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I would recommend Marlea Gilbert "The Work of The People: What We Do in Worship and Why".  It explains the structure of worship in a clear way. I found it really broadened my understanding of the components of a worship service and renewed my vision for worship. It is easy to read with discussion questions at the end of each chapter as well as ideas for use by a worship committee or team.


I haven't read "For the Beauty"  have heard good things. I think it would be a great choice especially if you want to focus on the role of the arts in worship. 

Is there a particular theme/topic you are hoping to cover? 

Some other possibilities to consider (a beginning list):  

Diversity/Multiethnic worship: The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World, Sandra Maria Van Opstal

Pastoral Role of Worship Leaders: The Worship Pastor: A Call to Ministry for Worship Leaders and Teams, Zac M. Hicks 

Basics on Worship Theology and Practice: Essential Worship: A Handbook for Leaders, Greg Scheer

Worship that is inclusive of all abilities: Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship, Betty Grit and Barb Newman

Worship as Formation/Transformative: You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit  or Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation both by James Smith and What's Love Got to Do With It?: How the Heart of God Shapes Worship, Sam Hamstra

General worship theology and practice (includes study questions): Wise Church: Exploring Faith and Worship with Christians Around the World, Emily Brink and Paul Detterman

Worship and Difficult Times: Stilling the Storm: Worship and Congregational Leadership During Difficult Times, Kathleen Smith

I commend your worship committee for taking time to deepen their understanding and practice through a book study.  There are so many great books on worship that have been written in the last decade that there is something out there for any context.  I am sure others can add to this beginning list. 

Hi Andrew,

Kudos for wanting to learn more about worship with your team. I'm not familiar with that book, but a few I can think of are: The Worship Architect, by Constance Cherry - I've just studied this book recently for a class and found it very helpful in thinking about planning worship. We've (Worship Ministries) been hosting Peer Learning Groups for worship leaders (planners, worship committees, etc.) the last few years. The books that groups are currently using are: The Next Worship, by Sandra Van Opstal - a great book to help you think about multicultural worship in your context. Also, The Accessible Gospel - a book that looks at making the worship accessible to all people, including those with abilities and disabilities. Last year worship groups studied the book, Stilling the Storm, by Kathy Smith - this book is great for a church that is going through transition and/or difficult times. 

If you'd like more information on the peer learning groups that we are supporting, email me at

Hi Tim! Just wanted to give you a heads up that part 4 was just posted here

A few blessings and benedictions:

May God go before you to lead you;
May God go behind you to guard you;
May God go beneath you to support you;
May God go beside you to befriend you.
Do not be afraid. Let the blessing of God come upon you today.
Do note be afraid.

(this first one from Lift Up Your Hearts #946, more found #937, #936, #934, #935, #950, #954, )

The new one below from a service of prayer for the church in Syria (Dec. 2016, This Liturgy has been written by Adeeb Awad, Sabine Dressler, Hadi Ghantous, Najla Kassab, Hartmut Smoor

Sending and Blessings

Liturgist: See, how very good and pleasant it is when kindred stay together in unity.

Congregation: It is like the precious oil on the head that nurtures us and grands us high regard.         

Liturgist: How very good it is to care for each other now and in the time to come.

Congregation: By this we become a blessing to each other by this we become a blessing to the world.

Liturgist: Now leave, protected by God, and go where God will use as instruments of peace. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May God make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Congregation: Amen

Thanks, Kevin! Looks like The Worship Sourcebook can be picked up here and that there's also a lengthy sample available to preview the book. 

Do you have the worship sourcebook?  There are some in there.

I've looked for benedictions before too, and found them pretty scattered. Here are a few links:

    New Testament benedictions

    A few nice ones from Faith and Worship 

    A few Irish ones (especially the last two)

Hope this helps a bit, but also hope you'll post a consolidated list as others respond :-) 


I would love to see the remainder of this series. I've reposted the first 3 parts on our church's FB page and received some positive feedback. But I have not seen any more parts. If they're available please post!

Thank you

Thanks for sharing the story of Eloise. Beautiful little girl!  

posted in: Eloise's Story

Thank you, Angie, for sharing Eloise's life and story. She truly was created and dearly loved by God. While I can't pretend to know your grief and pain, your courage is clear. God will use her life and your story to save others.

posted in: Eloise's Story

Recently I've made a web applications that might answer your question:

Let me know if you have any suggestions on the application: 

Beautiful, Angela! I would really love to see that video and include it in Faith Formation Ministries' Faith Storytelling toolkit so other churches can see it too. If you're willing, send it to me at!

I love this, Angela! What awesome stories probably came out of the question you asked. Thanks for sharing. 

We are new to intnetional faith story telling. Because of what I read on the Network, this summer we video taped 10 responses to the question "Tell me about a meaningful Bible passage and why it is meaningful?" We included youth to seniors and different nationalities. We showed the first one last Sunday and I think it went well. It was very powerful to hear this story from this particular person. I hope it is the beginning of us being much more vulnerable with each other as we share our faith.

Hi Francine, thanks for planning to use one or more of the slides. Also for your Sunday School program, you may want to check out the one to three minute videos we produced. For downloading the slides, clicking (Preview) will only allow you to preview but not download the slides. To download, you need to click on the filename (like Disability_Week_Community.jpg) and that should prompt your computer to open it up in the picture viewer software you have. Once you have it open in that program, use the "save" function to save it to your computer. 

We would like to use these slides for our church disability Sunday program. Having trouble downloading them. Any suggestions? You can email me at

A question to prompt some thought on the matter. When did classical/melodic music start? What was the complexity of the music sung in the time of the old testament? Do we have reason to believe that they sang four part harmony? How complex were there arrangements with the lyre and the ram's horn?

Can we really say that today's music (keeping lyrics out of this) is any better or worse than from the romantic or baroque periods? Or is it just different?

Then you agree that this century's "music" is more jungle chant than melodic? Elementary school level children's song without proper written music? More appropriate for prime time TV than worship? Tuneless ditties?  

Hi Julie, this is a wonderful offer. I'll let the Children and Worship trainers know so that they can refer a church to you if needed. You may also want to post this on The Network's Exchange - just start a new post here on the Network, put the details of your offer in the post, and when it asks you what category to place it in, choose Church Exchange. 

Our church has Children and Worship story figures that we would love to find a new home for them as we have changed our curriculum and no longer use them.  Anyone starting the Children and Worship curriculum and need story figures?  Please contact Julie at

Thanks for reminding me of the musician's perspective Diane! Yes, I too think there is potential for greater ownership and involvement and love the song request box idea. There could also be a digital option, i.e. on the church FB page. 

Thanks, Michele! Balance is so important. It would be interesting to see if the survey found that people were generally pretty happy with the songs or if there was room to grow or change. 

Glad to hear someone else enjoyed this too! Great song as well :) 

I remember this practice, too, Staci, and as a musician I remember the anticipation of whether someone would pick a really hard song to play! But I, too, really enjoyed this. Maybe now churches could have a "Song Request Box" in the back of church, and members could drop in a paper with a song they'd like to sing. The worship leader/planner could try to incorporate these requests as much as possible. It would give people new ownership and involvement in the worship, wouldn't it?


  We no longer have an evening service in Montreal because the people who complained about the format never showed up when there was a formal service in the sanctuary when I moved to Sherbrooke, QC, to attend university there. Now we try to keep a balance between hymns and songs so as to keep the highest number of worshippers happy, and it seems to work.  Of course, I'm not in church every Sunday, but I haven't heard other committee members bring up complaints about the choice of hymns or songs at WoCo meetings.  Maybe we would need to conduct a survey.  

I would always request The Trees of the Field when my church growing up would have the congregation choose. It was my favorite part of attending night church.

I love this idea, Esther. I've always had a soft spot for this style of worship as well as the occasional acoustic (or vocals only) sing along. For me, it sometimes quiets my heart and mind so I can focus.  

I've been visiting other churches recently, many with modern worship styles and spaces, quite different from the traditional setting I'm accustomed to. I appreciated the church I was at recently that announced at the beginning of the service that they had "stripped down" their Praise Band to a single soloist and guitar for a couple of weeks so that the focus was not the musicians or their talent. They said they do this periodically to be sure that the music allows for participation of everyone there rather than people watching and being "entertained". No matter what the worship style this self examination seems like a very good thing.

Hello Jerry - Calvin Seminary's Center for Excellence in Preaching also has some sermons available in audio format. You can find them here.

Thanks for your feedback, Mark.  I hear what  you are saying and I will have to give this some thought.  Words matter.   I do resonate with the idea of opportunity for the whole congregation to grow in its understanding of what it means to be community.

We routinely create DVDs of sermons at Faith Christian Fellowship, a CRC church in Walnut Creek, CA. We use them to give to people who weren't able to make it to church. They are also on our web site at so that you could see in advance what might fit best. My guess is that many other churches do the same - in fact the CRC could maintain an amazing library of sermons this way!

Thanks Leslie! Great thoughts. Here's one for you: I'm beginning to wonder if "accommodations" is even the right word. (And it's one that I use often, so this is something I'm wondering about and I invite you to wonder with me.) "Accommodations" implies that you, whoever the "you" is, are special, and so we'll do something special for you to be a part of us. We don't call stairs an "accommodation", even though there are some people in church who could move from one floor to another using nothing but a rope. Nor do we consider electric lights or toilets or microphones and speakers to be "accommodations". Here's another book to consider, Turning Barriers into Bridges: The Inclusive Use of Information and Communication Technology for Churches in America, Britain, and Canada by John Jay Frank.  In that book he argues that what some of us think of as "accommodations" are actually just ways for people to participate. So in the case of the man you describe, the unplugged mic is not an accommodation for the man who would use it sometimes, it's an opportunity for the whole congregation to be more the community that God calls your congregation to be. So I wonder, if we don't use the word "accommodation", what would be a better word? 

Thanks Adom for starting this discussion, and to everyone who has added to it.
There have been lots of great points made already.

When considering a new song, (in addition to all the things others have already brought up) I think it's important to understand how the song will sound when your team does it. I think a lot of people get tripped up by this. Here's what I mean (sorry if this seems like a blog post I never wrote; it is).

You hear a great song for the first time and you immediately think of using it at your church. It's catchy, emotionally engaging, theologically sound, singable... it seems perfect. You ask others if they've heard it; they have and they like it. Excellent! So you listen to it constantly for a week straight, get a copy of the sheet music, and watch some very well-done instructional videos on YouTube. This is going to be great!

Your enthusiasm is markedly diminished, though, when you start practicing the new song with the praise team. Even though the whole team likes the song and feels they can play their part well, it just doesn't sound right. Sure, you knew it wouldn't sound exactly like the professional recording, but something's off. It could be one or more of a few things.

First, you might not have all the essential instruments. Our church, for instance, has no bass guitar player and usually no lead guitarist. We often have the keyboard player add the low notes and, for some songs, play the melodic hook. While this usually works well enough, sometimes it sounds pretty wretched. Some riffs sound great on the electric guitar, but dull and lifeless when played with a keyboard or violin. So if that riff doesn't sound good on the instruments you have available (or, honestly, if no one on your team can play it really well), you should leave it out.

Second, the team might not be grooving together. What? We're talking about church here. Yes, I know, but most songs sound best when each instrument complements the others effectively. Even though everyone knows the song, they might not be playing something that works really well with what everyone else is playing. You're probably the only one who watched a video on how to play the song. There are countless videos on the web for guitarists, but hardly any for bass or keyboard. And the other instruments are no doubt making it up as they go along. You may need to go through the parts one at a time, making sure each one works, before bringing the whole ensemble in. This requires tremendous patience, so don't get discouraged.

Finally, you might simply have to do the song your own way. Maybe the song works well in completely different style. Shane & Shane's version of "Because He Lives" (Worship Initiative, Vol. 6) is a fantastic example of how to re-imagine a good song in a style that suits the artist or audience. You could do something similar, according to the skills/resources of your team and the needs of your congregation. Maybe by slowing the song down, speeding it up, leaving out the riffs (or writing new ones), or changing the rhythm, the song will suit your church wonderfully.

Obviously, many songs are not so complicated as to present the concerns I mentioned. Still, I think it's good to intentionally go through the process of thinking through a song with your own church in mind.

I got to experience worship with Jeremy and his band, Body + Soul Collective at the Canadian Gathering recently. They lead with humility and reverence, and the original songs that they do fit all of the criteria that Joyce outlined. To me, that's a must for any music we introduce, whether it comes from ourselves, members of our congregation, local churches, our denomination or the great beyone (i.e., CCLI). 

I can't imagine trying to plan a worship service without the Scripture and sermon theme. To me those are essential to choosing songs that lead the congregation through a rich worship experience. The spirit moves as we plan worship while reflecting on the message and events that are happening in the church.


Here are some ideas for getting your music out there:

  • share music via the Network and your own facebook page especially if they use a creative commons copyright allowing free use (unless someone is using it for their own monetary gain in which case they need to seek permission from you.)
  • Start with your own congregation, if they like it they will spread the word. 

I'd also encourage new text/tune writers to look for opportunities to work on their craft.  Few people can sit down and come up with a great song the first time around.

  • Go to a writing workshop to hone your skills.
  • Create a group of trusted individuals (to whom you are not related) to give you constructive feedback
  • Reach out to another singer/songwriter and ask if they would be willing to offer a critique.
  • Keep writing, even if it is only for yourself or your own community.  


Again these are real quick off the top of my head so others please add your input... 

My personal opinion is that, If possible, musicians should try to choose music that is connected to the pastor's message or the concerns of the congregation.  I realize that, especially for praise teams, practices often happen before the sermon outline has been provided (or determined) by the pastor.  But, at the very least, I think music leaders should, before choosing their music, consider whether or not there is a part of the liturgical calendar that should/could be connected to OR an event in the congregation (or society) that could be addressed.

As an attendee at various churches in various denominations (part of my former employment), I'd often hear a song that was "new" to me. Sometimes, I'd be wondering "What were they thinking?"  And, if I was thinking of suggesting it as a song choice for our own congregation, I'd first read through the lyrics as if it were a spoken message to determine if it was spiritually moving.  Often, I'll come across new songs that have a great tune but the tune appears to be wasted by incorporating extremely redundant and boring lyrics.  It's like reading the lyrics of "Happy Birthday".

Of course, that's an opinion that varies from one listener to another and, if a worship team is involved, members' opinions should be sought.  I've learned lots from the opinions and enthusiasm of others.

Interesting that Jeremy Zeyl is coming up here as we as a church have decided to introduce his song "I Am Not My Own" over the month of July as we have recently finished an adult study of the Heidelberg Catechism. It's great to see the efforts he has made to write quality worship music with a reformed theology. 

I have an extension question to your comment on the music being picked up/used in worshipping communities beyond their own - do you have any recommendations as to how an artist might go about achieving that? Outside of your wheelhouse maybe, but I'm curious what you have to say, if anything.



Yes, great reminder James to go beyond the top CCLI songs.  There are so many other avenues for good Reformed, contemporary songs, newly written like Jeremy Zeyl or new arrangements of traditional hymns.  Some additional people to consider are: 

  • Sarah and Phil Majorins from a CRC church plant in Davis, California (Church of Christ, Davis);
  • Bruce Benedict (Hope College Chapel, Holland, Michigan);
  • Aaron Antoon (CRC church planter also in California);
  • Greg Scheer (Church of the Servant, Grand Rapids).  

Also consider looking up music from:

  • Sovereign Grace (Kevin Twit),
  • Urban Doxology (David Bailey)

For more modern arrangements of traditional hymns search those hymns on sites like: 


I'm doing this off the top of my head so I am sure we can add people/websites to each one of these categories.  Please do add your additions.  A suggested key requirement for adding names: the music the individual is writing must have been picked up/used in worshiping communities beyond their own. 

Also note that in the Advent edition of Reformed Worship there is an article on "Reawaken Hymns" by Nathan Drake who explains some basics to taking traditional hymns and playing them in a modern/contemporary style.  The article will include a link to a teaching video as well.  

Excited to see this beginning list grow! 


Great question and excellent response, Joyce. It would be great if this question and answer could make their way into The Banner as it's relevant regardless of the style of worship applied.

At my church, neither elders or our pastor get very involved in selections of songs used in Sunday worship. Instead we have 4 worship leaders who choose the songs. Once in a while, some feedback will come to us either from the pastor or from congregants about the appropriateness of certain songs or lyrics within songs, and sometimes we'll change the words slightly to address the issue.

In general, though, I think we follow most of the principals you've outlined, each applying our own lens. But it's nice to have these lists and I'm going to share them with my fellow leaders. Sometimes the songs we choose are relevant for a "season" within our church; other times they have longer legs.

I would also challenge churches to reach a little further and work a little harder, creating and incorporating our own original music into worship and keeping our ears open for good new music that hasn't reached the CCLI charts. Jeremy Zeyl (, for example is a Reformed contemporary musician from within our own circles (Talbot Street CRC in London, ON) who is creating some rich and original songs that fit all of the criteria above.

Hi Ron,

Thanks for the response! I'm wondering though if you can expand on your first point at all - do you have "criteria" for determining this?

Excellent response by Joyce!  As a church musician for over 40 years, I've enjoyed the changes and have been rewarded by the education given to me by the younger musicians involved in our worship. Still, I do rely on 2 major guidelines (contained within Joyce's response).

1 - Does the text of the song fit within and amplify the message of the service?

2 - Does the music inspire congregational participation in the singing?

And, I'll always remember a lesson given to me over 40 years ago by my teacher.  During congregational singing, church musicians are there to accompany in worship, not to perform.  Yes, occasionally we must assist in teaching a new song and that may require more volume but I often find the community of singing can be destroyed by overwhelming musical accompaniment.  Of course, I'll still pull all the stops for at least one verse of "A Mighty Fortress" but I'm also prone to stop playing altogether for a verse and hear beautiful a capella singing and, as a musician at the front of the church, I often have the best seat in the house.

Thanks for the fast reply Joyce. I appreciate your expanding on the process for the hymnal and your outlining of some of the criteria you use for evaluating music.

Hi Adom, 

Great question(s) and worthy of some discussion.  Since you mention me by name I will try and answer some of them from where I sit but I hope others will engage as well. There is a lot of wisdom out there. 

First, the question about what is or is not allowed to be sung in our worship.  There is no longer any requirement that churches solely use music from one of our published hymnals so in essence you are free to take music from whatever resource/website you have access too.  But, in our polity (church rules of governance) the elders are charged with the task of overseeing worship which includes making sure that the music that is sung is appropriate for worship in a Christian Reformed Church. 

That of course begs an answer to your second question or a rephrase of it, "what qualifies a song as appropriate".  Let me begin by saying just because the editorial committee of Lift Up Your Hearts chose not to include a song doesn't mean that we deemed it inappropriate for use in the CRC.  The fact is that we looked at at least 3,000 songs as a committee and by using up every bit of real estate in the hymnal we managed to include about 850.  So there are a lot of songs we didn't include.  We began with an outline for the hymnal with a rough estimate of how many songs we felt we needed in each section, we were also committed to including songs from a diverse number of genres in each section (roughly global, contemporary, traditional hymnody).  For Christmas for example, we aimed for between 20-25 songs which when you put in the songs that are "required" left little room for anything else.  Many good Christmas songs were left out due to space alone.  Other times we had two songs of the same stylistic genre that said pretty much the same thing so one had to go.  

But there were many additional songs that we let go due to theological or musical concerns.  However, here is another reality when it comes to hymnal publishing.  We were needing to think very broadly about the church which in this case encompassed two denominations spread across two nations.  So it could very well be that a song that we deemed not appropriate for the hymnal might pass scrutiny in a more specific context.  In my own church we have sung a number of songs, even the Sundays I've preached, that did not pass the hymnal committee because of textual concerns.  In our context the problematic reading of the text would never be raised, but given another context that same text would be offensive.  That's where the wisdom of the leadership is important.  It could also be that even though few people will raise their eyebrows at a text it still isn't appropriate for our worship because every song we sing forms us.  

Choosing congregational songs then is a bit about the context but not entirely.  If we take the formative power of worship seriously (and we should) then what people sing will form their understanding of God, God's relationship to us, and our relationship to each other.  As pastors, elders, and others who are tasked with worship's oversight we need to take that priestly and prophetic role very seriously.   Here are some guidelines I have found helpful (though there are exceptions to every rule):


Music Guidelines

  • Singable by congregations rather than a soloist
  • Preferred range: c-d1
  • Rhythmically accessible to congregants
  • Fits the text and supports its message
  • Well-crafted memorable melody
  • Interesting with some predictability but not trite
  • Playable by non-professional but trained musicians
  • Follows the principles of standard music theory, unless compositional style demands otherwise

Text Guidelines

  • Biblical
  • Theologically Reformed
  • Gender-neutral language for people
  • Poetic texts ought to reflect good poetic techniques
  • Grammatically correct (with some poetic license)
  • Artfully written, not trite or mundane
  • Cohesive in thought
  • Understandable message (not puzzling to the singer or needing too much unpacking)
  • Captures the imagination or results in further reflection
  • Communal (we/you not I/me...exception for African American, Psalmody, and other music where I=We)
  • Words fit naturally with selected tune

One of your final comments was whether or not Reformed Worship could highlight a few songs.  We have always highlighted congregational song through our Songs for the Season, then Noteworthy, and soon Sing 10! columns, but we haven't solely focused on newly composed or specifically songs from the contemporary/modern genre but rather sought to highlight songs from diverse genres. The problem I fear with a quarterly journal is that currently we are planning the Lent/Easter issue.  If we provide a list of songs now with critique by Lent/Easter they will already be in use in our churches. Worship folk aren't going to and shouldn't have to wait for the next issue of RW to decide whether or not to use a song. 

As for other means of evaluating new songs for their content I think the Network could be a great place to do that.  I encourage all worship leaders to share their newest finds and offer some reflection on why they commend them to other churches.  And who knows maybe someday we will come up with a system for evaluating new songs on a more regular basis.  Until then do share with each other the best that is out there, and when necessary offer cautionary remarks.  

Hope this helps...happy to engage more. 


Beautiful Things by Gungor.  Great message obviously, but also it uses the pronoun "us" in the choruses.  This nicely counters the rabid individualism of our consumer culture.  

My husband's favorite as well!

posted in: A Cure for Busy

This is one of my favorites too, Laura! 

I've recently been enjoyed the song by Jonny Diaz entitled "Just Breathe". (You can find the video by clicking here). At first I wanted to turn it off because the beat was soooo busy and I just didn't want to hear that in my busy world. But, then, as I listened further, I was blessed by the words that tell us to "just breathe .. come and rest at My feet ... and be .. just be". All we really need is to "just breathe".


This resonates with Syd's reflections. The "peace of God" overcomes. Lay down what is good and find what is best.

posted in: A Cure for Busy

I love how God inspires us with encouraging words and melodies throughout our day.  So many songs come to mind, but for this day in God's perfect timing "Moving Forward" by Integrity's Hosanna! Music is my song.


I'm not going back 
I'm moving ahead 
Here to declare to You my past is over in You

all things are made new 
Surrendered my life to Christ 
I'm moving, moving forward