Song Talks

Mark Meyers

Mark Meyers

Worship/Creative Arts Minister

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"Song Talks" Worship Blog
The Worship Service & Its Many Facets – Part 2

November 24, 2019

Hey ya’ll! Last week I attempted to comment on an article that I posted on Facebook regarding a specific church that provided a list of “didn’t do’s” that affected their congregational singing in a positive way. I didn’t get through all ten, so this week I will tackle the last four points. (Scroll down to read Part I again!)

7)    He didn’t try to greatly expand the musical library.
8)    He didn’t try rhythmically challenging melodies.
9)    He didn’t try too many songs in a worship service.
10) He didn’t have his band play on every verse and chorus.

Point 7 and 9 deal with not “greatly” expanding the song library and the number of songs in a worship service. While I agree that too many songs are just too many, guys in this field differ on an appropriate song diet for the congregation in a given year. This article states 40 to 50 songs. I would disagree. Most guys I know say 200. That seems a bit like overkill to me. So just to give you a gauge, at the 9:30 service since November of last year to November of this year, we have sung 144 different songs. 45 of those songs have been “new” which means that they are new arrangements, not necessarily new chronologically. At 11:00, we have sung 77 songs in the last year and 35 of them have been “new”. Each service is averaging about 5 songs per service, which includes the response song at the end of the service.

God has created us a creative people, therefore we create. And in this case, we write LOTS of songs! We certainly have to be selective in our song choice. Sound lyrics should always be the filter by which we choose good songs. But with the sheer number at our fingertips, the possibilities of worshipful expression shouldn’t overwhelm us, but encourage us to listen, and all the more for the next great songs we can worship the Lord with. Every congregation will be different as to the number of songs that work or not, so my advice would be to experiment and see what worship language your people speak!

Points 8 and 10 speak to the way we approach the music from a “notes” and arrangement perspective. The sing-ability of a song is vitally important. Choosing the right keys for men and women to sing is pretty difficult. Too high and too low need to be considered. The melodies need to be singable which means I agree with point 8. The melodies need to be easy to follow. In most cases this is true, in some cases, the melodies are almost too easy, which provides for a pretty boring song. So just be aware of where the melodies sit for both men and women and try to adjust your keys accordingly. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s best to grab some people and get them in a room and just play through some songs in different keys.

Musical variety is always a good thing. Acapella with a large group of people is usually pretty awesome, with smaller groups, it’s a bit awkward if not everyone is a good singer. Again, you have to just know your people. The Sunday morning gathering needs to be focused on the church singing, so fewer solos, vocally and instrumentally, is probably best. A well placed and themed solo can drive people to worship, but the thrust should be on the congregation singing together.

Well, there you have it. Some nuts and bolts on worship planning and strategy. Take it as you will, but each church is different and therefore the worship leader must gear the services to the people in front of him and then focus on stretching them musically. Thanks for reading!

Blessings, Mark

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The Worship Service & Its Many Facets – Part 1

November 17, 2019

Hey everyone! This week I thought I would try something we haven’t done before. I re-posted an article earlier today on Facebook. The basic gist of the article is about congregational singing and what this particular worship leader has observed over the last year in his ministry. He is not advocating that his concepts are universal, but they seem to have worked in his context to improve the singing in his church. He lists them from the negative, as things he “did not” do.

They are as follows:

1)    He didn’t turn down the lights.
2)    He didn’t turn up the sound.
3)    He didn’t try to sound like the YouTube video.
4)    He didn’t try lengthy, frequent instrumental solos.
5)    He didn’t try all the newest songs.
6)    He didn’t try to get rid of all their older favorite songs.
7)    He didn’t try to greatly expand the musical library.
8)    He didn’t try rhythmically challenging melodies.
9)    He didn’t try too many songs in a worship service.
10) He didn’t have his band play on every verse and chorus.

I thought the people that my team lead in worship every week might be interested in my thoughts on these 10 “I don’ts”. So, here we go.

I’m gonna take the first two together. He didn’t turn down the lights and he didn’t turn up the sound. There is a bigger conversation here, and this is probably too small of a format to discuss it, but environment is important in the house of God. How do I know this? Well, in 1 Kings 6, the Lord was pretty specific in His instructions as to the nature and construction of the Temple. Down to the specific materials used to build each wall, piece of furniture, and decoration. Exodus 26, 27, and 28 are very detailed in their directions on the Tabernacle. Light was important. Materials were important. Maybe environment is important to the Lord? I think the New Testament discussion here is more about heart than anything else. Jesus was concerned with the heart. Paul mentions in a few different ways that we should be charitable to others in areas where we may differ on the peripheral matters, i.e. eating and drinking, etc. Again, a lot to unpack, but that should do for now. Sound is another piece of environment. Too loud or too soft? Depends on who you ask. I know several people that want the music loud so they can’t hear themselves, and I know several people that want to hear the congregation sing and be able to hear the harmonies. I say, yes and amen. Here’s the deal. We have to be willing to admit from both sides that there are more factors at work here. Age, geographical location, size of the room, and amount of people in the room are just a few factors that contribute to the volume in a worship center. Can we agree to be charitable? I want Pete and Shari to be able to but their cheeks on each other’s as they sing the great bass and alto lines of the hymns of the faith, while at the same time, not being able to hear the person (young or old) that is just a bit self-conscious about their voice while they worship to the same song with all their hearts!

Items 3 through 10 deal with songs and instrumentation. Here’s what I have to say. If you can pull off the YouTube video and do it with excellence, go for it! Not many can. I say you have to work with what you’ve got. Be creative. Stretch yourselves. I’ve worked in three different churches so far in my ministry, from bands with an organ, to orchestra, choir and worship teams, and small broken-down rhythm sections. It’s possible to create a worship service with virtually anything. New songs are biblical. Psalm 40 says so. We are creative beings. Part of our testimony is the songs we sing, and our experiences are varied. Same God, same gospel. The message doesn’t change. I’ve turned into somewhat of a paranoid lyric watcher. I want to make sure that the content we are singing is rooted in Scripture and not in man’s philosophies and eloquent musings on what we think the Bible says. Old songs are just as Biblical and born out of the experiences of those that have gone before us. The songs that have stood the test of time have done so because they speak deeply into our lives and sing the profound truths of God. I say, sing them all. There is nothing wrong with one new song a month. There are plenty to go around. Repetition is good for the congregation to learn the songs, as well as rehearse the truths again and again. There is plenty of music to keep it fresh. Dig in!

This has gone on long enough!  Next week, I’ll tackle 8, 9, and 10! Feel free to comment on the Facebook article if you want to talk further!

Blessings, Mark