Song Introduction: 4 Ways To Do It Right

Give Your Congregation a Helping Hand

Learning a new song is like meeting someone for the first time.  Here are some ways to make a solid introduction.

On Tuesday morning a new song comes across the wire and you are inspired.  It’s got everything you look for: solid biblical lyrics, a soaring melody that manages to hang within the congregational range and a killer guitar hook that stays with you for days.  Sunday arrives and you let it rip, but half-way through that epic bridge you scan over the congregation and all that looks back at you is a sea of blank faces.  What went wrong?  

Starting From Scratch

My guess is like me, you've been here before.  I think the issue is that we often forget what it's like to hear a song for the first time.  We've grown to know and love a song before anyone else has even heard it.  Being a good worship leader means being a good teacher and good teachers find ways to present new ideas in ways students can understand.  In this post, we will discuss four effective  methods for doing just that.

Good worship leaders find ways to present new ideas in ways everyone can understand.

Give A Reason

Like you, I put a lot of thought into the songs I choose for Sunday.  Often a simple introduction of why I made the choice is enough to open ears to hear it.  No need to give a 20-minute sermon.  (Seriously, no one wants you to give a 20-minute sermon.)  Something as simple as “Last week we were discussing surrender and this lyric really stuck out to me.  I believe it’s something we need to sing together” is enough to get it done.

Share a Story

We are all human and humans are moved by story.  Songs aren’t written in a vacuum.  A writer is often moved by a life event and in turn, writes a song as  a response. “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” is a beautiful song, but when you learn it was written by Louisa M. R Stead after she and her daughter witnessed her husband drown trying to rescue a young boy, you have a new appreciation for it.  Jeremy Camp’s song “Walk By Faith” is another that stands well on its own, but the story behind it makes it that much more powerful.  Understanding the place a song is written from helps us find a place for it in our own story.

Make Time To Listen

I like to internalize things before I sing them and that takes time.  Allow time.  Try asking everyone to be silent and simply meditate on the lyrics as you sing them.  Keep the words on the screen.  Play through slowly and deliberately.  It not only helps the melody to stick but also gives weight to the words when you reintroduce the song later in the gathering.

 Understanding where a song is written from helps us find a place for it in our own story.

Educate

It seems like a no-brainer but it took me years to get make this my go-to introduction.   After announcing that we are learning a new song, I sing through the chorus once with just a guitar then ask everyone to join me.  Depending on how quickly we catch on I may repeat it a few more times and then launch into the beginning of the song with the full band.  After one pass through the verse I give the old “Let’s sing that again” and run the verse one more time before playing the song in its entirety.  By the time we hit that chorus my voice is drowned out by the voices around me.  Mission accomplished.

Conclusion

In no way am I suggesting these are the only ways to introduce a new tune, but they are definitely the ones that have created the most engagement in my own context.  I'd love to learn from you.  What methods have you used and how did they work for you?  I'm all ears.

Jason Houtsma serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA, Husband to Alli, Father to Bjorn and Asher, and guitar instructor for WorshipArtistry.com

Song Introduction: 4 Ways To Do It Right

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New Song Introduction

If your team runs 'canned' music before or after the service, place this song in the mix for a few weeks. It will seem familiar by the time you play it.

If your media team is producing a video maybe they can use the new song as the background of the video.

Play the new song as a special the week before it is a congregational song.

Play the new song for the whole set (30 minutes straight)... ;)

Those are all fantastic ideas!

I especially like the first one. So much of it is about familiarity. I had a band once that did an 80's cover and it was amazing how much more engaged the audience was after we played that tune. Musically it fit our set but just because it was familiar it got people listening. Love it!

New Song Rotation

How often do you put a new song in rotation at first? For example we typically do two weeks on, one week off, and then back on the fourth week.

Just curious. Love all you do!

It really varies.

I do at least 2 weeks in a row and usually 3 but I take a lot of care in making sure the songs flow well together so if the song just doesn't fit, I leave it out and pick it up next week. Glad you're enjoying the site!

Those are great ideas!

We usually will play a new song for the whole month, so by the 4th week , the congregation knows it, and are singing along. Our problem usually lies in the first two weeks, so I really loved this post. I think its really going to help our worship team to get the congregation familiar with the song much quicker... thanks a lot

Glad it was helpful!

Thanks for checking it out and let me know how it goes!

Introducing Songs

Yes, we use many of the same methods. Our church came from a very "traditional" background so I always try to throw in quite a few songs that have snippets from hymns in there. I think it makes some of the congregation more comfortable if it has a bridge that's familiar.

Introducing new songs

I was wondering how you get the congregation to listen to a new song that you have just introduced to them, outside of church to be more familiar with it?

There are a number of ways

You could try playing it before the service or after to reinforce it. You could post an iTunes link on the website or in an email newsletter. One simple way is to make sure the title of the song is on the overhead. If it's an original song, you could post a video acoustic version to your social media outlets. Ultimately, playing the song a few weeks in a row should help everyone retain it.

A few months ago I came on

A few months ago I came on stage just a couple of minutes early and announced "We are not starting yet but I want to have a quick choir practice(made it an ice breaker for fun)" I taught the whole church just the chorus to the new song. I sang it first then asked them to join me, went through it a couple of times, had fun teaching the new chorus. Then we began as usual with familiar songs, but when we got to the new song seems like everyone really perked up and belted out our new song. It has since become one of our church's favorite songs. Got this tip from Paul Baloche. worked that time!

I just did that last week!

We had about 100 camp counselors show up 20 minutes early so I taught them the newest song. It was so loud and beautiful when we all kicked in together. Was one of my favorite services in a long time.

New song?

How often do you repeat a new song in your weekly worship service before giving it a break?

I try

And do it 3 weeks in a row

I love these Ideas...

and do some of them.

We repeat a new song three weeks before putting it up for about a month. I want the crowd to own it before it gets put up for a bit; and, even though the team new it before we did once, the three weeks helps them to own it, too. But, before we get there...

I'll either announce a new song and let them know that we'll be doing the first verse and chorus twice so they can have a couple of shots at it. Another approach I've taken that I actually like better is to do the first verse, then, while the band continues to play a musical break, I tell the crowd that I know it's new and ask, by show of hands, how many folks have never heard it before. I invariably get input. What I like about this is that it is engaging. People like to be asked and, when a band is involved, they like communicating with the stage. (I know it isn't a performance, but, there are similarities.)

New songs

We used to introduce a new song during offering just to let the people hear it, also telling them it is new and just to listen at first even if some knew it, than we would have them join after the first run through. We would keep the song in rotation for 6 weeks than once a mouth after that for about 4 months.

New Songs

I usually start by playing new songs before and after service for a couple weeks. Then I will play the song as an offertory with just acoustic guitar and vocals. Then I will add it to the service the next week with the full band, and play it at least three weeks in a row. I'll also post a new song to our Facebook page and encourage the congregation to give it a listen.

Have you had much feedback

on the Facebook stuff? We do a lot of original music at my own church so I've thought about starting a Youtube channel with acoustic performances but it's a lot of work so I'm wondering if it's worth it.