by Don Chapman
Worship leaders, let’s discuss ways to breathe new life into those hymn gathering dust! I understand your congregation knows and loves the top 20 worship songs on repeat in your weekly praise set. However, variety is important (they say it’s the spice of life!) Introducing unfamiliar hymns expands your church’s musical palette, connects the congregation to history, and exposes them to deep, beautiful, lyrics. Here are some tips for getting your congregation singing these undiscovered tunes from the past:
First, choose thoughtfully. Don’t randomly flip open the hymnal and pick a song. Consider the theological fit, singable melodies, and connection to your church calendar or season. Begin with popular hymns recognized by all denominations – familiar tunes are easier to pick up.
Educate your congregation on the meaning and history. Share some background about the hymn writer, the year it was written, and the story behind its creation (some hymn histories will blow your mind!) Explain any rich theological significance or imagery in the lyrics. Understanding the context helps people engage more fully.
Introduce new hymns slowly and repeatedly. This goes for any new song, new or old – don’t fill your set entirely with new songs every week. Have a “Hymn of the Month” and sing it throughout that month, not just once. Repetition is key to familiarity. Have the worship team or soloist help introduce and model it multiple times.
Gaining your congregation’s buy-in is critical when introducing unfamiliar hymns. Start by explaining why you personally believe the hymn deserves a revival. Share insight into what draws you to its lyrics or melody. Your enthusiasm as worship leader is contagious. Then, invite a member to briefly share a positive story or memory about the hymn. Tap into that nostalgia factor – it’s powerful! Explain why you think it still deserves a fair hearing and fresh look. Perhaps it speaks to spiritual struggles we still face today. Or the tune is timeless and singable. With vision casting you can win over even the toughest critics. The goal is getting people excited to sing a new old song.
With thoughtful selection, education, repetition, and congregational buy-in, you can successfully integrate great historical hymns. Your people will grow to know and love them over time. You’ll breathe new life into your tradition and connect to the rich history we share. Keep at it, worship leaders – those dusty old hymnals truly hold treasures waiting to be sung!