I love singing (bass), but I'm not a musician so there is much about music that I don't understand, but which is critical to those who are actually musicians. Our congregation has a praise song book which I maintain, but I'm having a real issue with trying to add new songs since the written...

February 28, 2010 0 4 comments

Worship is an intergenerational time, but children aren't always fully engaged or included. I'm especially looking for ideas for later elementary and middle school. What's working at your church?  

February 22, 2010 0 4 comments

As worship leaders we serve as guides. We can take the safe, pleasant, straight and flat path or we can chose something more challenging. The flat path is known and even relaxing; you can enjoy your environment without exerting much energy. The challenging path requires all our senses; it makes us feel alive, and gets the adrenaline pumping. It offers great vistas, many rewards, but yet demands work; it isn’t easy. I think in general churches need a mix of the two sometimes in the same service. There are times for stability and there are times for challenges.

February 22, 2010 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic
What new songs (or not new, for that matter) are you excited about introducing to your congregation? I've really liked "Christ is Risen" by Matt Maher.
February 20, 2010 0 7 comments
Discussion Topic
I saw this posted over in the Church Administration section and thought it might be good to post over here as well. The church I serve at has been tracking this and purchasing new wireless units (budget allowing) in preparation for it as I'm sure many of you have been. But... there may be some that...
February 10, 2010 0 1 comments
Discussion Topic
Okay, so let's get this ball rolling. There are those of us who have done "worship transition" (modernizing worship through music, technology, etc.) and have actually lived to tell the tale. Some of us have battle scars from doing it more than once (no names :)). If you find yourself in that...
February 9, 2010 0 9 comments
Resource, Article

As the church adjusts to changes in the surrounding culture, worship leaders are faced with the challenges of new technology. How is it best used, and who should be the ones using it? Often the person with the keys to the building is put in charge of the new sound system, regardless of his or...

February 8, 2010 0 1 comments

A few weeks ago I was at a choir concert where the Magnificat from Arvo Pärt was performed (listen here). An absolutely stunning piece with the music washing over you and bringing you into the presence of the holy.

February 2, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

The following chart outlines a historic pattern of Christian worship. While most churches don’t use the exact wording found in this chart, there are thousands of churches on many continents that use a version of this pattern.


Call to Worship
Acts of Praise...

January 25, 2010 0 4 comments

Jamie Smith recently gave a lecture in which he said that repentance and assurance in worship are remarkable formative practices that are indispensable to the Christian life. He noted that on Oprah, we can find a form of assurance ("you're o.k.," "just be yourself"), while our shopping mall elicits shame or anxiety in all of us ("none of us measure up to the standards of the good life projected there.")

January 25, 2010 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

What are some of the resources and reflections that would be most helpful to you? How can we develop this site in order to be as helpful as possible? Those of us hosting the site may be able to provide a few of those things--but viewers to the site may well have the resources and ideas to...

January 25, 2010 0 27 comments

I have learned a lot from Mark Charles. Mark is a veteran blogger and a long-time CRC member, who writes very thoughtful pieces on cross-cultural exchanges, especially for members of the church, from his home in Window Rock, Arizona. This piece is the fruit of Mark’s trip to Siberia for a gathering about culturally relevant worship practices. I especially like Mark’s honesty about the unsettling quality of encountering worship practices that are new to us.

January 22, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Your Lenten season will likely involve special worship efforts. Therefore, your worship planning will certainly require many decisions that involve advance planning and preparation. In an effort to help you anticipate these decisions, we list a number of questions and issues here. Other material...

January 19, 2010 0 0 comments

Psalm singing is most certainly making a comeback. By Psalm singing, I mean something more than songs which feature a single verse from the Psalms or which use Psalm-like language. I mean musical settings which follow the shape of the Psalm—a musical setting which is either identical to the Psalm text (chant) or is a kind of singable summary of the Psalm, usually in metrical form like a hymn.

January 19, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

If you’re wondering whether projected technology is all it can be in your congregation’s worship, maybe it’s time to rethink your approach. 

January 15, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

You intuitively know that words set to music sink in more deeply than plain text does. They become part of your muscle memory.

That’s why the new hymnal Singing the New Testament is important. Its 260 songs directly quote or closely paraphrase Bible passages. The first 115 songs trace...

January 15, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

What do you say to family, friends, and team mates gathered to mourn a life cut short by cancer at age 16? What comfort can you offer the grandparents who raised the young man?

When Jesse Leimbach died three years after being diagnosed with cancer, the people of Granite Springs Church in...

January 15, 2010 0 0 comments

What if you could find five people in your congregation, perhaps each representing a different decade (one child, one teen, one thirty-something, one fifty-something, one-eighty something)to tell you what single Psalm verse best expresses the praise and thanks that they personally long to offer God.   The results are likely to be inspiring. Someone might choose a verse from Psalm 150, another a verse from Psalm 30, another a verse from Psalm 63. 

January 15, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Let down and a little lonely. If that’s how you feel after communion, it’s possible that other worshipers in your church might also wonder after the Eucharist, “Is that all there is?”

Rather than blame yourself or decide that communion is meaningless, consider whether your worship space...

January 12, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

As Christian Reformed congregations reclaim the importance of baptism, they’re making the sacrament multisensory and helping worshipers “live into” their baptisms.

The desire to make baptism memorable can result in families hiring a photographer, choosing schmaltzy music, and catering a...

January 12, 2010 0 2 comments
Resource, Article

The following is an emerging draft of all of the worship-related resources provided by the Christian Reformed Church and its agencies and educational institutions—and easy place to gain access to the audio files, bulletin covers, liturgies, videos, and publications that worship planners and...

January 12, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Worship planners are called to a task that is part priestly and part prophetic. Worship planners are like priests because we shape the prayers of God’s people. We also have the holy task of being stewards of God’s Word. Worship planners are like prophets because we select the texts and themes...

January 12, 2010 0 0 comments

Henry Nouwen once argued that the three greatest temptations for Christian leaders are to be a) relevant, b) spectacular, and c) powerful (In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, Crossroads, 1987). 

January 12, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Churches are constantly navigating the copyright maze when they use music, other print resources, and videos. Each medium has slightly different laws regulating it. Here is some information to help you. If this still doesn’t answer your question, contact the publisher directly. The publisher’s...

January 11, 2010 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Just as the types of prayers will include a great deal of variety, so should the methods in which we pray represent a variety. Perhaps if we suggest an admittedly incomplete listing of some different methods, it will stimulate your ideas, discussions, and planning.

January 7, 2010 0 0 comments



What a great idea! Hey, let's share a few here, too!

Everyone....what's one of your 'heart songs' and why?

Our congregation is doing a summer sermon series called "Heart songs of God's People." We invited members of the congregation to submit to a pastor their favorite worship song and why (the "why" being the important part). We are asking everyone who submitted to share on a Sunday morning why a song is their "heart song." This is venue for members to give a theological reflection or a personal testimony. Then the sermon will be on a Bible passage that the song references. We are doing this partly because Sept-May we have two morning services, one traditional, one contemporary, and we would like to pull these groups together rather than having effectively two separate congregations. We hope that this will shift the emphasis away from style and towards God.

The reason I mention this in this thread is because I don't think it is in our best interest to attempt to create a "core set." People have their "heart songs", the songs of their old age, for many different reasons. I think worship leaders and pastors have a responsibility to find out what they are. I realize that this makes the possibilities pretty endless, but I think the diversity can be helpful and enjoyable for the church.

We just baptized our daughter this past Sunday (June 20, 2010) and incorporated many of these ideas to make it a memorable and meaningful event. Our church has not always treated baptism with the thoughtfulness it deserved, so we suggested some things to our worship coordinators that would help us move forward in that. I sewed a special banner for the occasion (using a design I found in Reformed Worship magazine as inspiration), we chose special hymns, had everyone who witnessed the baptism sign a photograph of our daughter as a way to affirm their part of the baptismal vows, and used a pitcher that had been given to my husban and I as a wedding gift to pour her baptismal water (some of which came from the Jordan River) into the font. It turned out to be a lovely service, and I heard lots of people say it was the nicest baptism our church has celebrated.

Details are on my blog: http://growingupsharp.blogspot.com/2010/06/from-generation-to-generation...

Amen to both above comments!

Be creative--don't continue with .. "form or superstition" mentioned in one of the [older] forms.

How exciting, Tom! I would utilize all of these languages in the reading of scripture and in prayers. I would also have songs from all of those backgrounds represented--with the appropriate instruments if possible. A song such as "God is So Good" can be sung in a variety of languages to unite all cultures. I'd encourage you to think global, and enjoy the opportunity of worshiping with so many different "nations."

Hey Ken......we do monthly meetings (conversational, but also evaluative) with all our main ministry leaders, so this may have to be tweaked some, but here's what we use (from our Worship Leader job description):

Major Points of Accountability:
1. Personal spiritual growth
2. Spiritual growth of team members
3. Commitment to excellence
a. Worship Experience Flow
b. Preparation/Communication
c. Rehearsals
d. Execution
e. Back-End Evaluation/Debreifing
4. Cultivating a creative environment
5. Marked improvement in team over time

Points for Monthly Conversation
1. Personal spiritual development
2. Spiritual development of team members
3. Professional/Social development of team atmosphere
a. How are you holding team members accountable – are there accountability issues?
4. What worked well this past month?
5. What did not work well during this past month?
6. What are the team’s overall strengths and growing edges? Have those changed this month?
7. Song Selection
a. Appropriate use of repetition (using songs often enough but not too often; new songs)
b. Signature Songs (songs only your team does to the point of memorization)
c. Pork Barrel (are you using your songs or forcing yourself to create new)
d. Use of different worship music eras (hymns, 80’s/90’s songs, 00’s songs)
e. Emotional balance (fast-paced, celebrative songs vs. slower, worshipful, contemplative songs)
f. Balance with the global Church (how many top 25 CCLI songs are you/we using?)
g. How does your song selection match our church's mission/vision/core values?
8. Personal creative growth
a. What new/different worship music have you been listening to?
b. What non-Christian music/genres have you been listening to?
c. What one new worship leader “trick” would you like to try this month?
d. Have you learned anything new musically this month?
e. Handling and processing any praise/critique from the last month.
9. Collaboration
a. Communicate series themes for upcoming months
b. Keeping tech team members up to date and working closely alongside
c. How well and how far in advance are you communicating playlist/order to your team?
10. Prayer for one another

I've been a part of both traditions - reading a form and extemporaneous speaking through the sacraments. I see value in both, but I think in each it was the delivery that created a worshipful moment or a dull going-through-the-motions event. My congregation had been using forms until recently. In the last few years, I enjoyed putting forms together from the Hymnal or The Worship Sourcebook to add some variety to the sacrament liturgy by including ancient words (e.g. the sursum corda), weaving in refrains or other songs, or adding other spoken parts by the congregation. Now, even though forms are rarely used, the theology of the sacrament is still covered, the promises of God are still recalled, and quite frankly, it doesn't take as long.

The church I'm on staff at has a very vibrant orphan/adoption ministry (www.hope127.com). On Mother's and Father's Day, instead of handing out flowers or trinkets that are forgotten by the next day... we take the money we would have spent on those things and direct it straight to that ministry by way of a presentation of a large cardboard check. We share to the congregation that this money is better spent to enabling families to adopt children that might not ever feel the love of a mother or father. It helps us take a 'Hallmark" holiday and refocus it into a ministry opportunity.

"Holy Spirit" by Keith and Kristyn Getty (© 2006 Thankyou music/Adm. by worshiptogether.com songs) is one of my favorites. I found it for use at Pentecost a couple of years ago, and now use it throughout the year. We also sing "Holy Spirit, Reign Down" by Russell Fragar (© 1997 Russell Fragar/Hillsongs Publishing). This one has more of a gospel feel. Hope this helps!

In our church, we recognize the day with prayers for mothers/fathers, and also for mother and father figures. We are also sensitive to those who cannot have children, so we pray for them as well. We generally give a small gift (bookmark, pen, keychain...) to ALL women or men on their respective days, recognizing that we have all promised at the time of baptism to nurture the children of our church.


I agree with Chad. And coming from a personal stand that my wife and I will not have children of our own is a difficult thing to observe on these days. So to pray for mothers and fathers during a prayer or the thought of how important all adults are to children during a children's message is one way to present it. But to theme your service around Mother's Day and Father's Day would be celebrating "st. halmark".

I agree that there is a disconnect between the desire to have a common "core set" across the denomination and the reality of how most congregations find songs to sing. We just don't all use the same, single source anymore.

It seems to me (but I might be wrong about this) that one of the unfortunate consequences of the Gray Hymnal was a decline in singing the Psalms because many of the tunes were unfamiliar and difficult. I would imagine that many people who spent much of their lives with other Psalters have Psalms as many of the songs they remember into old age. But I, having sung mostly out of the Gray, know very few. That's too bad, and I hope the new hymnal includes many singable, memorable songs using Biblical texts so that some of what we cherish into old age is scripture.

Maybe we won't be able to have a unified effort across the denomination, but in each of our congregations we should work to sing Biblical texts often so that these become our life-long favorites. I also make a point of saying, "This song is based on _________," whenever we're about to sing a song from scripture so that hopefully people begin to remember that "Create In Me A Clean Heart" comes from Psalm 51, for example.

Hi Angela,
This can be a delicate topic. Many worship planners and pastors believe Hallmark & national holiday celebrations (Mother's/Father's Day, Valentine's, 4th of July, Labor/Memorial Days, etc) do not really belong in worship, and for very good reasons theologically and pastorally. God transcends national and international borders so our worship should reflect that; some congregants may have histories of abuse by their fathers and mothers, or there are worshipers who do not have children for what may be from painful circumstances. Others believe that ignoring these holidays altogether, especially when they fall on a Sunday, disconnects the church from the culture around them, thus making them irrelevant. I understand this point to an extent. As for simple things: you could include prayers of thanksgiving for mothers/fathers within the context of a larger prayer, or a simple "Happy Mother's/Father's Day" along with other pastorally sensitive words at the welcome would be fitting. For a greater challenge, the pastor could use Mother's Day as a teaching moment to explore the characteristics of God that are like a mother (similarly, this is often done at Father's Day).

I just look at it this way, in worship God is the audience we are the participants. As covenant people we show our love to God and reflect how much we do to those "outside" who may also be there. In the process, God "inhabits the praises of his people" and his Spirit moves through the worship experience.

Mark, in response to your tangent about why we don't think the summary of the commandments applies to songs, it doesn't seem at all obvious to me that worship music, much less worship itself, should conform to that commandment. Communal worship is usually understood to be commanded by the first table of the law, which is summarized by the first half of what Jesus said -- love God -- not by the whole summary. Furthermore, the pattern for worship is usually derived from acts of covenant renewal found in places like the book of Deuteronomy or Joshua 24. Certainly our primary obligation in worship is to love God, but if worship is primarily covenant renewal, it wouldn't seem right to put the interests of those outside the covenant ahead of those inside. Obviously we shouldn't worship in ways that are unnecessarily off-putting to outsiders, but that doesn't mean that we should therefore worship in ways that are unnecessarily off-putting to those inside for the sake of those outside.

Given the nature of the biblical commands and models for worship, I am inclined to think that perhaps our worship priorities are, in fact, first to God, then to those in the covenant, and only third to those outside. Certainly this still means that the interests you have as an individual never come before the interests of others in the church in worship. And certainly the pattern would apply only to communal worship and not to other aspects of life as the body of Christ. But perhaps I'm missing something in this argument.

[quote=Brian Kuyper] I hear a lot about "modern" worship. I find that this is a difficult thing to define. What constitutes "modern" worship? Just because you have guitars instead of an organ does that constitute "modern"? [/quote]

Hey Brian......good to welcome a another Dordt/CalvinSem grad to the discussion.

I won't try to overwhelm you with info like most of my posts, but for the purpose of this discussion, we've been talking musically in these terms:

1. Traditional (hymnody)
2. Contemporary (Gaithers-->Michael W. Smith)
3. Modern (Tomlin, Hillsong to current)
4. Neo-Traditional & world (see the Green Hymnal)

The #2/#3 difference is an important one, though often misunderstood. Musically, it was the shift from keys-led to rhythm/guitar-driven and yet became more complex in structure (ie, a full band was more necessary than before). Lyrically, it also ushered in a new standard for quality in lyrics and became much more justice and missionally-oriented, IMHO).

I've got an entire blog post on that here:

You can see much more than you probably want in our other discussion: http://bit.ly/9ISH7w


Normally I dont respond to things like this, but this caught my attention for a couple of reasons. One being the fact that as I read, I hear a lot about "modern" worship. I find that this is a difficult thing to define. What constitutes "modern" worship? Just because you have guitars instead of an organ does that constitute "modern"? In the church I am currently serving, we have a praise band that leads worship once every three weeks. The lady who helps me plan the worship service is very intentional about trying to keep a balance with hymns and "Modern" songs, because of the local setting we are in. But the "style" of this praise band is unique in my opinion, but does it make it more or less "modern?"

I have had the opportunity in my life to be a part of a lot of different congregations, mainly CRC. But I have was raised in Suburban Los Angeles, I went to school at Dordt College and Calvin Seminary. I married a Canadian from Ontario, interned in Ontario, and now serve in Southern Alberta. As I have read above, there is so much diversity all across the board when it comes to worship. Each congregation finds its way of "doing" worship. I feel as long as it is genuine and from the heart it is giving praise and glory to the Father. It doesnt have to be "perfect" or sound exactly like Hillsong.

Another reason this intrigues me is because my wife is on the committee as well. She has a wealth of music and theological training and I think that is an asset, along with her background of living in different areas as well.

One thing we have to realize is that yes, there is a higher percentage (i dont know the number myself) of churches who do use hymnals. The church I serve has the blue and the gray! There is a lot of information available online yes, maybe we dont utilize the right websites, but I find that when you do a search for a song for guitar chords lets say, or even just the lyrics, there can be a number of versions. For example on Good Friday we were going to put the words up on the screen for "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" as well as "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." There wasnt just one set of lyrics for these songs. It was easier for me to type them in from the hymn book.

I myself have struggled with the question why do we need one when a lot of churches use the Screen. But, as April said earlier, when serving in a rural church, it is very useful. I think that having a hymn book that gives us a set of "core" songs will be helpful in the long run.

Oui! Nous ferons de notre mieux.

Though it is an official language in Canada the reality is that we have CRC/RCA congregations that worship solely in Spanish, Korean and various other languages but we don't have any that worship solely in French. That being said we will try to include it some. We also have the opportunity to put translations on www.thehymnary.org when they are available (and copyright allows).

The Lutheran church just put out a French hymnal "Liturgies et Cantiques Lutheriens" which includes many traditional hymns. You may find that a useful resource for translations. It is available through Concordia Publishing www.cph.org

Our hope is to have those files for download at www.hymnary.org where we will also have additional resources for songs as they become available, such as translations. We will probably leave the texts in Word so that it can easily be used by various presentation technologies. (OF course we will be limited to posting what we can get copyright permission for.)

There is a CD available with the forms and confessions already: http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Worship/Songbooks

These forms etc. can also be accessed online see the link to "CRCNA Website One-Stop Resource Index" on the Worship main page.

My only hope, and I've expressed this to Joyce before, is that there will be some French language inclusions in the hymnal.

I don't know if this has been brought up, I have not had time to read through the other comments at this point. Speaking from the point of view of a former PowerPoint operator and the one who sets up the assigned service in PowerPoint, I think it would be beneficial if a CD or something accompanied this hymnal for congregations that use PPT regularly in their worship services. The CD should include all the liturgies, Communion, Profession of Faith, etc forms in a Word document. That would save a lot of time in setting up services in PPT.

I think it would be awesome to develop a modern-worship CICW/Symposium! I know I could definitely use some additional training and my band would probably also find that very beneficial. I go to Symposium and glean knowledge and info based on what's offered there...if more was offered on this end of the spectrum I'd definitely check it out. I think I saw in another thread someone mentioned a small underground network of modern worship leaders (was that you?). How can we encourgage some mobilization with them and with others who would be interested in an effort like this?

Hey Chad....

Thanks for the comments, its good to have folks like you and Joyce to give actual information to our discussions :).

I wasn't trying to bemoan CICW/Symposium for what they do......they do what they do well....perhaps the bigger problem is that we lack a strong leaders on the other end of the spectrum.....something like a modern-worship-CICW, be it a supplementary organization or whatever, within the CRC.....so CRC's who want to move from traditional towards something more modern are left without many good Reformed options.

Maybe those of us who are doing it need to create something of the sort? I'd love to have a regional or national gathering of CRC/RCA churches specifically targeted at a more band-based approach to worship. Greg Scheer and Paul Ryan led a workshop like that at Redeemer a few years back that was fairly well done, but imagine a whole "modern" Symposium.....that would be great fun for us modern worship junkies and be a great resource for congregations that are longing for it. I'm not sure trying to work that into the current Symposium is achievable without major concessions from both sides.

I think we probably will disagree about the hymnal however, be it philosophically or practically in nature - anything hymn-related I can usually find easily online or figure out the usually-easy chord progression so I just don't see the need locally. But like I said....if Faith Alive can make net profit on it, go for it. However, I also hear what Zach was saying....give a man a fish and feed him for a day or teach him to fish.....

[quote=Mark]I'd be very interested to know what percentage of the advisory panel for the new hymnal comes from churches that have "full" and "modern" bands - guitar-driven, with electric guitars, keys, drums, bass, worship leaders, etc. who actually sing modern songs.[/quote]

*raising hand* I'm an advisory committee member who doubles as worship leader with a full band, triples as organist, lead vocalist, and choir director. My congregation worships in the styles of Tomlin, Hillsong, Iona, Getty, Haugen, Wesley, and Luther. It would be foolish for any of us to assume that most congregations worship exactly the way ours do (on any point of the spectrum from "traditional" to "modern"), and I also do not believe if other congregations worship differently that they're doing it wrong. I cannot speak to the total percentage of committee members who are of the "modern" church persuasion. However, at our advisory committee meetings I have observed a widespread diversity in terms of worshiping voice. So while Lift Up Your Hearts may not meet the needs for “modern” worship as some define it, most of our congregations will be very well-served by this collection. My own congregation may not even purchase the books for the sanctuary, but as a worship planner and leader I will certainly be able to use it well, even if only to introduce new hymns (yes, they may even be called "modern hymns") to the congregation, or provide condensed music for my song leaders who more often than not prefer music to chord sheets.

[quote=Mark]...one visit to CICW's website or to Symposium and you realize EXACTLY what side of the traditional/contemporary/modern/neo-traditional worship discussion they are on. Part of the tension we're feeling here is that the denominational "authority" on worship is firmly non-modern, if not in philosophy, definitely in practice. [/quote]

I have attended Symposium half a dozen times in the last decade and I find this assessment a bit unfair. I do understand what you are saying in that we don’t worship there in the same way as at a David Crowder Band concert, but using “non-modern” is hyperbolic. I believe there is more to modern than the latest hits on the CCLI list. The target audience for an event like Symposium is altogether different from that of a worship conference at Dallas Baptist University (maybe this separation is something that needs to be addressed). So perhaps worship is done a certain way at Synod or Symposium, but that does not dictate an official position for the denomination. Yes, a stronger resource is needed for the modern worship as some voices here define it, but I will not discredit the hard work of people like Paul Ryan, Ron Rienstra, and others by saying little has been done to understand or resource the genre change. I see Reformed Worship mentioned in this thread as well. Certainly it can be one arena for that "modern" voice. I know Joyce continually seeks to include new resources and submissions from worship planners. I think it would be great for "modern" worship leaders to contribute to RW, which could help expand its platform to serve other modern congregations or those transitioning to more “modern” styles of worship. Also, it should be noted here that an open invitation was offered to any and all who wanted to serve on this advisory committee. Like I said, I do not know the breakdown of those who hail from “modern” churches, but the opportunity for them to participate was equally given to those of any church.

I'd like to echo Joyce's initial reflections here in regards to employing styles of worship that may not be indigenous to our congregations. I consider myself fortunate to have talented instrumentalists in my congregation who can lead “modern” songs. These are guitarists, bassists, drummers, and vocalists who are dedicated to leading us each week in modern expressions of musical worship. At this point, our sound is not even close to that of Hillsong, Crowder, or Tomlin, but it is still done well and, more importantly, it is genuinely offered. Is that an injustice to the genre? I truly hope not. I've heard many bad organists slaughter hymn-accompaniments, and while it's unfortunate and it may distract ME, I think that is something I need to work through and get over in order to refocus on the bigger picture here. I just don't think we can really take such a purist stance on this.


What a fantastic topic- one that should resound with multiple generations. (I'm currently a sophomore at Calvin.)

It is possible? Of course it is! My suggestion: Start early. I remember standing in the pews of church tearing up to a hymn over the organ when I was a kid. Why, you might ask? I was moved. There are just certain songs that resonate with people. I might have rarely looked at the lyrics of the song as a kid, but these are the ones that stick in my head. "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation. O my soul praise him for he is your health and salvation. Come, all who hear, brothers and sister draw near, join me in glad adoration." Or even Martin Luther's fantastic hymn: "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. Our helper he amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe does seek to work us woe; his craft and power are great and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal." This list is much longer in reality!

I find that the more contemporary songs need to prove themselves, in a sense. I agree with Josh that some songs are making their way to almost a sort of canonization. The largest factor is time. This is for all songs. The second factor is musical preference. Whether it be traditional or contemporary, it's up to the individual congregation. Some songs sound better on the organ than on guitar, vice versa. The songs that sound great on both are the ones that are typically played more often, almost out of principle.

I'm excited for the new hymnal to come out. Certain congregations with all organ music will be playing contemporary songs with that pure pipe sound. How awesome will that be! Each congregation deals with the subject differently, and certain songs will just always be in our minds, regardless of if we really try to keep them there or not. :)



I'm right there with you. I cut my teeth preaching in a nursing home with people in different stages of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. They would respond in different ways to the sermon. Some wouldn't respond at all. But within the first three notes of an old hymn it was like a choir singing. Only the family members seemed to use the song books. The two songs that they knew almost every word to was "Blessed Assurance" and "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" which was almost fitting. They may not have heard or understood anything I said, but the congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ praised His name in song.

As for having a solid hymnody that can carry on, I think there are some praise songs from the 70's and early 80's that are starting to get to that point such as "Lord I lift your name on high" and I think Hillsong's "Shine Jesus Shine" is getting there as well. But I think there is also a need to re-introduce the older hymns in a way that is fresh and able to interact with the upcoming generation of leaders who will one day pass along the hymnody to their next group of leaders.

Prior to entering ministry in a rural setting, I would've agreed wholeheartedly that the time for a printed hymnal has come and gone. It isn't that I don't love hymns and desire to continue singing them, but my experience in a larger church with greater resources made me think hard copy music wasn't needed.

However, I am now in a hymn-singing church with one hymnal to sing from. It is tattered, worn, and decidedly not Reformed in any way. This is the experience of a majority of the churches in the Reformed Church in America (I think one of my professors shared the statistic that 80% of RCA churches are rural, and many of them are declining). For a new hymnal I say -YES! I just hope that it won't be filled with new songs. A few new songs would be good, and I would like to see some of those songs come over from the Sing a New Creation! book.

Hey JT, love the discussion topic - one of my favorite things to do is go to the nursing home and play hymns on the guitar, as well. My favorite (and theirs) seems to be "In the Garden" - they request it every time and I gladly oblige. Oddly enough, however, it seems that even in nursing homes, there's a large variation of what people know depending on what tradition they grew up in.

I think the "longevity" of songs is a legitimate issue, as is the idea of having a theoretical "songbook" - what my worship professor at Dordt would describe as the 40-100 songs that are repeated fairly often. I think this number reduces if churches only have one service on Sundays and how transient the group is (we're lucky if many of our folks show up every three weeks).

To the latter, we solidly focus on the team approach - 2-3 fixed bands that always play together (just like in the real world). With that, we have teams select songs they'll play (whether hymns, worship songs or songs they write) and they are then ineligible for the other teams to pick. Each of the teams works with about 20 songs at a time (if they add one, they drop one) and get really good at those. The added benefit is that we repeat enough music that the church gets to know the music, too.

There's another church in GR that writes all their own music and gives CD's to guests so they can know the "songbook", as well.

To the former, I think longevity of songs is nice, but I think it can become an idol like any other good thing in life (and church life). I love being able to hum songs to myself (and God) during quiet time, but I'd say its 33%/33%/33% between hymns/songs I sang when I started in worship in the 90's/songs my bands play now. Maybe that's indicative of the modern worshipper - we all hide certain songs in our hearts.....and it might mean I don't know the songs the guitarist plays in MY retirement home, but I'm cool with that. :)

Its really a lot like classic rock and modern pop songs.....everyone knows a couple Beatles songs, a couple Elvis songs, a couple U2 songs.....and something by Lady Gaga we heard last week and wish we didn't. Music has both a personal and corporate dimension and both are important, though not exclusively.

[quote=jborger]Zach, you may be in a church that utilizes many resources but what about the churches that only has one hymnal from which they sing? Should they not be provided with the necessary tools to worship in a relavent way? [/quote]

It's interesting that you wrote "tools" (plural) in the second sentence, but referenced "one hymnal" (singular) in the first sentence. I don't want to nitpick your words too much to make it mean more than you intend, but I definitely lean more towards helping churches access the many, many tools (and songs) for leading worship and would feel sad and restricted if all I had to use was one hymnal.

Also, I am well aware of the many resources offered by the denomination/worship institute from my time at Calvin Seminary. We use some of them here. My only point in this whole discussion is that the hymnal should be considered one resource among many.

Okay, y'all lured me back into the conversation - good points by all above.

It seems to me that there some "hymnal philosophical elephants" in the room and I'd like to point them out....you can see my actual position below.

1. In some ways, I really feel for Faith Alive/CICW here. Whether or not the really WANT to produce this hymnal, Synod asked them to do it. The other angle is that they are both publishing/resourcing agencies who, to varying degrees, are supported by what they SELL. Therefore, even with the best intentions, there is a financial/marketability dimension to this discussion. Quite frankly, they know some of us won't own this hymnal or purchase it for our churches, regardless of how good it is - so why try to please us? (You can't please everyone, right.)

2. On the other hand, one visit to CICW's website or to Symposium and you realize EXACTLY what side of the traditional/contemporary/modern/neo-traditional worship discussion they are on. Part of the tension we're feeling here is that the denominational "authority" on worship is firmly non-modern, if not in philosophy, definitely in practice. That's not a bad thing - they're good at what they actually do, except for the fact that it becomes the de facto position for our denomination and it comes to a head on things like a denominational hymnal. Another good example is "Reformed Worship" magazine - which some might see as a descriptive source for how Reformed folks handle worship....when in fact, it only represents a segment. It has to do with representation......I'd be very interested to know what percentage of the advisory panel for the new hymnal comes from churches that have "full" and "modern" bands - guitar-driven, with electric guitars, keys, drums, bass, worship leaders, etc. who actually sing modern songs (I'm talking more Hillsong and Tomlin here than Shine Jesus Shine).

3. While the idea of a "core collection" is nice, its probably any more not feasible any more than a multi-denominational confession is. At my last church, which was in a different denomination, they got mad because I wasn't playing "old hymns". I was, in fact, playing old hymns....they just weren't the hymns that were part of their core. Over the next 50 years, as churches become less denominational and more congregational or united by common theological/practical affiliations (WCA, Acts 29, etc.), the local expression becomes more important....I think we're already past that tipping point in most places outside West Michigan. (Not to mention, the Grey Hymnal substituted verses and word changes that made them dissimilar to the "core collection", anyway).

4. Allen's point about "the rubber hitting the road" is a great one. No matter the good intentions of the hymnal publishers, we know from experience that, at the local level, some organist/pianist will refuse to play a supportive role in the band as the church progresses in their worship expression and will use a denominational hymnal as THE excuse to do so. "Look", she'll say, "I'm just playing the notes that are in the hymnal the way I always have. If it was meant to be led by a guitar or have drums, it would say that." (If you really don't believe me, go to the Grey Hymnal and find the notations saying "guitar and piano should not sound together".) Putting modern worship music, particularly when there is a refusal to represent it in its long-form, does an injustice to the genre and FUELS the worship wars more than quelling them. It also drives a deeper divide between "hymnal" churches and "non-hymnal" churches, rather than letting us learn from eachother in a constructive environment.

I should say I'm not against publishing a hymnal - Faith Alive and CICW can do whatever they want. What I am against is labeling it a DENOMINATIONAL hymnal when there's been precious little evidence that the denominational de facto leadership on worship have understood the genre change or trying to resource the modern worship element of that denomination. Just publish a book of hymns and "world music" for the churches who actually want to buy it - its good business sense and it isn't as off-putting to us on the other side. That, if it had significant differences from my other 15 hymnals and hymnary.org, I'd probably buy to have on my shelf as a resource.

By the way, we're still calling this a "HYMNal".........?

Tim, you raise some great questions. Ultimately the songs that get passed on are the songs that make it into the hearts of the next generation regardless of format. I think it is the job of the pastor/worship planners to make conscious choices about the music that their church sings, reflecting on the body of songs as a whole as well as each song individually. Whether they use a hymnal, many hymnals, web resources or a mix of resources the task of choosing the songs of the congregation is one that ought not be taken lightly. What messages do we want to resonate in our hearts and the hearts of our children? The hymnal committee asks that a lot when we think of creating a balance of theological, pastoral, and spiritual themes. It takes a pairing of great texts and tunes as well so you need to employ theologians, poets, and musicians, to help make the decisions. "Amazing Grace" and "In Christ Alone" have both made it as "heart songs" because they speak to the heart and our Christian experience but also because they are singable... repeatedly. Interestingly, "Amazing Grace" isn't sung all that much in our congregations anymore but it doesn't need to be, it has become such a classic in the repertoire that it is most poignant when sung in the moment when no other song will do.

Zach, you may be in a church that utilizes many resources but what about the churches that only has one hymnal from which they sing? Should they not be provided with the necessary tools to worship in a relavent way?

The appropriate research was done well in advance of the gathering of any committee and it was deemed that there was indeed a desire for and need for a new hymnal. The cost of producing the hymnal is covered through the sales and is not dependent on any ministry shares.

Certainly, many (though not all) of our congregations are comfortable using web resources and this hymnal will be supported by online material, and as much of the material as possible from the hymnal will be available on the web.

There use to be a day when one hymnal met the needs of all churches as did one Sunday School curriculum. The growing diversity within our denomination is a great thing but that means diverse needs. It seems that your congregation's music needs are currently being met through readily available resources on the web; it could very well be that this hymnal may not and that is ok. But, I do hope that you take a careful look at it when it comes out. And, if you are able examine the songbooks already produced and provide feedback on them via the hymnal website.

Now you've got me thinking...is a hymnal a format (i.e. book) or a 'core collection' (available in many formats)?

If the latter, how does a collection of songs remain 'core' over a long period of time within a church? Or a denomination? Or inter-denominationally?

In other words, would 'Amazing Grace' be as universally loved if it weren't for hymn books? Obviously, I've got more questions than answers!

I agree that having a core set of songs that Christians can share is an eminently valuable thing. I just think that change in media over the last 20 years means that this goal is not likely to be accomplished through a large book.

I am all for using a hymnal as one resource among many.

For me, one of the most compelling arguments I've heard for a hymnal is that we should have a 'core' set of songs that are well known across our churches and those from other denominations.

Why does that resonate with me?

My wife is a chaplain in a long-term care setting with people from a wide variety of faith backgrounds. She has amazing testimonies of what happens when she is able to sing a familiar hymn or song with them. I saw the same thing when, as a kid, my parents would drag me along whenever a few from our church would go to a similar facility to 'sing with the seniors'. Music taps into something so deep, so powerful that people who are barely able to communicate are somehow able to hum or even sing along.

Personally, I love contemporary music styles. But I sure hope that there's still a 'core' set of songs that is learned by my kids, kids from other denominations, and those who will may minister to them throughout their lives. I think a denominational hymnal - or, in this case, a bi-denominational one - helps that.

I encourage folks to go to the hymnal website for more info re: the reason behind doing a hymnal. But to respond to the comment regarding the hymnal creating a common voice. I completely agree that churches make use of multiple resources and some do not use any hymnal. For churches that use the most recently composed music no hymnal will meet their needs like the web does. Our hope is that those worship planners will keep a copy of this hymnal as a resource. When deciding to sing a traditional hymn our hope is that you will consult the hymnal to so we can learn/sing the same words regardless of the style of the accompaniment. If such a church wants to include a new song, maybe something from the global church that they will again turn to this hymnal. There are also many churches that will sing directly from the hymnal on occasion and yet other churshes will sing from it solely. In this way we hope to create a common voice.

Maybe it is better to consider the hymnal as a common thread between each church's unique musical tapestry.

In other words we have no delusions that this hymnal will fill the musical needs of allCRC/RCA churches. We are much too diverse for that. But we hope to meet the needs of hymnal using churches and provide a great resource for others to use

And yes CCLI is a great resource for contemporary song (less helpful for traditional hymnody, modern hymnody and global song) we use it all the time as does CICW.

I agree Zach.
As some of our discussion has gone on this site, I'm not so sure putting all the time and money into a new hymnbook is stewardly or fully in-touch with the continually changing face of contemporary music. Perhaps our best efforts would best be served by showing churches how to use the great online resources. My concern is that guitar-led songs will be turned into keyboard led songs, which will do a great disservice to the musical intent of the song.

I'm also going out on a limb here, but I have often sensed an apprehension from the CICW to encourage use of the CCLI site.

What kinds of simple things do churches do to celebrate Mothers Day, Fathers Day and Pentecost?

I find that our worship planners use a variety of congregational-singing & presentation music that comes from wherever they can find it - from harder rock to hillsong, gospel, hymns (new and old versions, with the band and occasionally the organ), as well as music from CCLI's top 25. Which is to say that there is an availability of music today that was not available at all the last time a hymnal was put together (available online, especially if musicians can figure out stuff they hear).

The CRC webpage says the new hymnal is an attempt to "give a common voice to our worship in the twenty-first century." But because of the speed and manner (online, radio, file-sharing) with which music is distributed today, I don't think it is possible for a hymnal to accomplish this goal.

The trend is to use multiple, not single, sources for songs & music, and I think the trend will be for churches to use this hymnal as one source among many.

In addition to CCLI, you can also search songs by topic at www.hymnary.org.

Telkwa CRC has been encouraging giving testimonies during worship for a while now. We have the philosophy that professing our faith is something we're called to do regularly -- daily in whatever context we find ourselves! -- and not solely on one formal occasion.

At the front of the sanctuary, we're creating a "monument" made of rocks, following the lead of the Israelites after they passed through the Jordan River (Joshua 4; they did this at other times, too). When someone gives a testimony, they're invited to take a rock (either from our stash in a corner or one they found themselves) and add it to the growing pile. Each rock represents a specific example of God at work in a person. A while ago, whoever was interested went on a "field trip" after a morning service to the nearby river bank to collect some rocks for our stash; this was a great way to involve the kids!

We don't do this every week, but at least a couple times a month, people are invited to come forward to share how they've recently encountered God. Sometimes it's connected with the message -- e.g. "How have you experienced for yourself what we've been talking about this morning?" People are invited to just come up as they feel led during a time of quiet reflection/silent prayer; that way, everyone has something to "do" regardless of whether they choose to come forward to share something.

We are being encouraged by hearing how God is active in our church in the lives of individuals and groups. The stones pile is a good, visible reminder of this.

Looking forward to seeing this new hymnal.

[quote=Diane Ritzema]How do I give you my email without it going out to everyone on the network?[/quote]

The Network site allows you to privately email any user. Just click the little email icon below the user's name/photo to send them a message through the system.

And, by email icon, of course I mean a little picture of an envelope! How ironic that an envelope is the universal symbol for email :-)

Thanks JT and Stanley! CCLI has been very helpful--when I search for the song, I can click on it and it gives the themes that the song is associated with. This will help a lot.

Stanley--I'd love to have your Word doc. How do I give you my email without it going out to everyone on the network?

Diane, I have a Word document with a bunch of contemporary songs we sing here at Telkwa CRC. I've "tagged" each song with its topic(s) and/or Scripture reference(s). It's likely not entirely what you're looking for, but if it sounds helpful, I can email it to you. Stanley Groothof

I know CCLI's SongSelect has topics listed for most songs, but I don't know if it's searchable by topic. It seems like I've seen various efforts toward that on message boards before, but I can't seem to find any now.


I can appreciate that you feel that organ can work with contemporary, but I would say it is rare.
I'm not sure that it is fair to compare the pipe organ to a synthesizer. they are completely different instruments except for the keys. The sounds are significantly different. An electronic keyboard can host many different sounds such as strings, synth, varieties of organs including a Hammond B3 and other Jazz styles as well as choral voices and the like that sound no where close the pipe organ and which the pipe organ cannot emulate either.
I would agree that some of the modern hymns such as In Christ Alone or How Deep the Father's Love can sound okay with the organ, but are clearly not meant for organ.

If you listen to contemporary music by the artists you will notice an obvious absence of an organ except for perhaps a jazz, combo or B3 and for good reason. Those organ sounds work well, at times, with the style of music. When you listen to How Deep the Father's Love for instance, you can tell that it aches for a celtic feel with a penny whistle or Irish bag pipe type sound. I've heard it done with organ and it loses that celtic feel which I feel is a great disservice to the song. This of course is just an example.
While some songs do have a need for a long melodic line, it does not naturally mean an organ sound fits. This is something we bantered around in worship at Calvin Seminary too and came to understand that certain instruments are for certain styles of music. It is rare that any crossover works.

I remember my time in a local GR church where the organist tried playing contemporary music on organ. She was highly accomplished, but no matter what settings she used, she admitted as well, that the organ did no justice to the piece. I've experienced this same thing in other West MI churches as well.

Having said that, we still try from time to time to use the organ to fill the bottom. However, if the organist, no matter how lightly she plays, tries the melody line or to fill with chords the sound totally changes the feel of the song. 95% of the time, it just doesn't fit modern music.

It does really come down to who is available, doesn't it : ) I'd like to start creating a list like yours soon so that more people (especially kids) can be involved.

I'll need to get back to you on the junior deacon question. I know that the pastor mentors them, but I'm not sure how they are chosen, or what type of schedule and responsibilities they have. I'll let you know when I find out.

Hi, Sorry it took so long to get back to you. For scripture readers I simply compile an ongoing list of people of all ages who would like to read the scripture. Sometimes I try and find someone that matches the service, but mostly I just schedule according to whomever is available. It makes it more natural rather than focussing on age. The only criteria is that they can read well and that they use the NIV translation.

As a worship planning team we're reading the book "A Church For All Ages" which is helping us to understand and hopefully change how we do intergenerational worship.

We don't do anything specific with sermon outlines other than a general one. We have a large ESL group so we include the various scripture references. Other than that it's just the main points of the sermon with room for notes.

I like the idea of junior deacons. Can you tell me more about who they are and how they are selected?