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“AS A WORSHIP LEADER,
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I LEARN A NEW SONG?”

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Psa 33:3
Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

Psa 40:3
He has put a new song in my mouth— Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the LORD.
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After leading worship for 8 years, I get asked one question by other worship leaders alot, “How often should I learn new songs.”  This is a GREAT question and one that many people do not take enough time to work out.

Before I answer this…let me just state one thing that will change how you do everything: “A worship leader is different from being just a musical artist.” A worship leader directs the people’s focus away from themselves and onto God.  Where an artist is about spotlighting skills and songs. It is not wrong to be an artist! A worship set just isn’t the place for it.

A worship leader is a FRIEND of God first, and a minister to the band and the audience.  People cannot worship if they are being offended or distracted.

Now, with that being said…know that you are STILL to do everything with “all your might.”  (ecc 9:10) It is okay to worship with musical breakdowns and guitar solos; it is EXPECTED that you give God your BEST vocal performance;  AND IT IS ALWAYS APPROPRIATE to know your songs backwards and forwards so that people are not distracted by sloppy musicianship. Remember there are skilled musicians in the crowd too, who are trying to worship as well.
This attitude of excellence and humility, will permeate everything you do and make your worship a “sweet smelling aroma” (eph 5:2) to Christ.  EVERYTHING in your service should be done with excellence: graphics, music, ceremony, speaking.  All the work you would put into a performance for a king or high official–THAT AND MORE–should be done for the King of Kings.  Mal 1:8 There is a reason the Bible refers to worship as a “sacrifice.”   Worship starts with a Holy life-style.

BACK TO THE QUESTION:  How often should I learn new songs?

1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE:
First, I would say it depends on your crowd. Some crowds can worship when they don’t even know any of the songs you are doing. But most Christians aren’t there yet.  Before I go anywhere to lead worship, I always ask the leaders there:
A. what kind of worshippers are represented there, and
B. if I can get a list of songs that they are currently singing.

2. ONLY ONE UNFAMILIAR SONG:
I make sure that, in a typical 5-song worship set, I only do one NEW song. Anymore than that and you lose your crowd. EVERYtime I do a new song, I do it AT LEAST two weeks in a row. It may take your crowd longer to grab on to a song–but take however long you need. Give them time to know it, so when I pull it back up in a setlist later they feel like they’ve known it all along.

3. TRICKS TO TEACHING THEM A NEW SONG:
a. Play the song as a special a few times during offering or altar call

b. Have a CD of the song played over and over before and after service. (or the band could do this too)

c. Take a break in the worship set before the song and teach them the chorus acoustically before you go into the full version of the song. That way they at least will sing out when you get to the chorus.

d. Announce an upcoming song in the bulletin and put a place on your website where people can find it and listen to it.

e. Also, on the week I would do a new song, I would print the lyrics in the bulletin, feature the artists CD in there, and write an article about what the song means. You can also reiterate it before you sing it.

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Psa 96:1
OH, sing to the LORD a new song! Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
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5. GETTING PEOPLE GRAPHICALLY ENGAGED:
I like to find a scripture that supports the lyrics of the song and create a supporting graphic/photo to be shown on the screen with the songs title and the supporting verse. I would show this screen as people are coming in and as the band plays the intro to the song.
6. PEOPLE HATE CHANGE:
As a musician, it is important to push yourself to learn new stuff, but not at the expense of your audience. The artist in you will want to learn something new every week. But the worship leader in you has to become protective of your people and the worship experience and hold yourself back in that regard. Some people will complain, but be confident in this process and realize that you are trying to lead alot of different people in worship. Some of these NEED fresh new stuff, even though it is work to learn it. Others NEED familiarity. A worship leader finds the balance, and listens but doesn’t change with every complaint. When people complain, they only tell symptoms. You have to use the Wisdom of God to determine what they are actually saying. Most of the time, they are revealing something about themselves.  You will find that most complaints can be summed up with the statement, “that just aint the way we’ve ever done it before.”  I’m glad Jesus didn’t have that mentality.  🙂

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Psa 98:1 OH, sing to the LORD a new song!
For He has done marvelous things;
His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.
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7. MAKE “CHANGE” BE WHAT STAYS THE SAME:
Once you get a rhythm down with learning new songs….KEEP IT UP! Your crowd and band will adapt. Know that you are creating a culture that is breathing new life with a fresh new song like the Bible tells us to do. But, if you ever get off that cycle of new material, you, your band and audience will get lazy QUICK. Your band needs to continually be stretched! They are EXPECTED to learn new songs. They aren’t doing you a favor by practicing and knowing the song before they come to rehearsal…that is their ministry work. It is okay for you to require and expect it.

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Rev 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals;
For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by
Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
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8. PICKING THE RIGHT SONGS:
You can’t expect your audience to pick up a song that is too difficult and wordy. But NEVER compromise content! Every song you choose should speak to you and change you. The balance here is to find a song that does that but is easy for the average person to grab onto. I like songs with a deep, lyric-heavy verse; but a VERY simple, repetitive chorus. I like people to go home singing that chorus cause it got stuck in their mind.  I continually surf  iTunes for new songs.  Songs that everyone else isn’t overdoing. LIKE THIS ONE (“Father Will You Come” by Unhindered Worship)!

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Psa 144:9
I will sing a new song to You, O God;
On a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You,
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9. HOW OFTEN TO LEARN A NEW SONG:
Again, taking into account everything above….I would say a good balance would be every other week or every 3rd week. Both of these scenarios gives you at least 2 weeks with a new song.

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Psa 149:1
PRAISE the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song,
And His praise in the assembly of saints.
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10. A CHANGING CROWD:
Before you know it, you will be doing a whole set of the latest and newest songs. And again, you will get complaints. People that haven’t been in a while or are visiting for the first time will complain because they didn’t know any of the song. Just know that you really don’t want to stack your crowd with people that:
a. complain
b. are complacent
c. think worship is just singing songs they don’t have to think about.
You are trying to build a crowd of people that want a fresh new word, can worship by meditating on these words even if they don’t know the tune right away. Worshippers aren’t singing to one another, they are singing to God.

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2 thoughts on “Sing to Him a New Song: ‘Cause He Said So!

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