Fill in the blanks:
When I really want to get a service started off strong, we’ll sing _____.
On Easter Sunday we always start off by singing _____.
When the sermon has been on the topic of mission, I love to sing _____.
If we want to sing a song about being “in Christ”, then _____ is perfect!
If we sing _____ then I love following it up by singing _____.
_____ is my go-to song for starting off communion.
We all have our “go-to” songs. We’ve tried them and they’ve worked. Not only have they worked but they’ve worked really well. I love starting off a service with “Beautiful One” by Tim Hughes or closing a communion service with “Let Your Kingdom Come” by Bob Kauflin, or singing “O Come All Ye Faithful” as the opening hymn on Christmas Eve. It’s nice to fall back on those tried-and-true songs when I can’t think of anything better to use or don’t have the time or energy to try something different.
I’ve been realizing lately that my tendency to gravitate towards the same songs in the same slot time after time can contribute to a staleness and predictability in our services. God never ceases to be indescribably great and beautiful, but singing the same song about him being the “beautiful one” can become monotonous and seem rote. God’s greatness is unsearchable, but singing about “how great” our God is with the same song once a month for four years can get boring. I’ve likened it before to making a copy of a copy – you gradually lose crispness and vibrancy with each one.
I’m learning that in order to help people be aware that we can never sing enough about the cross, I need to help them articulate praise to the Lamb who was slain in as many combinations of words and melodies as possible. To help people come into a worship service reminded afresh of God’s greatness and kindness we can’t sing the same three songs on a rotating basis. If I want a Christmas Eve service to help shake people out of their last-minute-shopping-stress-coma, I need to think about whether “O Come All Ye Faithful” really is the best opening hymn, or if something else would be more effective.
Newness and creativity for the sake of being new and creative is idolatry. But newness and creativity for the sake of helping people see and encounter the glory of God afresh is worth the time and worth the effort, and one of our jobs as worship leaders.
Look for different and varied sources of congregational worship songs from which you can draw. Visit other churches or watch their services online. Put your most frequently sung songs “on the bench” for six months and force yourself to sing something different. Take a risk. Instead of starting off a service with a fast song, start it off slow. Read an appropriate Psalm corporately in between verses of a song. Anything to help you avoid doing the same song you always do in the same way you always do it.
What are your “go-to” songs? Try “not-going” to them for a while. It’s a good exercise in staying fresh.