In the church that I'm part of well over 90% of the members have English as their first language. Therefore we worship using english. It occurs to me that many of you reading this will be serving in worship in churches with folks from many people groups and with many first languages. How do you deal with this? Is this a problem or actually a blessing? This isn't an issue for me at the moment but, of course, it may become so as our church grows.
In our church we try to create space for each other without necessarily separating the different 'groups'. We teach and encourage awareness and tolerance of each others differences from the pulpit and in the ministry teams. In leading worship i'll sometimes encourage the younger folk to look at the richness of the words in the hymn that we're singing or i'd encourage the older folk to think of God's greatness and goodness as we sing a lively up-tempo youthy-song :) I find that speaking about it helps...not just imposing it on people and then leaving them to cope with it. In terms of music (and everybody's VAST difference in taste and preference!!) i try to choose generation-appropriate styles (like not doing "Be thou my vision" with heavy distorting guitars in the first morning service for example!) but to make it as accessible to as many people as possible. The truth is you'll never satisfy everybody, but i'm sure if you go with the attitude that you're there to serve and lead them in a way that they will connect with God the easiest, they'll make the space for you too.
Thanks for your thoughts. I hear where you are coming from! We do have many different ages in our church and helping to make each person feel part of what is happening is something we do try and do. Does your church worship in one language or do you use a number. Do you have folks from many cultural and racial backgrounds active in your church?
I attended a church where they had bilingual worship. What would happen is that they would sing through a song once in english and then they'd do it in chinese. I never thought to ask who did the translating, it was quite well done. You still had the meaning and yet the song was sing-able.
What made it even more impressive was that the worship used to be led by an Indian lady. She specially put in the effort to learn to sing in chinese... :) Never fails to impress me!
I cannot imagine a multilingual service.
Not that people should be isolated.
Not that we shouldnt be tolerant.
But it seems it would be very difficult to worship in a multilingual setting.
I guess it depends on your geographic region and what your exposure is to languages beyond your primary.
We occassionally have a song that is done in engish and the second verse in spanish.
For more praise based songs, this can be okay. But in more intimate worhsip songs, I find it very distracting.
Yes I can imagine the challenge. As someone who always struggled with trying to learn another language when I was at school I think I'd find it difficult.
I've found all the comments made so far really helpful so thankyou.
I think that in the body of Christ we should be able to deal with these issues. To balance that; dealing with distractions seems to me to be one of those worship challenges that we face week in and week out.
To function as a church and to model being one in christ with folks from many backgrounds, people groups, ages and ethnicities must be a good thing. I guess as in many areas of our walk with God the keys are loving each other, prefering one another, serving each other and growing up so that we exhibit the fruit of the spirit more and more.
One helpful idea is this: forget about getting the song and the musical aspects right (as in totally aesthetic). It is extremely difficult to make multi-lingual worship slick, I don't think we should waste our effort and attention on this. Let's focus on getting the worship right; giving the people everything they need to release themselves in worship to God. We're not gonna produce from that a best-selling 'worship' album, but as long as it works for the people we serve, who cares? :)
That seems good to me. Jesus said when two ro three are gatherdd in my name, not when two or three are gathered in one language!. For me this question is a hypothetical one. It's not really an issue in my church at the moment. But, it does seem worth giving the issue consideration as our society changes. There are large numbers of people in my town for whom English is not their first language. It seems to me that we should be seeking to draw those folks to Christ every bit as much as we do the folks who are currenlty part of our church.