Introducing a new song can be daunting for many worship leaders. Let’s face it: We prefer to stick to the tried and true songs that we know our congregation will immediately connect to. One responsibility of a worship leader is to be a teacher. And what good is a teacher who gives the same lesson every week? Adding new songs into your rotation gives you fresh ways to teach the same biblical truths. So how exactly do we introduce a new song successfully?
This is key. How can you effectively teach what you don’t know? The congregation can see right through a worship team that hasn’t done their homework. The song needs to minister to you before you can use it to minister to others. Know the lyrics and melody by memory. If you still need to look at the words to lead a new song that’s a strong indication that you’re not ready to introduce it. The congregation feeds off of our connection to the song.
Never start or end worship with a new song. Just don’t do it. It can already sometimes be a struggle bringing people into worship and starting with a song they’ve never heard before just increases that struggle. When you attempt to end with a new song it shifts the atmosphere. The congregation can no longer worship freely because they are trying to learn new words. Not a good way to end. The best placement for a new song is sandwiched in between two of those tried and true songs that the congregation loves.
As worship leaders, we should be doing more singing than speaking. However, speaking before a new song can positively impact the reception of the song. And this goes back to you knowing the song intimately. When you know the song intimately you’ll have a greater understanding of the song that extends beyond the lyrics-and you can use that understanding to engage the congregation. Explain the meaning of the song. Express how the lyrics have impacted you. Speak the lyrics before you sing it and ask the congregation to repeat it. Buttress the lyrics with scripture to reinforce the biblical truths in the song.
The wonderful thing about introducing new songs is that when the congregation hears a new song, and they like it, they are going to go and find it. We don’t want them to be surprised when the actual song sounds nothing like what they heard at church. It’s important that when we introduce a new song it sounds as close to the original as possible. Sing every part of the song. Play the intros and the instrumentals. Try to be as true to the song as possible.
For most songs, it takes time for the congregation to connect with it. Think about how long it took you to memorize the lyrics, learn the melody, and connect with the song intimately. It takes some time. So why do we expect the congregation to be automatically engaged with a new song after one listen. A system that has been working for my congregation is to sing the song 2 Sundays in a row, rest it for one Sunday, then sing it again the following Sunday. So in a span of 4 weeks we would have done the song 3 times. I have found that our members have generally connected with the song by the 3rd time.
Finally, I suggest that you don’t introduce more than 2 songs a month and definitely don’t introduce more than one song on any given Sunday. Once you get a system in place for introducing songs you will see that it’s not as daunting as before. And your congregation will thank you for it.