or 6 weeks for a song to finally “click.”  Don’t throw out a new song too soon!

  • Prepare the guy or gal who will throw the lyrics on the screen, if you use a screen in your church.  This individual is as much a part of the worship team as anyone!  Have them be present during rehearsal, or at least send them the audio to the new song so they can really familiarize themselves with it.  If they’re behind on the lyrics or confused about when you’re going to the bridge, it will slow down how quickly your church picks up the song.  Don’t underestimate how crucial this role is!  :)
*Be sure to not introduce new songs in too close of succession, or you risk frustrating those in your church who may be slow learners but still genuinely excited to learn.  If you follow the 3 on, 1 off, 1 on guideline, the earliest I may introduce another new song, with a few exceptions, is the week of the last “1 on.”  I know worship leaders who would suggest doing a new song roughly every month.  Others would suggest one every three or four months – or more.  The pace at which you decide to introduce new songs will depend on the people of your church, and of course the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  Serve your church well by introducing songs timely.

And those, my friends, are a few thoughts on how to introduce a new worship song.  Please do share below some of your own thoughts – what works well in your church?  How do you go about introducing a new worship song?

For Jesus,
Josh

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