Introducing New Music to Your Congregation

Introducing new music to your congregation is an important task that can require much patience and persistence. A little planning and coordination ahead of time can help eliminate some of the frustration that comes with it. Here are a few suggestions on how to roll out a new piece of music to your congregation.

Use the melody throughout services ahead of time.

Allow the congregation to hear the tune several times without the pressure of trying to sing the words. Once they know the tune and it feels familiar, they’ll be more comfortable putting words to it. You could play an accompaniment or full-score version during the Prelude, the Postlude, or Offering. This could be done by an organist, a pianist, or an instrumentalist from the congregation.

Have a soloist sing the piece first.

Hearing someone else sing the new piece allows the congregation to hear the words put to the music. You’ll avoid awkward moments when the rhythm changes to accommodate certain words and no one really knows how it goes. Plus, congregants may feel inspired and excited to sing a new song after they hear an excellent soloist sing it first.

Practice through call and response.

The call-and-response method combines the first two methods above. If the piece you’re introducing allows for it, it can be a great teaching method. When congregants can hear the music and sing it back, they get a chance to practice it before singing it all the way through. This can be less overwhelming because it breaks the piece down into smaller, more digestible bits.

By taking it one Sunday at a time, you can ease everyone into new music, and you can make use of additional musicians within your congregation. You’ll help even congregants who aren’t musically inclined to more easily learn new pieces. It may take some time and effort, but don’t give up! You never know if a new piece of music will be exactly what someone needs to hear.

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Written by

Mark Knickelbein

Mark Knickelbein is editor of music/worship at Concordia Publishing House and an active composer and church musician. His compositional focus is on choral, piano, and organ church music. He has a Bachelor of Science in education from Martin Luther College, New Ulm, MN, and a Master of Arts in music from Concordia University Chicago. He previously served Trinity Lutheran in Kaukauna, WI, as principal, teacher, organist, and choir director.

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