5 Ways to Improve Your Small Congregation’s Singing

"Do they hate these songs? Are they bad singers? Am I singing out of tune? ... The church was newly established and small in number, and—to put it kindly—the singing in our gatherings was uncomfortable." - TGC

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Bert Perry's picture

I'm not against the use of more modern songs, but we definitely need to remember that there are any number of cues that the old time hymn-writers put into the score so that people would tend to figure out how to sing it.  Perhaps a set of acid tests would be to evaluate the lyrics for whether it says or does anything Biblical (some songs of all eras fail in this), then simply have people come together to listen to the tune and try to sing it.  I remember hearing one song at church that pretty much seemed to lack a singable melody, and in "honor" of that song, I composed this little ditty.  We have to pay attention to whether ordinary people can actually "grasp" the song.

For churches with people who are musically skilled, some modern songs that "work for performance well but not for congregational singing" might be "retrofitted" with some of those hooks to make it more singable.  

In any case, there are some typical "musical sins" that I've seen pretty much everywhere I go, no matter what songs or hymns are chosen.  Many leaders will do everything at about the same pace and the same volume, forgetting, really, that the point is not just to "get 'er done", but rather to communicate a point.  The same position of "get 'er done" also explains why a lot of people don't really sweat the lyrics to a lot of songs.

All in all, it's all about the fact that the point of music in the church is to set thoughts in a lyric form, with the goal of either using that poetic form to impart doctrine or allow a response to God.  The tempo, volume, and expression all play in how the poem set to music or "song" actually achieves its purpose.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.