Last summer, though it wasn’t for Lent, our church gave up something bigger than chocolate; we gave up music. Taking a break from music can help a church reach a deeper understanding of worship.
March 24, 2015 1 4 comments
Discussion Topic
“...the use of themes and sermon series is the new wave in 21st century congregational worship." But then I wondered. Are all series or themes equal? What makes for a good series?
March 18, 2015 1 0 comments
Small group conversations are challenging for hearing-impaired members & small group discussions aren't accessible to the range of cognitive development. How have others tackled this?
March 10, 2015 0 2 comments
Are there any not-so-well-known songs that you’ve used recently? Making room for good songs that aren’t widely used can be an effective way to add theological breadth and musical diversity.
February 26, 2015 1 1 comments
Discussion Topic
What did you like about this year’s symposium? What did you not like so much? Any ideas for next year? Please take a moment to contribute.
February 26, 2015 0 0 comments
I hope I never hear it again. I hope I never say it again. I hope we can make this phrase totally disappear from the life of our church. You’ve probably heard it…..
February 20, 2015 3 1 comments
Christians like to sing. Among God’s people there are gifted song writers who favored us with the fruit of their hard work. We sing when we have needs and we sing when we have abundance.
February 19, 2015 1 1 comments
Why do most pastors prepare their sermons and most worship leaders prepare their songs, but some of those same individuals choose to wing their prayers?
February 10, 2015 2 7 comments
If vibrant means giving back to God the life he has ignited in you, then I think it can happen in any type of service, of any style.
February 10, 2015 2 2 comments
To me, God working for the good of his people, is not exactly the same as working for my good. Does the subjectivity of the word "good" cause you any doubt?
January 25, 2015 0 3 comments
If I had played the recording or had the praise team perform the song, the congregation would not have been a part of it. Without participating, they can not worship
January 7, 2015 0 2 comments
I was in China during the holiday season, and I saw a marquee that said in English, “Lucky Christmas!” How about us? Do we believe in the coming of Christ because of what God can do for us – bring joy, peace, happiness, love?
December 17, 2014 1 0 comments
The songs we sing at Advent and Christmas have some poignant, powerful truths to teach us.
December 11, 2014 0 1 comments
When congregations gather on holidays so many good things happen.
December 3, 2014 0 0 comments
When it comes to worship songs, there's an additional aspect that can make it tough to offer your creation for others to use. Can we offer our original songs and other worship creations, and still remain humble?
December 2, 2014 0 1 comments
TJ has cerebral palsy so being confined to his wheelchair limits his physical activities, but with his absolute fervor for life he is not limited in his possibilities to get involved and be connected.
December 1, 2014 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic
I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to promoting music that is written for the church body. Can anyone provide guidance on the balance between self-promotion and humility?
December 1, 2014 0 1 comments
When you think of some of your favorite hymns, do you ever wonder what draws you to those hymns in particular? Many of the tunes I love were written by Lowell Mason and William Bradbury.
November 26, 2014 0 0 comments
Kevin Twit wrote that the hymns our grandparents sang and loved, are now finding a place in the set list of today's worship leaders and in the hearts of younger Christians. Like anything that makes a comeback they are not reappearing in exactly the same form.
November 21, 2014 0 2 comments
Space may exhilarate and space may dishearten. How does your gathering space speak to those who enter into it?
November 18, 2014 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic
I’ve been thinking lately about what makes a hymn or worship song last. What makes it enduring and grab people’s hearts and minds over time and even generations?
November 14, 2014 0 2 comments
Resource, Website
Anima: The Forum for Worship and the Arts is a project concerned with including our youth and young adults in worship leadership. Training videos available on their website could be used as discussion fodder at worship committee meetings or planning groups.
October 20, 2014 0 1 comments
When you’re in church singing from the shiny new Lift Up Your Hearts (LUYH) hymnal you’re holding in your hands, it’s all good. All the copyrights and permissions you need are included. Singing from the screen? Maybe not so good.
October 15, 2014 1 1 comments
Discussion Topic
I raise this question because on the one hand I read in places like the Banner that this is true. But I also read in places like Calvin's Institute of Worship that convergence worship is worship of choice of young adults. How can both of these be true?
September 23, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet
The new CRC hymnal Lift Up Your Hearts is more than just a songbook. Did you know that, in addition to songs, the hymnal also includes readings, Scripture, and prayers?
September 18, 2014 0 0 comments



Along with ability of music to heal, minister peace or convey emotion, it is true that words combined with music (melody, rhythm, harmony) have a way of embedding truth deep in our hearts and minds that the spoken word alone does not. Music in worship invites us to participate, which adds another level of learning (heightening the importance of the songs that are chosen). And of course, those who have studied child development know that physical activity combined with melody helps place a song into a child's long-term memory. (holding up 1 finger is naturally connected to the song, "This Little Light of Mine" for those of us who learned it as a child).

Your decision to fast from music in worship is surprising, but interesting in the fact that I'm sure you had to think deeply about how to express truth and emotion in other ways. It makes me wonder about something else thing that we take for granted in worship - the spoken word. Did you also think about 'fasting' from speaking? It would be challenging, but also interesting, to think of how to communicate the entire service using only music (sung and/or played), visual arts, and movement.

posted in: Music Fasting

Sorry, but I'm having a knee-jerk reaction.  This post freaks me out, so I'm not even near considering your congregation's motives for this fast of yours, let alone contemplating the possibility of suggesting to my church leaders that we do the same. Maybe, some people should check out the article in Scientific American Mind's April/May issue titled "How Music Heals the Brain: Its Power to Lift Mood and Build Connections," and consider if such a fast might affect some of their fellow members adversely.  Of course, I'm sure people can always listen to music at home, but it's not the same.  I often miss church services for health reasons, and watching services on TV is just not the same.  To get the same quality of preaching I'd get in church I often have to settle for a sort of performance that strikes me more as entertainment than worship.  I don't go to church to be entertained but to entertain God as it were.

posted in: Music Fasting

Love this concept - can't wait for the next post...

posted in: Music Fasting

Looking forward to reading your next post.  Would your pastor be willing to share his/her sermon outlines with us?  

posted in: Music Fasting

I have had mild hearing loss in one ear ever since a bad infection over 20 years ago, and I find small group conversation challenging; I can only imagine how bad it could be for those with more severe impairments.  I definitely concur with the suggestions in the previous comment--first of all, evaluate the room.  High ceilings, hard furniture, tile floors can create a "live" environment that bounces the sound around and makes for too much noise competing for my "good" ear. This is particularly important in a large room with several groups meeting at different tables.  In that type of setting, something to absorb some of the extra sound (curtains, acoustical panels, carpets or area rugs) is needed.  Flexibility in seating may also be helpful.  If I can sit where the primary sound is on my right (the good side), I can manage better.  And limit "background" sound.  If music is used, keep it very soft and instrumental only, so it doesn't compete with conversation.  Do consider having some type of visual support.  If the setting isn't appropriate for a Power Point, maybe just a flip chart and markers to highlight main points being discussed will help people make sure they don't miss anything.  Hope these suggestions are helpful.  

Kory, what a wonderful conversation your church is having and your concern for inclusiveness is wonderful.

It may be possible to do small group conversations that include both the hearing and a wide range of cognitive abilities with just a few modifications.  

What room are you having the small group conversations in?  If it is exceptionally "live" acoustically a change in venue may be all that a hearing challenged person needs.  Also sitting in a circle may help so that the reading of lips is possible and the sound of the voice isn't muffled by people's backs.  

As for reaching the full range of cognitive abilities.  I'd encourage presenting the material using as many media as possible.  Can every topic be presented in two different ways?  Could a discussion on a scripture passage be set up by both reading from scripture and a storybook Bible or a thematically related picture book? Or use scripture and video?  Then in setting up the questions keep at least some of them very open ended.  "I wonder..." questions work well for adults as well as children or "What would you do if..." If there are no right/wrong answers then it is possible for everyone to feel comfortable participating.  

I don't know, maybe you've already tried these things and they didn't work in your context.  If you haven't tried them, it may be a place to start.

If you do decide to move forward with this let us know how it goes and what you learned because I think you are right that many churches are struggling with answering that same question. 

I suspect that people who are uncomfortable with extravagant displays of faith in and love for God are lukewarm in their relationship with Him or even just plain cold.  No one who's in love with the Lord would even think to ask, "Was that necessary?"  Unless they're Scrooge 2.0, they would probably not think twice about getting a bouquet of red roses for the love of their lives on Valentine's Day, so why not buy roses for God if you love Him that much?  That would be the modern-day equivalent of Mary's pouring the contents of a jar of pure nard over Jesus' feet and wiping off the excess with her hair.

This last summer we did a sermon series on the Psalms, and we insisted on singing the matching Psalm from the Blue Psalter. 

It was enlightening how many of our old timers said "we've been singing in this church for 60-80 years, and we've never sung that before". It was also joyful to be able to sing wonderful words to tunes that were new for many of us.


Samuel Sutter

posted in: Using Obscure Songs

Vibrant is not necessarily a well run/produced/whatever worship service - it can simply mean a service that is "full of energy and enthusiasm" (thank you Google). We could sing "The Church's One Foundation" with only an organ and singers and it could be vibrant and we could do the some with a "full band" and it could be dead. What comes to mind specifically are the times when we are in the Sunday morning service and it looks/sounds/feels like people could be dead when they are supposed to be aiding/leading the church in worship in some capacity. I recognize that there might be any number of reasons why the individual might look like they are in a food coma (including nerves), but it seems important that whoever is in a leadership position in a service, in whatever capacity, shows some life - preferably that they truly believe in what they are doing/saying/singing/praying/etc. I think this is why some churches assess their volunteers before they can participate in a service in a visible role. I understand that this can be exclusionist and generally may not be possible in smaller churches, but maybe it's something we need to consider more. And I know it requires all members of the body of Christ to build each other up.


posted in: On Writing Songs

This is the other reason I prefer a liturgical worship service - the prayers have been vetted and I know what the sentences

mean. Sometimes I disagree with the theology of the readings that come out of Grand Rapids so I keep my mouth shut. Some of the things I hear/read are more dispensational than Reformed. 

posted in: Winging Our Prayers

We avoid "vibrant"  worship and prefer "high Church" Lutheran, Episcopal, or Catholic liturgical worship. We attend First Everett (WA) for the sermons and fellowship, not the music selections.

Leon, thanks for the reminder that the Psalms are the best of the formed prayers.  Your comments harmonize with today's reading in the One Year Bible - Psalm 36.  Verses 5-7 offer a great prayer of praise. 

Grace and peace to you,


posted in: Winging Our Prayers

Thank you for the excellent feedback - and for the spirit in which it was given.

posted in: Winging Our Prayers


Thank you for writing this reflection on the Prayers of the People.  I'm thinking quite a bit about this ministry right now, so I appreciate your thoughts on the topic.  I work hard on my Prayers, as I recognize the importance of them.  I've employed a variety of strategies as I seek to pray for the people and teach them how to pray.  We sometimes have what I call "prayer conversations" at our church, at which time we invite testimonies of thanksgiving and prayer requests.  Then I'll invite the people to pray for any requests they feel called to pray for.  At other times I'll write out my prayers and read out the prayer.  Regardless, one thing I've found very helpful with both forms of prayer: praying the psalms.  I'll almost always read a psalm as a Call to Prayer or use parts of a psalm in the actual prayer--with great blessing. 

Again, thank you for reflecting on public prayer.  A very important ministry in the worship service.

Grace & peace,


posted in: Winging Our Prayers

Thanks Sam for responding to my long winded comment.  I judge from your last response, as well as your original article, that apart from the theology of prayer, or who we are addressing in prayer (whether God or the congregation), pastors and worship leaders are directly or indirectly helping to shape the prayer life of worshipers.  The reality, though, for most if not all in the congregation (including ministers) is that their personal prayer lives consist of impromptu prayers, rather than formed or extemporaneous.  So if ministers are hoping to shape the prayers of those in the pews, shouldn’t they help them in the format they are most comfortable with?  Do we really expect church members to use “formed” or “extemporaneous” prayers in their devotional lives?  Following your premise of shaping the prayer lives of those in the pews, perhaps developing easy patterns of impromptu prayer (such as Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication) would be more helpful to those in the pews, especially if ministers used such impromptu patterns thoughtfully.   

As to my personal opinion, as to what format ministers and worship leaders use in congregational prayers, I think they use what is most comfortable for themselves.  Some find it much more comfortable to have their prayers prepared ahead of time, so they don’t find themselves put on the spot in the immediate moment of praying.  Others use the formed prayers of others because they sound and feel meaningful to the ears and hearts of the congregation.  Others feel more comfortable and adequate with impromptu prayer.  Extemporaneous prayer, as you describe, seems to be a combination of those three.  Whichever format one uses in public prayer it should be thoughtful, just like the rest of the worship service.  I agree with you that ministers should never just “wing it,” (even with impromptu prayer).  And if that is the point of your article, that congregational prayer should not be winged, I agree with you.  Thanks again for making us think.

posted in: Winging Our Prayers

Thanks, Roger.   Good stuff.   Always good to talk about prayer.  And you got me thinking about the impact of the audience on our preparation.  We prepare our sermons for the congregation but shall we prepare our prayers for the Lord? You raise a good question. 

Plus you accent two points I was trying to get at.  First, of the three types of prayer - impromptu, extemporaneous, and formed - I have not found one type essentially more spiritual than another. Second, the prayers of those on the platform will shape the prayers of those in the pews. For that reason, I often opt for extemporaneous or formed prayers, rather than impromptu.  

Thanks again for taking the time to response.  Your words are helpful to me as I shape my lectures for seminarians.

posted in: Winging Our Prayers

Thanks, Sam, for your article on corporate prayer.  Prayer, for most Christians, is a puzzling subject.  Before answering your question of how ministers or worship leaders should pray in corporate prayer, let me make some necessary comments first.  What do we accomplish or hope to accomplish through prayer?  In what ways is prayer effective?  Does God change his mind about our circumstances in life so that by prayer we can persuade God to change his preplanned actions.  Does the one praying have to fulfill a list of criteria in order for his/her prayers to be effective?  Is prayer for the benefit of God or for the one praying? The list can go on and on as to the questions and doubts one has in regard to meaningful and effective prayer.  Although there are a number of different aspects of prayer (ACTS), what stands out in both the Old and New Testaments is the concept of petitionary prayer.  Jesus taught on several occasions to “ask for whatever you want and it will be given.”  It easy to give thanks to God, to give praise, to confess one’s shortcomings, but petitionary prayer is where the rub comes in.  How often do we receive from God what we prayed for, that wasn’t likely to happen anyway?  When it comes to petitioning God, does prayer really have any effect?  It would seem that if prayer was effective in the simple and commonsense way that Jesus taught about it in the gospels, then Christians would stand in much better stead than those who weren’t Christian and who didn’t pray. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.   So if Jesus’ instructions can not be taken literally how should we understand them?  And so ministers and theologians come to a multitude of conclusion in regard to prayer.

That is the reason why different ministers and worships leaders pray in the various ways that they do.  They are, perhaps, trying to reach God in the most effective way possible in order for God to hear and answer their prayers.  Some might suggest that written and pre-prepared prayers do not touch the heart of God therefore are not as effective as Spirit driven spontaneous prayer.  Others would say that the Spirit can inhabit prepared prayers as much as spontaneous prayer.  So I would suggest that one reason that a minister might use one kind of prayer over another has to do with his concept of prayer and what happens through prayer.  

A question I have in regard to extemporaneous prayers, as you suggest, is, are they any more effective than any other pattern of corporate prayer?  Perhaps as you suggest in your last paragraph, what difference do it make?  The difference that you imply, is it doesn’t really matter to God, but it might to the congregation.

Something worth remembering as to the difference between prayer and other parts of the worship service, is that in prayer you are addressing God and in the sermon you are addressing the congregation, two different audiences.  So if in prayer, you are addressing God, then as you say, why does it make any difference?  If you are trying to impress a congregation with a style of prayer, then maybe you have to pick and choose?  But who are you praying to anyway?  Certainly not the congregation.  I really doubt that any one form of prayer has a greater effect than any other.  But I’m quite certain that others would disagree.

Maybe the makeup of the congregation would also make a difference as to how a worship leader or minister would conduct prayer.  A large traditional church, a large contemporary congregation, or a small farm community church would each make a difference in the church’s personality and likely would also make a difference in the spontaneity or formality of congregational prayers.

Thanks for your interesting article.  It does make a person think about the topic of prayer.

posted in: Winging Our Prayers

I don't know about the song, but I agree with your reservations about the theology.  I wonder if Romans 8 should be read like this: 

Romans 8 is not primarily (and certainly not just) about your personal salvation, but about the way God plans to use those who are in Christ to bring hope and healing (salvation) to a broken world.  So the first part of the chapter talks about the wonderful, and necessary, changes that are needed in the believer (those who are called), and the assurance that God is doing that work in us ("he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you")  The creation waits in eager expectation for this to happen (i.e. "for the children of God to be revealed").  In equipping us for that work we are displaying "the firstfruits of the Spirit".  The Spirit helps us to carry out the work God intends, not the work we intend.  That's why it says "the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God [my italics].  Our wills are meant to conform to God's will. We are meant to conform to his Son. "the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God" [again, my italics].  Only in that context does it seem right to expect that God will work for our good. 

Perhaps even the Heidelberg Catechism misses some of that.

There is a similar dynamic, I think, in the asking in my name passages in John 14-16.

Thanks for your interest, Christy, in hymnology.  But don’t you think that you are making a stretch to come to your conclusion?  If God works out all things for the good of his kingdom (those who love him) then it is natural to conclude that they are also ultimately for my good, as a part of his kingdom.  If you want to go with some alternate manuscript, which is not likely the most authentic or if you want to interpret “good” in a way not intended by the Bible (or a particular Bible verse), then you are simply putting your own spin on the words of the song.  And then you might as well start scrutinizing a lot of songs and hymns we sing, even ones from the Psalter, because they likely don’t fit with your own personal theology either.  Who is going to be responsible, in the church, to scrutinize the words of our hymns to the level that you have examined this one phrase?  I might not agree with the theology of many of the hymns and songs we sing in church, but finding others to agree with me (or my theology) would be an impossible task.  I think you, are facing an impossible task, as well.

“To me, God working for the good of his people, is not exactly the same as working for my good.”

This is precisely why the Church’s expectations must be defined by God’s Word and Spirit, not by our human nature and culture.

Without explaining all the Greek on this, let’s go to context. In Rom. 8.18, Paul writes, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” If we tend to believe that personal suffering is the greatest evil (and much of our culture does), then we have a problem. Why? Because Paul has already admitted to believers “suffering” – and “suffering” in Rome for being a Christian included more than a raised eybrow or a lost job. Either the Bible is wrong or our understanding of “good” and “bad” is off-base.

How off-base are we? Again, let’s look at context, especially looking at Paul’s death. According to history, Paul was martyred by being crucified upside down. Was that “good” for him or “bad” for him? Was that “good” for the whole Body of Christ? While that is the question we wrestle with in our culture and our understanding of the word “good”, here’s a different question: What if the will of God being worked out in us – even in painful, self-denying ways – is “good” in and of itself AND for the whole Body?

Since Scripture interprets itself, I think we have to see our “good” in Christ’s words alongside and defining Paul’s:
Matthew 16.24: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Luke 14.26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.”

When the Word and Spirit define our own personal “good”, we will have a much different outlook than the rest of the world.

the Holy Spirit can and will use anything to minister to anyone when He wants, even secular songs... songs that are still in the making, songs that are just seconds old or centuries old...  is every song going to speak to everyone the same way, no, and even if we do get snobby about our music preference, He still can and does use it to melt our hearts...  I remember walking into an Avalon concert with a very bad attitude -I would have preferred not to be there, and He melted and convicted me in less than one minute after the first song started... i was weeping so hard, i could not stop the entire concert and for well over a year afterward anytime i heard on the radio the song that the Holy Spirit used to melt and convict me, i would immediately start crying again, it was that powerful and life changing... and part of the message God put on my heart at that concert was "don't limit what I can use to minister to you"... He can use anything to minister to anyone.  (and believe me, you can't work up any emotionalism in less than a minute of music, especially starting the bad attitude i walked in with)

Thanks Christy for your article on meaningful worship.  I have to agree, though, with Robin on his comments in regard to worship. I think you may have jumped the gun on writing your article before giving full thought to your comments.  Personally, I think worship is a very subjective matter, one that varies with individuals. What makes worship meaningful to one is not the same as for another.  That’s why there are worship wars in so many churches.  What meets the needs of an eighty year old is not likely the same for a twenty year old.  What moves the heart strings is different for all of us. We have to do better at accommodating each other in worship.  So good luck on finding the one authentic form of worship.  Nice try, Christy, but I’d say, you need to go back to the drawing board.

This is a very well-written blogpost.  Yet, I am struggling with the veracity of the "Without participating, they can not worship" and "...without singing the song, they can't worship" statements.  I think I can understand the motivations behind the "...parishioners are every bit as important as the leaders, if not more important.  So they need to participate" statement.  Still, worship comes from the heart and not necessarily, always and only, from our actions.  We can still worship, whether we are singing or whether we are in utter silence.  Just because someone is standing up and participating, does not mean that it is the only form of worship.  And, just because someone’s lips are moving does not mean that they are truly worshipping.  A person can still be disengaged, not paying attention, critiquing the worship team, talking to someone, etc. 

In both Isaiah 29:13 and Matthew 15:8 we read, “These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.  Their worship of Me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”

There are times when we need to receive ministry.  I believe that is the part that feeds our souls and strengthens us for our Christian walk.  As we are all created for worship, it is equally important for us to also know when to receive someone serving us.  Just as Jesus demonstrated humility and servanthood to the disciples by washing their feet, Jesus also was able to receive someone anointing and washing His feet.  

So, I do not see it as a performance, I see it as ministry.  That worship leader and/or the musicians and singers on that recorded track are using their gifts to glorify God, to serve others, and to lead us in worship.  There is still an anointing on that gift and sometimes those songs need to ruminate on the hearts and minds of the people, so that they can carry it with them.  To imply that it is null/void and somehow less edifying to God unless we are all standing up, like cardboard cutouts, participating, is lost on me.

Admittedly, I come from a different denominational background, so maybe that is why I do not see worship as something that always needs to be participatory, but that sometimes we need to enter into His presence in stillness, while He speaks.  I am not saying either way is right or wrong, just that both ways, to me, are valid.

I just found a couple more I don't want to forget:
:: "O Jesus, We Adore You" PsH 472
:: "Christian, Do You Struggle" PsH 575

I love the text of a relatively new advent hymn in Lift Up Your Hearts - #64 - O Shepherd, Hear and Lead Your Flock. This is a beautiful pairing of the text of Psalm 80 to the familiar tune of O Little Town of Bethlehem. The imagery in the first verse of the Shepherd (God) and we as lambs makes this such a beautiful blend of text and tune. But then, a definite teaching moment occurs in verse two - the words, "Our selfish prayers deserve God's wrath, our pride, a sudden burst; we have but stones to serve as bread, and tears to quell our thirst. Restore, O God Almighty, the radiance of your face to lighten and reveal the gift of your redeeming grace."

I am one of four worship leaders in our church, and have tried a few of my songs when they seemed to be the best fit for a service. The challenge of pride is considerable, as well as the related one of false humility. The other worship leaders usually don't think of using my songs, even though they do affirm the value. I once heard Stuart Townend say (in a song-writing class) that there are three kinds of worship song: those written for a single occasion, those written for a single local church setting, and those written for the church community as a whole. We often don't know at the time of writing which is which. So to sing a song once may be just fine. To have it limited to our local setting is fine too.

For me, the key in planning worship is to ask firstly why I am including one of my own songs (and what others' perception will be, since that matters even if it isn't the final arbiter), and then to ask secondly why it is that this particular song is the best "fit" for the flow of worship, style and congregational participation. Although my songs may not be as "good" musically or poetically as many others out there, they were written in the specific context of our local church, and were written to address a hole in the currently available list of songs. For example, I was really struggling to find a song on confession and forgiveness that was in a style consistent with the flow of worship, so I wrote one. It fit, and it filled a need, and it was reasonably singable for the congregation. As a result, we've used it more.

I do appreciate the point about having a second person involved in the song-writing process. I've done it very little, but more because others are convinced they can't write. We who are worship leaders should encourage the writing of songs from our congregation, helping when needed (especially with arrangements), particularly when they arise out of our local church commuity's culture and experience.

Adom, I started writing a comment, but it got so long I decided to create a new blog post on this topic. So for my thoughts on this issue, please see the post here.

I also love Tommy Walker's Generation Hymns album. Go to youtube and search for the videos - they're really good. I love seeing the generations together worshipping with the hymns.

posted in: Recycled Hymns

Thanks for all these resources, Joyce!  I will for sure look them up.  

We have done a guitar-driven, slightly altered rhythmic version of "How Great thou Art" for a number of years now, which our congregation has grown to love.  I would have to give credit to James Bloemendal (a professional musician with Ash & Bloom) who led some workshops with our worship team giving us some "band" expertise way back when we were just starting up a worship team.  I wrote a new tune for "Forgive our sins as we forgive" (text by Herklots) and added a chorus as well.  And I also wrote a new, simple little tune to the anonymous "Hear our prayer O Lord".   If you are interested in seeing those private message me!  I don't admit to being a composer really, but these just happened once while I was doodling at the piano.  

posted in: Recycled Hymns

One that speaks to me is "When peace like a river". So powerful when you know the story connected to it. Thank you for writing this piece.

I was at a funeral this past weekend where we sang "Nearer Still Nearer." I hadn't sung that hymn in a very long time, but found the words coming back to me and very meaningful.

We have for some years made a point of including children and teens in our worship teams, whether as instrumentalists or singers, or in technical roles (sound, projection, etc). For younger children (below teenage years) we have no requirement of musical ability or aptitude. Any children who want to participate can. This means that sometimes we turn their microphones off or way down - they are aware we do this, and it gives them freedom and safety to express themselves in worship without worrying about what they sound like. As they get a little older, we try to give a level of training (though I wish we were equipped to do more), and for those with emerging stronger voices, we may give some brief or longer solo opportunities - worship is not necessarily served by having the "best" voice.

I try as worship leader to talk about what we're singing. Sometimes the words may not make sense to a younger singer, and so we'll talk briefly about it to help them. At other times it is the younger singers who are rekindling the excitement of worship in older singers and instrumentalists by their dancing, or facial expressions (though they can look pretty glum at times too!). I also try to encourage the adults to learn from the kids in this physical expression.

For instrumentalists, we again don't set high standards, other than ensuring that some level of contribution can be made so that the participant can gain an understanding of worship while growing their technical skills - so they need to have reached an intermediate level of ability. We've had drummers (especially), guitarists, and other "solo" instruments (flute, violin, etc) although have found that the solo instruments are difficult unless we're able to write specific parts for them, which is quite time-consuming and not every leader has the musical ability to  do it.

Lastly, most of our readings, prayers, and other liturgical elements are led by Praise Team members, and so we have opportunities to engage kids of all ages in these. We'll offer coaching on reading, as well as help with understanding of what is being read.

In summary, our kids are active and very valuable members of our worship teams and we're tremendously blessed by them, and they also by their participation in worship. I'm convinced that this will bear fruit as they grow into adulthood.

This is really useful information, Gayla. I can't count the number of times that I have run into people who are not only oblivious to the copyright issues with regards to LUYH, but also with copyright information in general: praise team leaders who simply download chordsheets from random pages on the Internet without even considering whether their download is covered by CCLI, or any other licensing for that matter, for example.

Unfortunately, once you dive into the copyright question things get murky and difficult once you get even a little beyond what you've covered here:

  1. Costs jump pretty quickly. If you want to have SongSelect + CCLI, so you can make the most of your copyright coverage, and even if you're a small church, it can cost $300.00/year+. Add in to that for another $100.00/year, and another $189.00/yr for LicenSing, and you're looking at almost $600.00/yr for a relatively small church--just to cover your bases, and you STILL need to be vigilant about copyright on your songs!
  2. CCLI, and the others you've listed also do not cover the showing of Videos! In the US, CCLI does have an additional Church Video Licensing option (CVLI), which can run another $220.00/yr. In Canada it's far more complicated, as you have to find the organizations that hold the licensing agreements for different films and the are four or five different major ones you have to search out, there's no annual fee, but a per-use fee, and it varies widely, and even then you aren't covered!
  3. Additional media like podcasts are covered separately, and may require an additional fee.
  4. Photos are not covered by this, and many, many, many churches don't even bother to look at copyright for them, but just swipe them from Google(TM) whenever they like!

If you, as a church, wanted to be really scrupulous about all of this (which we should, after all), you could either be stuck not using anything, for fear of breaking copyright, or spending more than $1000.00/yr for even a small church, not to mention all the work researching the whole thing--it's a real pain in the rear, and heartbreakingly complex most of the time!


Hi Paige,

Copyright and permissions with regard to worship are restrictive only when reproducing the material - either by photocopying, projecting, etc. The religious exemption for worship permits songs to be sung, played, or taught orally to a congregation without copyright infringement if there is no reproduction involved. In other words, if you want to sing a song (religious or secular) as part of a worship service, it can be sung without copyright infringement. You may play and improvise without worry if no copying or reproducing of the music is involved. If, however, you project the words (or music) while it is sung; or if you copy the music for your musicians, etc, you will need either permission or a copyright license to cover the reproducing  of the lyrics.

As to the issue of changing the lyrics when singing a copyrighted song during worship - I would just ask whether that seems honest and ethical. If the text is copyrighted, it is 'intellectual property' that is legally owned by someone.There seems to be a responsibility on the part of the performer to either honor the original text written by the author, or go to that author and ask permission to change it.

ASCAP is a performance license, and if Christian music is performed outside of a worship service - in a live concert or community gathering - the copyrighted material needs to be covered by ASCAP. But for music that is sung in a worship service, ASCAP (performance) licensing does not apply.

This is my understanding of this issue with regards to worship. You are more than welcome to do your own study and research. Thanks for asking the copyright question.


Hi Rebecca, I am new to this website and happened upon it by searching the topic of "Does it violate copyright when changing the lyrics of a song?".  

I read through the comments posted on this topic and most if not all pertained to hymnal or contemporary Christian music.

In my circumstance, one of our musicians would like to take a secular song and change words and phrases to make it appropriate for church. My thought , especially after reading this blog, is that it would be a violation without getting permission.  My musician emailed me the following:

 Take a look at this:

Go to the 2nd question under the Frequently Asked Questions section.  (What is a public performance?)

I would think that we (a church) are OK as an exemption.  It doesn’t really get into anything about if the music is altered.  But technically we alter everything we do (we improvise a lot), so I wonder if we could be “written up” since we don’t play things exactly as written?  I would think we can play anything we want any way we want – as long as we are not selling it for profit.  (Now I would think if we recorded stuff we would need permission to sell it even if just raising money for a church.)

What is a public performance?

A public performance is one that occurs either in a public place or any place where people gather (other than a small circle of a family or its social acquaintances). A public performance is also one that is transmitted to the public; for example, radio or television broadcasts, music-on-hold, cable television, and by the internet. Generally, those who publicly perform music obtain permission from the owner of the music or his representative. However, there are a few limited exceptions, (called "exemptions") to this rule. Permission is not required for music played or sung as part of a worship service unless that service is transmitted beyond where it takes place (for example, a radio or television broadcast). Performances as part of face to face teaching activity at a non-profit educational institutions are also exempt. We recommend that you contact your local ASCAP representative who can discuss your needs and how ASCAP can help you.


Can you help me with this situation?

Thanks for the song ideas, Kevin.

I, too, am trying to sing each prayer song for a month so the congregation really learns it.
And, yes, it is always surprising how cyclical tastes are.

posted in: Prayer Songs

Hi Christy,  I grew up in my rural church singing that very song after a silent prayer time at the beginning of the service.  We have prayer requests in the evening and we have the tradition of singing a song either before or after or both.  We like to keep a song for a season (such as Advent or Lent) or about a month during the Ordinary times.  This way the congregation really gets to know the song.  Song additions to your list:  

  • O Lord, Hear My Prayer (SNC 203, LUYH 903)
  • The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation (LUYH 885, SNC 206)
  • Come Now, O Prince of Peace (LUYH 905, SNC 209)

It is amazing what is "old" is now "new" again.

posted in: Prayer Songs

I've just past this post on to our Worship Director. Twice a month we have a special time of Intercessory Prayer and I think this could be very powerful. Especially if done with only a piano or a couple of guitars. Thank you for the idea!

posted in: Prayer Songs

Thanks for sharing this idea, Drew. I love that you include both public and Christian students and that you also include teachers and administrators. It sounds like a very powerful intergenerational moment in the life of your congregation and I imagine that everyone---those who were prayed for and those who prayed for them---are blessed by the experience.

Wow, Kory. I have never heard of Kindergarteners being acknowledged and blessed before school begins. Providing those little ones with such a tangible expression of the love surrounding them from their Covenant family is beautiful. Draping those those quilts over the baptismal font is such powerful reminder of how we are called to live out those baptismal promises. Thanks for sharing!

On the Sunday evening before Labor Day weekend, we hold a special worship service that's focused on praying for students, teachers/staff, and parents as they prepare for "Back to School."  We've done this for the past several years.  The congregation is given a list of all the students as well as teachers who are members of our congregation.  They are also given the names of the administrators of the local schools (Christian and public).  Last year we had a small enough group where the group that was being prayed for sat in an inner circle and the rest of us sat in an outer circle and offered prayers for each group.  Before the prayer time, each group was given an opportunity to share specific prayer requests.  Our group was a little bigger this year so we had the group that was being prayed for sit in chairs up front and share prayer requests.  I led the prayer and then allowed time for others to offer prayers.  Since it was an evening worship, the number of parents and younger students was quite low and the overall attendance was about 1/4 of the congregation.  I'd love to do a similar format where more of the congregation could be present.  It's a powerful time and each year, students, parents and teachers as well as congregation members comment on how much of a blessing the evening was for them.

Long time ago Someone wrote that a congregation should be measured by the songs they sing, not the statement of faith. If that is true then most congregations are vacation bible school mentality at best.

Also, "Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me" (BPsH #388) is in neither the GPsH nor LUYH.

I grew up singing the Doxology at the end of worship, and it still feels right there, although today I think I would move it around in the service (beginning, middle, and end) to keep it fresh and to keep it from seeming routine. My favorite memories of singing Praise God from whom all blessings flow.... are at the end of meals at extended family gatherings. The acapella, traditional 4 part harmony combined with these words of praise to the triune God seemed to lift us a little closer to heaven. The doxology is wonderful with full-blown instruments. But if you're in a setting where a good share of the people know it, I'd encourage singing with the just instruments God has placed within us - our voices!

Thanks! I already had a couple of those on my radar, but not "Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross." Haven't sung that in ages... I'll see if I can fix that... ~Stanley

I attended a meeting recently and we closed with the doxology, Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow. I have attended several meetings (including classes) where we've done the same.  It's difficult for me to even express the powerful presence of God at that moment!  I love the thought of opening and ending a worship service/meeting with praise. I've participated in services where it is offered in the beginning, middle and ending.  It puts the focus on God and not so much on us and what we will do. Of course, a combination of doxology and sending forth closings might be the best option.


Great discussion!

I, too, have found LUYH to be a really good hymnal.  There are a few choices (in song selection and lyrics) that I don't totally understand, but overall it's very good.  I agree, those Twila Paris songs are great.

Some of my favorites from the old hymnals that didn't make the cut:

"Faith of Our Fathers" - BPsH #443 (please, don't let's start a debate on gender issues; I just like the song, that's all)

"Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross" - BPsH #354

"Change My Heart, Oh God" - SNC #56

"Living For Jesus" - Inspiring Hymns #354 (yes, it's in the GPsH, but I can't abide the word changes)

"Jesus, with Thy Church Abide" - BPsH #426 (see comment above)

"Oh God, Be Merciful to Me" - BPsH #105 (the tune is "Sweet Hour of Prayer")

"Out of My Bondage, Sorrow, and Night" - BPsH #428

"Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken" - BPsH #456

Okay, I'll stop.  I realize you were asking for songs from the GPsH and Sing!  But these songs are ones I sang a lot growing up, and I still like singing them.

Amen, Karen! And a big WOW! on those quilts, Kory! However we do it, I agree that this is a good opportunity to pray together for our kids (big and small) and our educators. The editors for Lift Up Your Hearts also thought of marking this moment in worship, and included #274 - a song that says "In all our learning, give us grace to bow ourselves before your face..." (verse 2), along with a spoken prayer for teachers and learners. I also love the simple chorus-like feel of #129 - a song that young and old could sing together with simple percussion, repeating the phrase "We will follow, we will follow Jesus....through the the the our our calling.

Our church has a beautiful tradition of giving all students beginning their Kindergarten year a quilt handmade by some of the ladies in the church. Their name is sewed at the top, the congregation signs a panel on the back. At the beginning of the service the Sunday before school begins (this past Sunday) the quilts are draped over the baptismal font. As each child comes forward, I wrap the quilt around their shoulders, remind them of the promises made at their baptism and encourage them to think of their Covenant family giving them a hug every time they wrap themselves in the quilt. This year was my first time being a part of this and it was truly a wonderful moment.



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