QUESTION: We have a somewhat diverse congregation and live in an economically diverse community. Even though we are a contemporary young church with lots of millennials, our long-time members have a hard time singing when we incorporate other genres. Any advice on how to add more musical diversity to our worship services?
REGI: Great question! There are several steps that I’ve found helpful in worship service planning when introducing new music or incorporating a new style of music into a service:
1. Use a hymn that’s been modified with a new chorus.
For instance, consider the version of “It Is Well With My Soul” with the added chorus by Todd Fields. The hymn would be a hit with your long-time members and the new chorus could easily connect with everyone in the church.
2. Sing it again, and spice it up!
Once you’ve tried a hymn with a modified or new chorus in your worship rotation, the second time you sing it, use more instrumentation and spice it up a bit. Same lyric. Same melody. Different style. There's something about the fact that you've included a favorite hymn or worship song that makes those 'new' moments a bit easier on everyone, allowing you to gradually add musical diversity into your service.
3. Try a new style during offering or special music time.
As far as adding gospel flair, I've found that the offering is usually a great spot for something that might be an unfamiliar style for your service, unless it's a gospel tune that would work well in congregational worship. If it’s well received as an offertory, then I’d take advantage of that momentum and use it in a congregational setting in the next week or so.
4. Get the teens on board
Depending on your church, you may be able to ask a youth to come up and introduce a 'new' worship song or a song of a new style. Sometimes, older people are more accepting if they see the benefit to their own kids.
5. Be strategic and sensitive
It’s been humorously said that “blended worship”—in the original Greek—means, “nobody’s happy.” I disagree. Being sensitive and deferential to the preferences of others is Spirit-led. There is nothing inherently wrong with systematically introducing meaningful new songs while mindfully celebrating the worship heritage of older songs. But there’s often a spirit of arrogance and division when we’re more interested in what we prefer rather than what will serve the current—and coming—congregation.
6. Be prayerful and humble!
We must never forget that we’re serving the Bride of Christ as we worship the Person of Christ. As such, worship leadership requires ardent prayer, Scripture study and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It’s not about us. Unless and until we submit ourselves to the Lord and to one another, our worship—and worship leading—will be in vain.
Hope that helps! Let me know your thoughts!
--For more helpful articles about blended worship services and the issue of musical style, check out www.discoverworship.com and these articles:
- Arguing the Merits of a Blended Worship Service
- How Can We Add Musical Diversity to our Services?
- The Non-Issue of Style: It's Just Worth It
- Can Too Much New Get Old?
- Variety for Variety's Sake?
- 5 Compelling Reasons to Do More A Cappella Singing
- Worship on the Radio
- Expanding Our Worship Playlist
- The Age of the Top 25 CCLI Worship Songs
- The Both/And of Worship