If you’ve been in any position to lead worship at your church, you know the struggle of balancing the old songs with the new. You may feel the pull to stay relevant but don’t want to simply give in to what’s popular. On the other hand, you might be tempted to rely solely on songs you’ve led for years and know you’re comfortable with. If you’re not careful, you’ll fall hard one way or the other and polarize at least one demographic at your church. Here are a few quick tips on how to avoid pleasing one side of the pew over the other and strike a healthy balance between the old and new.
Know your options
Whether you’re leading a choir or a worship team, it’s important to know what music options are out there. If you’ve been having trouble infusing new songs with your choir, look at some blended worship books. They take a traditional hymn and blend it with a contemporary song. You’ll sing something everyone knows while breathing new life into the worship service.
If you lead a worship team and haven’t done anything new since “God of Wonders” and don’t know what’s current, ask your community of fellow leaders. Ask them what songs they have been working on in their congregation and what songs the Spirit has been moving through. One of my biggest struggles as a worship leader when I first started out was being too prideful to ask for help. As a result, my leading suffered and it took time to pull my team out of the rut I had dug. Thankfully, I had a great community who came alongside me and helped open my eyes to new music I probably wouldn’t have known if I didn’t ask for help.
Get outside of your comfort zone
Once you’ve discovered new music options, take some time to sift through and pray about which songs you should introduce to your congregation. If leading a certain song scares you or brings a certain fear to the surface, could I suggest something? Lead it. Jesus may want to use that song to break through to your congregation and move in a mighty way. Don’t let fear stand in your way. Stepping out in faith in worship is what it’s all about.
When you’ve decided what songs to lead, it’s important to have a strategy in place for introducing them to your congregation. If you’ve been in the rut of leading old songs for a while, you especially have to be careful to not overload the church with too many new songs too quickly. I like to introduce one new song a month, lead it for two weeks, and then give it one week off. Follow up at the end of the month one more time and see how it landed. If it went well, add it to the catalog and pepper it in from time to time. Just don’t fall into the trap of overuse! Taking notes of what works and what doesn’t is important as well. If a song didn’t fit or feel right for the church, that’s okay. Learn from it and move on.
Worship is the goal
In conclusion, remember that it’s not about you. Know that you’ll probably make a few mistakes along the way but always be sure that your team is centered on a culture of authentic worship. Recognizing God for who He is and what He’s done is much more important than crafting the perfect setlist — make worship your goal and have the song choice flow out of that.
Nat Clubb is a Regional Sales Rep. at Brentwood Benson and has been leading worship for the past 15 years. He is active in the worship songwriting community here in Nashville and helps lead worship at his church. Nat enjoys spending time with his two young daughters and wife, playing guitar, and getting to know other people and their life stories