Hello! I hope everyone is doing awesome and having a great weekend, and had a great service today. I stumbled across this website and I have to say it is pretty awesome.
I have been leading the music portion in my church (smaller non denom church) for 10 years, and I have been playing music in church since I was 8. (I am now 26). Our church in the past few years has grown from 50 people to having 250 people per service. We play mostly traditional hymns with a southern country type of influence. We have guitars, basses, piano, drums, banjo, etc. and for a church our size we have great musical talent.
As we have been growing we have gathered a great amount of people in the 20-40 age range, but keep in mind my church is still mostly older. A typical service in my church would include music such as: I'll fly away, the unclouded day, just a little talk with jesus, The old rugged cross, etc. The "timeless" classics if you will.
One issue I have always had every since I can remember are people my age having a hard time relating to the music. I have grown up in an older style church so I never really noticed it until the recent past year or two. It seems if someone has grown up in a church or listen to radio stations that play the contemporary stuff they are use to more of a "show" like atmosphere. Even though we all agree we do not do this to put on a show, but that is the best way I can describe it. They do not seem to get into the older stuff and then they end up leaving for someone else. (Ive actually had multiple relationships end for me because of the difference of opinion between my church and other contemporary churches.)
Anyways... I am in the process of trying to do a hybrid type of service. There is no question in my mind that I can feel the spirit much stronger when praising with more contemporary type of music because I feel there is just so much more you can do with the newer songs. Any tips on the Do's and Do Not's of contemporary music? As we all know people fear change, and I am definitely NOT planning on changing things completely. I just feel that an equal amount of time spent on both genre's would be great for our church. Heck I've even had a few 70 year olds ask me if I knew any Big Daddy Weave songs, which hearing them say that name just makes me laugh... But I digress.
Any tips would be appreciated!
You just noticed us? Welcome!
We actually do a mixed service with half contemporary songs lead by a band and half hymns lead by piano. It's a hard, black and white 50/50 cut. And yet, we don't care. We enjoy each other's company and it doesn't matter if we're singing "How Great Is Our God" or "Holy Holy Holy". They're all to the same God and they're all hand picked to have good theology and good musical quality.
So I would say that if your'e looking for dos and don'ts, they should apply to everything.
1) Nothing we do is attention grabbing. The music supports the song and the songs support worship. Solos during song breaks are rare and only if they contribute to the whole. While we move on stage and smile and try to connect to our congregation, we keep the lights on and don't use a fog machine. (If you know what I mean.) It's not a concert atmosphere.
2) We pick very solid numbers that have good messages and are biblically sound. This can vary from church tradition to church tradition, but there should be a level of depth that is traceable to biblical themes.
3) Freshen things up when doing hymns. Get to know the good hymns and turn them up a bit. They should be powerful anthems, not funeral dirges.
Also, it would be a mistake for any of us to think the old stuff isn't as good as the new. There's good and bad in every era and we should retain the good no matter how old. I NEVER liked BeeGee songs and NEVER will. The same thing applies to worship music. There are a lot of songs that are popular in worship services because they're on the radio. That's too bad. Most of what's on Christian radio isn't very good.
So what I'm saying is that you should seek quality and spiritual depth primarily. The rest will sort itself out.
I think what Stevo is saying here is right on and I would take it very seriously. I would also add that if you're going to do contemporary music, don't don't don't try to copy the recording.
Good word, Stevo.
Big Daddy Weave is big (really big), friendly and thoroughly contemporary in his style of music (in the Northwest, where I live, "contemporary" means anything with a rock beat and a singer with a southern accent). He's a strong communicator. I like his music very much.
The strongest promoters of contemporary worship music in my area often say things like "the only rules are that there are no rules today." This, of course, is nonsense; just turn on the radio and you will hear songs and songs that follow almost rigid rules of procedure, format, instrumentation, style and technique. If a guy comes out with a sitar on an album, you can bet he'lll find a way to make the sitar do rock.
I'm most curious: what are the "newer songs"? Several years ago, we started doing a bunch of songs from a church, bethel, in Redding, Calif., that genuinely broke the mold -- and they still seem to have kept a pioneering spirit, while producing a lot of music that people respond to. But if you do "Dance", and the people actually respond as the song suggests... well, are you prepared?
Increasingly, the posts on this site are becoming peppered with responses that indicate that not everyone wants a "show"; that we musicians have been moving towards the same sort of sophistication and over-professionalization which led to a reaction (the Jesus Movement) and a radical simplifying of things. When you turn on the radio, do the songs work in to your spirit, or do you just hear a lot of noise? Do you feel peer pressure to do the noisy ones because they are "safer"?
When I play an organ postlude for the traditional service, I often thing, "I'll play something soft and sweet, or contemplative, this time, maybe a little improv on a hymn tune." But when the Amen is said, somehow I find myself pulling out a Bach fugue, because I can make those puppies dance and shout and sing and be loud -- and the little old ladies stay around and get happy with the music. So I'm in the same boat -- never sure whether to go fro something new and out of the box, or rely on the old trustworthy.
I appreciate everyone's fast responses!
We have been doing our best to spice up the traditional hymns so far. Our band Is mixed up of ages of 26 (myself) to 60 from styles and interest of rock n roll to bluegrass, so we definitely throw our own "flare" into it (with keeping in mind not to do anything that will distract others from the message). The biggest thing is I have felt for awhile now that we have kept it safe by sticking to the older music.
I notice many praise and worship leaders have musical theory backgrounds and such. Unfortunately none of us do. Pretty much everything that is done musically is played "by ear" with no real sheet music reading other than myself when I may play certain songs. Obviously to fully commit to learning a solid number of newer worship songs would be a strict commitment to practicing (which is something that is difficult and is a whole other conversation in itself), as I will not do something halfway especially when it involves crucial parts of the service as it often does.
But just to give you an example: During altar call I started out with Bebo Norman "Nothing without you" and people were able to really worship and connect. After people started going to altar and 5 minutes later I went into a more "sophisticated" slow version of how great thou art. You would have thought I walked into a different room. So I then transitioned into a Jeremy Camp style of "Give me Jesus" and everything lit back up again.
With that being said, a couple rounds of "Just over in the Glory Land" with a banjo will also lite up the group. So it is definitely an interesting dynamic which I will have to just gauge on a week-by-week basis. Everything is changing so quick which is great, but at the same time it is also a very sensitive transition.
Thanks again everyone!
I guess this brings up another point or two. Sometimes, what you mix doesn't mix well. And sometimes, jazzed up hymns sound a little weird. Putting "how great thou art" after "nothing without you" seems odd. This is why for most hymns, we leave it up to piano and traditional style and this is why we separate the two parts of worship fairly well. Most hymns don't sound right unless done traditionally on piano. There are a few modernized versions that work well, but very few. We don't seek to play hymns with our band most of the time.
So all this to say that I wouldn't assume anything by how things "light up" other than misplacement or strangeness to the audience.
Agreed. There are a few geniuses who can blend styles like masterful painters; but most of us (me included), if we arbitrarily mix, it's like when you start with five bright colors of clay and you start making cool-looking striped things, but you can't unmix them and all your clay ends up brown, looking like, uh...
Thanks for the translingual euphemism. It is a funny world we live in today, that we are more prudish than Paul, barely able to use words that Paul used (and Jesus, using the Greek word kaka , which translates loosely as "rubbish."). But we in these centuries use verbal gymnastics to avoid the difficult words. I've been reading Moby Dick , in which Melville spent almost a half page describing something that a sailor could describe in a half-sentence, to avoid the sailor's word. Melville is amazing - 750 pages about sailing and the violence of pursuing whales, without a single cuss word - and one of the finest sermons on Jonah tossed in for good measure.
It started out easy. I immediately found "skubalon" in my Liddell (Lexicon), and it meant, as expected, dung, filth, rubbish -- followed by a reference to "Anth." Who's that? Anthippes? Wikipedalian lists don't seem to isolate this "Anth" fellow (as opposed to Plat., Soph., and the usual suspects). Nor do we totally understand how to pronounce it, if we were to pronounce it upon anyone (mh genoito!). Same old problem with the "u", the upsilon, which seems to have been pronounced like the French & German "u", but when the Romans spelled it "Y" it caused all sorts of problems. (It's curious that "skubalon" is a plural, likely collective, noun, after the Greek fashion of -on , as in German, for plurals). This whole entry is weird because my Windows 8, for all its sophistication, STILL will not allow me to paste actual Greek letters into the dialogue box. Arrrrgh! (derivation unknown, but a good example of what in Greek is called "the rough breathing.")
Yesss! Skubala. It is the Greek word for our "s" word. I had a seminary professor that used the "s" word liberally in certain company simply because "Paul did".
Everything we say, no matter what it is, is followed by Matthew's response - "Very good point". There it sits at the very bottom of the whole discussion, giving approval to this conversation about things which belong in the gutter. Kind of like saying "I wish my first words were "quote" so just before I did, I could say, "unquote".
Hm... I kind of helped propel this thing off course - sorry, but thanks to recommend a return to first principles!
I have used a lot of my life's energy in trying to foster in my community a spirit of respect for each other by participating actively in each other's culture. Mix or match -- both are healthy activities.
It's so much easier just to find five hot songs than to spend each week fussing over how musical themes mesh with Pastor's sermon, which groups in church haven't heard much of "their" music lately, do-I-sing-and-unkown song again this week? and the myriad of questions one faces when trying to cause a worship service to be all things to all people.
To me, a major part of "change" is to lift us out of the routine mindset of doing things to be cool, and into a more specific mindset to what good songs are saying to us as we sing them.
To others, change is merely getting people activated (in the matter of music), so they will be spiritually alert and ready when the pastor speaks (as opposed to sedentary and hostile). The "pop music and atmosphere" emphasis supports this type of thought, and will always be in tension with the sort of music which tries to provoke change through challenging the congregation with the message of the song itself.
Jesus did plan on changing things -- in fact, he left virtually nothing alone that He touched. Y'know, it's curious -- He didn't even attempt to have a traveling musical band to bolster His ministry.