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5 Steps to Teaching Your Congregation a New Song
God is worthy of us endlessly writing new songs to praise him for his love, mercy, and power. As worship leaders, we should be regularly introducing new songs for our congregations to sing. Here are some practical tips teaching your church to sing along to a new song.
I remember one Saturday night leading the worship music with just an acoustic guitar at an early Core Group gathering for Mars Hill Orange County (now Mars Hill Huntington Beach). I started out the set with a great Mars Hill worship song, “Oh! Great is Our God!” by The Sing Team.
I was sure that everyone would join right in, but I pretty much sang that thing by myself. Looking back, I can see a bunch of things that I could have done differently to help the congregation engage in worship by singing a new song.
The Bible on multiple occasions exhorts the people of God to sing a new song. For example, Psalm 98:1 says:
The reason is laid out here: “For he has done marvelous things!” God is worthy of us endlessly writing new songs to praise him for his endless love, mercy, and power. The other implication is that we should not only be writing new songs, but introducing new songs for our congregations to sing.
1. Find the right slot
At Mars Hill we always have at least as many songs after the sermon as before. This is because we feel that our worship should be understood as a response to God’s goodness. In this case, we want to make sure that we have time to respond in worship by singing after God’s greatness and glory have been presented in the preaching of the Word.
The Bible on multiple occasions exhorts the people of God to sing a new song.
Currently our service order has three songs up front and three on the back. Opening with a new song is not a good idea to start, and leading into the sermon isn’t great either. Lastly, we want the back half to be as easily participatory as possible to not get in the way of people responding to God’s work in the sermon. That leaves the second slot on the front as the sweet spot for introducing a new song.
2. Play it twice?
Sometimes there is a song that would fit perfectly after the sermon, but it’s brand new. If you run into this, one option is that you could play it on the front and then again on the back. Talk through this with your pastoral team to make sure everyone is on board. I have yet to do this myself, but it has worked well at multiple Mars Hill locations recently.
It can feel to us like overkill, especially if you have four services and you play it eight times that day, but you need to remember that when you are getting super sick of a song, the congregation is just beginning to really catch on to it.
Our worship should be understood as a response to God’s goodness.
3. Get the whole band singing
As much as possible, it’s generally great to have the whole band singing, on or off the mic. But it’s especially important with a new song, since they might be the only people besides you who know it. A couple voices joining in goes a long way.
4. Get stoked
If you don’t seem excited to sing it, no one else will be either.
5. Actually teach the song
Before I did this, it felt to me like a really weird and awkward thing to do. The truth is it’s only awkward for the person leading it, but is totally a very practical way to love the congregation and help them worship through song on the first time through.
As much as possible, it’s generally great to have the whole band singing, on or off the mic.
Usually I will just teach the chorus, but you’ll have to feel it out for each song. Here are some practical steps to go about teaching the song to your congregation:
- Explain that you are going to sing a new song, and maybe give a little bit of background on it or share why you are going to learn this specific song.
- Then explain that you’ll sing it once (whatever part you think will be most helpful) so they can hear the melody.
- Sing through the melody once through, then invite the congregation to sing that part through with you, and then sing it again.
- I’ve done this with just the guitar and me singing, but recently I’ve found that just having the band play quietly under you teaching can be more helpful. It establishes a strong rhythm for people to follow and helps them not feel as exposed singing it for the first time.