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.
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.
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.