Handling Awkward Moments – When a Song Bombs

Sometimes you teach a new song and it really clicks.

Sometimes you teach a new song and it just takes a while for it to catch on.

But other times you teach a new song and it bombs.

It sounded great on the CD and you liked it a lot when you sang it at a conference you attended, but in the context of your congregation it just doesn’t work at all. If the song were a TV show it would be canceled. If it were a politician it would be voted out of office. If it were a Washington Redskins quarterback… well never mind.

It can be awkward when you introduce a new song and it bombs. I had a guy come up to me one day after we taught a new song that fell incredibly flat and he said: “I thought to myself during that song you taught ‘I could learn this song if I really wanted to’ but then I decided I didn’t really want to”.

When a song “bombs” it might be because it was the wrong song for your particular congregation, it was the wrong time to introduce it, your worship team wasn’t quite able to pull it off, the congregation couldn’t hear the melody so they decided to not even try, or it wasn’t a very good song in the first place.

Whatever the reason may be for a song “bombing” – it’s awkward when you’re the one who’s imposing it upon the congregation.  What do you do?

If it’s the wrong song – let it go
Maybe the musical style is too far outside your congregation’s comfort zone. Maybe the melody is too complicated. Maybe the content doesn’t resonate. Yes, we want our congregations to grow and be comfortable with a wide variety of songs – but by forcing songs on them for which they’re not ready, we’ll make that growth happen more slowly.

If it’s the wrong time – put it on the bench
Once in a while I’ll introduce a new song and feel that it’s just not the right time. It’s a good song, but for some reason I just need to wait on it a bit longer. These songs get put “on the bench” – not thrown off the roster.

If your worship team can’t pull it off – don’t try
It might be a great song, and your congregation might be ready for it, but if your musicians can’t lead it confidently, it’s probably wise for you to wait until they can. Be honest with yourself and realistic about what kind of songs your worship team is able to lead well. Err on the side of deference to your volunteer musicians’ abilities – not what you hear on the CD.

If it bombed the first time – but you still think it could work – give it a second try
Don’t be afraid to be persistent with a song you really feel could work with your congregation, even if it did bomb the first time. It’s probably a good idea to get a few other opinions before you try it again, but oftentimes a song (especially one that’s a bit different than the norm) will take a while to gain traction with a congregation.

Tee it up it better
When I taught Tim Hughes’ “Happy Day”, I took a minute before we sang it to tee it up. I explained that we were going to learn a song that helped us celebrate how Jesus defeated death and rose from the grave, how that was indeed something to be “happy” about, how that kind of happiness isn’t a shallow, Hallmark-card “happy”, and that at the end of one the verses we would take a moment to lift up a shout of celebration together, and take it as an opportunity to rejoice in the fact that Jesus is alive. Then we learned the song and people weren’t completely caught off-guard. If I had just plowed right into it, it might not have gone over as well.

Don’t stress out about it
I can be tempted to spend some time licking my wounds after a song I introduce bombs. There’s no reason to do that. It’s an unrealistic expectation that every song of every service on every Sunday will be met with whole hearted enthusiasm by the congregation, and a sign of a sinful and prideful desire to come across as perfectly polished.

Two things remain true regardless of what songs I choose, and how enthusiastically they’re received. First, my only boast is in the cross, and second, God is great and greatly to be praised.

2 thoughts on “Handling Awkward Moments – When a Song Bombs”

  1. Yep, I’ve been there. Thanks for the suggestions. I think the hardest part about it is not knowing if I’m just forcing the song or if it just had a bad go. Sometimes even the order can affect how a song is received.

    Thank you for taking the time to flesh out some of the issues involved.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

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