Linked to use of new material, I had a slightly bizarre experience yesterday.

The group of churches we belong to have celebrations where the congre ifgations across the area all get together for a big meeting. This time the worship was lead by a team I didn't know, and of all the songs sung, I had only sung one before. The result was a strong sense of disconnection, of finding it hard to participate or become involved, and it made entering worship in the sense of shutting out distractions very difficult.

I wonder if, when we put song lists together and especially when we introduce new material, we consider the impact on those who don't know the songs terribly well. It was very educational to experience this being pushed outside my comfort zone and to feel a stranger, even in a familiar place. This is NOT saying we should not have new material, but to try to provide a snapshot of what is probably an unusual experience for many of us.

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I can imagine how this must have felt like a bizarre experience for you Toni.  You said it was 'very educational.......' and that's exactly what it was.  I think an awful lot can be learned from this experience and being on the receiving end of the worship and music.  It's a difficult one though trying to keep the balance right between new songs and the congregation we are ministering to, but think it should always come into the equation about how people may feel ie will they feel left out?  Feeling left out is not a pleasant place to be and think that as worship leaders we should perhaps give much more thought into including people more instead of feeling the need to bash out new songs all the time.  When we do introduce new songs we should also maybe think of friendly ways of introducing them and tell the congregation that it is a new song, and invite them to join in.  

Good topic BTW, and am interested to hear the responses of others.

That sounds like first night at a summer conference (although, in the case of that kind of event, you've got a few more days to get familiar with the songs). Does that mean they weren't so cliched that you at least realised you were singing something different ;-)


It is, of course, really hard to know what songs "other congregations" are going to be familiar with - I'm not entirely convinced that a lot of the Methodists in our area listen to "the Christian Radio Station," so if we were in a situation like that, I'm not sure what we'd do... my best guess is that the songs the most people would be familiar with would be the "classic worship" songs of the 80s and 90s, but we don't play a lot of those songs regularly and I don't know that we'd learn a bunch of those old songs just for one event.  I think we'd be more inclined to just show "here's what our band does..." and hope for the best.

Did it seem like the WL was making any effort to connect, in terms of saying stuff like, "this is a song we do at (our church) that we really like" and maybe try to go into "teaching mode" a little more than usual?  From your description, it sounds like they just played that songs.  Our band does a few of my original songs, and I'm not sure I'd mark those "off limits" for an event like this, but hopefully we'd at least say something to introduce the song and maybe even give a sense of "if you'd like to try it in your church, come talk to me afterwards and I'll point you to an .mp3 of the song" or something.  But we don't always think in terms of that sort of thing, especially if the goal is to focus on having big worship rather than on connecting with other churches.

Since this is something that happens regularly among your group of churches, maybe the WLs should be in contact with each other and develop a list of eight or ten songs that all the bands agree they'll learn so that they can have some common ground at these events. 

Our band is currently going through a thing of trying to do a better job of "teaching" new songs to our own congregation, but I know that if a total visitor shows up, they're not going to know the songs.  That's a whole other dimension, especially if one assumes that the "unchurched" are not listening to Christian radio or Christian songs on the internet.  In that case, it might be better to do simple, catchy original songs than to try to do the Worship Top 25 in hopes that visitors will know some of the songs.  This whole thing of visitors to our church is a whole other level that I haven't tried to figure out yet.  [rant on]I do not think that projecting or copying musical notes solves this problem[rant off].  I've thought about putting a MediaShout slide at the start of the music saying, "if you're visiting, you probably won't know many of the songs, and that's okay.  We do the same songs all the time, so keep coming and you'll get to know them..." Maybe this all goes back to the process of picking songs for the band to learn... slow songs with lots of lyrics may help the congregation "enter into worship" more, but may not have much appeal for visitors - for them, catchy songs, simple to pick up, might be a better choice.  I can remember a time or two, being in a worship setting where I felt like the congregation was at a point where they could jump right into the slow, stretched out "worship" songs, but as a visitor, I felt left behind right from the start.

So, I dunno, maybe the approach to "first time visitors" shouldn't be to try to help them learn every song in the service, but should be to just have good enough songs that they end up thinking, "I liked the music, I should go back and try that church again..."

It's great you got to experience what many congregations feel when new songs are thrown at them quite often. I like to introduce new songs by playing them as offerings instrumentally or sing them without the congregation as a special.

Maybe you could suggest to the group of churches that they compile a list of the songs their congregations are comfortable with and whoever is in charge of song selection can do their best to choose from those lists the most common songs.

Sounds like a great community opportunity.

This just seems like poor preparation! Often I end up leading somewhere new and in this situation (and with the situation you describe) I would ask beforehand for a top 10 song usage list (or similar, sometimes they'd just send me their ccli copy report showing the usage figures). From here I would have a good chance of putting together a set that will hopefully allow everyone to engage by limiting the number of new songs (and the new ones would need to be easy to pick up I.e. You can sing along after hearing the chorus only once). Can't say I'm always that great on the prep, but this is what I'd aim for!


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