In our first episode, Matt McCoy interviews Jonathan Mason – the director of Word Worship. Join Chris, Janson and Matt around a table discussion during “Community Talk”, as well as get to know our featured contributor Yaahn Hunter Jr.
I’ve always found statistics to be a fascinating part of life.
- There are 360,000 babies born each day.
- There are over 60,000,000 passenger cars produced each year.
- Americans spend an average 43.5 hours on their phones every month.
- There is a new worship record released every hour.
Ok, ok, that last one was a joke. But it certainly feels that way, doesn’t it? As a songwriter and Worship Leader, I am absolutely in love with the generation that I was born into. A generation that has found itself squarely in the center of one of the most exciting eras in the history of the church regarding creation, production, and distribution of new music. These really are unprecedented times for the Worship Leader/Songwriter/Artist.
As Worship Leaders, an increasingly important part of our job is to navigate the fairly unstable and overwhelming waters of “new worship music” and somehow return to shore with something to give our congregations, something to edify our gatherings, something that expresses our worship to our magnificent Lord in a “new way” (Psalm 96:1).
So how do we do this? How do we fight the battle of successfully finding, selecting, and introducing new songs to our congregations?
In a word: carefully. In my experience, nothing will frustrate a congregation quicker than introducing new songs too often, introducing them incorrectly, or simply selecting the wrong kind of new songs.
So here are some helpful tips, from one Worship Leader to another(s), that I have gleaned over the years (some rather painfully) on how to find, select, and introduce new songs.
FINDING NEW SONGS:
- Other Worship Leaders- Make friends with WL’s in your area, or online. This is such an easy way to find and share new music. Plus, they usually have charts, arrangements, etc. to go along with any song recommendations.
- Social Media- Worship Leaders love to share about artists they love, new albums they’re listening to and new songs that they’re singing in their churches. I follow dozens of WL’s on Twitter who are constantly introducing me to fresh music that I would have never found on my own.
- Concerts, Worship Events, Conferences- Always a fantastic way to find new music.
SELECTING NEW SONGS:
Whenever I select a new song to introduce to our church, I always put it through a heavy vetting process by asking several questions of the song.
- Is the song sing-able?
- Are the lyrics biblical?
- Is the song more suited for personal worship time?
- Is the song too similar to another song we are currently singing?
- Will my team be able to pull it off?
- Will it work in my congregational setting?
INTRODUCING NEW SONGS:
I have found that this can be the trickiest part of this entire process. If you introduce too many, you might overwhelm your congregation resulting in them not singing because they don’t know any of the songs. This can also be very frustrating both to the WL and the congregation. On the other hand if you introduce too few, this could lead to complacency or even unengaged, uninterested, or passionless singing due to familiarity or overexposure. Whenever I introduce a song I usually follow these guidelines:
- Pray that God would use the song to lead His people in worship
- Share an anecdote about the story behind the writing of the song or share the passage of scripture that the song was inspired by or pulled from.
- If there is a Biblical word that is potentially unfamiliar or obscure (i.e. sanctify, consecrate, Yahweh), take time beforehand to explain what that means maybe even giving personal application for the congregant.
- Place the song in a part of the set that is typically less participatory for the first couple of times you sing it. I do this so the unfamiliarity isn’t distracting or offsetting but they can hear it and start learning it. (i.e. First song, Offertory song)
- I always follow a 2-1-1 template: Sing the song for two consecutive weeks, take a break for one week, and bring it back the week after that. I will always observe congregation participation and ask for feedback from key members, pastoral staff, and elders during this time. If it is positive the song will be put into our rotation. If negative, the song will be put back on the shelf.
- I never introduce more than 1 new song a month… and honestly that is pushing it for our congregation. I have found that right around the time I am absolutely sick of a song, our congregation is finally feeling comfortable with it.
I truly believe that all of these tips listed above are driven by a heart desire to deeply know the people that make up my congregation, to know what stirs them up to worship the Lord, and to serve them in picking songs that lead them to the sing to the Lord with hearts full of adoration. They are in no way etched in stone tablets, but I certainly pray that they help you as you search, select, and introduce new songs to your churches.
What tips do you have for finding, selecting, and introducing new songs?
Jason Dunton serves as the Worship Pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Houston, TX. He holds a Master of Arts in Worship Leadership degree from Dallas Baptist University and is also a songwriter, producer and Nutella addict. He lives and loves with his wife Joanna, daughter Penelope, and English Bulldog Grubby.
Twitter and Instagram: @jasedunton
LoopKit allows you to be spontaneous in your Live Performance. It includes over 100 sets of loops that you can use for any song or arrangement. Delivered as an Ableton Session View file, simply assign the scenes to your favorite MIDI controller (Great for Looptimus)! These generic loops include shakers, tambourines, electronic beats, arpeggiators, kick drums and more. Customize your own loop sets and play them with any song. LoopKit is available in the Loop Community Shop.
So I’m Kristian. I love Loop Community. I’m married with a superb little boy and I live in the UK. I’m a worship leader, song writer and Ableton geek. I have just accepted a post as Creative Director for a great church in Cornwall, England and will start in September. I’m super blessed that I get to lead worship and some amazing events such as New Wine, Spring Harvest and also Spring Harvest in France. I’m also part of the extended Worship Central Team and work as an advisor and regional coordinator for them.
Q1 – I actually learnt to lead worship using loops and midi. My Dad is a church minister and sadly in 1998 most of our worship team moved away from our church and left us very short. Someone in our church bought a yamaha keyboard that played midi files on 3.5″ floppy disk!! It was my job to download the tracks edit, them and trigger them off from the keyboard. Later on I learn to play guitar and God brought some amazing musicians to join our team.
In late 2010 I was looking at how we could creatively fill out our sound and I came across a YouTube video from Matt McCoy. That started my Ableton addiction!
Q2 – Initially I started out creating in Propellerhead’s Reason but over the last year I’ve been primarily using Ableton Live. I love Ableton and it makes sense and matches the way I work. With Live 9 I have all I need for the loops I create.
Q3 – My loop setup and Ableton have become my main instrument! When I’m leading I’m using my voice, my guitar and my ableton rig. I find it really useful to see it as another instrument in our setup.
Loops have dramatically improved my worship leading and have made all the bands I use them in sound tighter and fuller. I’ve used loops in a variety of settings from bands with inexperienced musicians that need the help of additional instruments to bands with professional musicians where it supports and fills out the textures in our sound.
I have also seen churches more engaged when leading with loops, the textures and additional sounds capture people’s imagination and help inspire them in their worship. I thank God for the technology available to us right now!
Q4 – Loop Community is AMAZING! I love the fact that this level of technology is available to churches of all sizes and contexts. Loop Community is right at the sharp edge of equipping, training and resourcing churches and worship teams to utilise all this technology for the glory of God. I’d used lots of loops that i’ve found on LC that I couldn’t have found with out it and I’ve learnt loads that I wouldn’t have without LC. Its now a massive prilledge to be part of the training team and getting to meet people from all over the world and help them along the way on their ableton journeys.
Q5 – I find it helpful to try and keep a broad pallet, although I find myself drifting between styles at different seasons etc.
I’m loving Imagine Dragons – Night Visions at the moments. Here is snapshot of some of the stuff currently on my iPhone.
Hillsong United – Zion
Ben Howard – Every Kingdom
Worship Central – Let it be Known
Imagine Dragons – Night Visions
Jesus Culture & Martin Smith – Live from NYC
Martin Smith – God’s Great Dance Floor
Catfish & The Bottlemen
Passion Pit – Gossamer
Mumford & Sons – Babel
Message to Bears – Folding Leaves
Of Monsters And Men – My head is an animal