27 February 2012
How is the congregational singing in your church? Many methods have been used in our churches to get folks to sing. God desires His people to sing corporately as He desires our praise and it is good for the brethren.
Churches have used various means to accomplish their singing. Most recently churches have used praise teams. Used correctly, the praise team can be successful in assisting the church body in projecting their voice to sing out. They can also be an asset in teaching new songs to the assembly. Incorrectly used, a praise team can be a temptation for the body to sit and watch the entertainers sing for them.
I guess I am old-fashioned enough to still prefer the songleader. All of the churches in our fellowship use a songleader in at least some portion of their service. Personally, I feel nothing is better than a strong songleader who is knowledgeable of music, musical styles and the congregation. One does not have to be a professional musician to be a good songleader. In fact, most of the quality songleaders I have seen are not musicians. But these songleaders use creative ways to get churches to sing their praise to the Lord in a meaningful way.
Allow me to recommend a booklet to you. I believe every church should have a copy of this book in their library. I also feel that this book should be required reading for every songleader. The name of that book is simply called The Songleader by Mark Jackson (Regular Baptist Press, 1991). This booklet is a simple read (59 pages) and full of great advice.
Let's focus on making the most of our music during the congregational song time. Here are some creative ways that will stimulate your thinking to give the most praise to Him through our song.
GENDER ONLY: Have either the men or the women sing a verse of a song. This is used fairly frequently in our churches. I find great joy in listening to all ladies singing together in song. And the power of many men singing together can be quite moving!
AGE DISCRIMINATION: While this may not be ideal for seniors, or adults, it can be ideal to have teens or younger children sing a stanza.
SING WITH UNDERSTANDING: This not only fulfills 1 Corinthans 14:15, but it also gives an opportunity to teach spiritual truths. For example, do you know what the following phrase means from a well-known hymn?
"Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’m come." (Come, Thou Fount)
Through the years attempts have been made to change the lyrics so that people will be able to sing with understanding. While that can be a viable option, many churches still have these lyrics in the songbook and we just sing right over them. How much better it would be if the songleader takes 20 seconds to explain the meaning. (Of course, that means the songleader needs to be diligent in understanding the text of music himself!)
AYE-YIE SKIPPER! There is nothing spiritual about singing every verse or “anti-spiritual” about skipping a selected verse. Remember, our songbook is not inspired like the Word of God is. Sometimes we can draw attention to the words by mixing it up a bit. For example, skip a chorus once in a while. Just because a song has five verses doesn't mean that you have to sing the chorus after every stanza.
HAVE YOU CHECKED THE METER? A hymn (or song) is composed as lyrics are put to music. The music is written in a musical pattern that is referred to as meter. What is thrilling to me is that many hymns have the same meter. This means that you can use a melody from one song and sing the lyrics from another song. This will often allow you to focus on the meaning of the lyrics without getting cerebrally lost singing the same old tune.
For example, a song in Common Meter (86.86) is Amazing Grace. Many other songs are in that meter as well. Songs such as “O For a Thousand Tongues”, “Joy to the World!”, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” could be sung to the tune of Amazing Grace (or vice versa).
Most hymnals have a metrical index in the back of the songbook. Check out that index periodically to explore creative ways to sing the old hymns.
LET'S READ TOGETHER: Why not read the lyrics instead of singing them? This works especially well as a variation to one verse of a song.
My purpose in this article is not to be critical of music in our churches. Indeed, most churches are doing very well with the personnel they have. I trust this article will encourage our churches to add just a bit more to the congregational singing so that all will find the time an enjoyable and edifying experience a we worship together.