One of your favorite bands just came out with a song that really spoke to you. You think to yourself, “I think this song would really resonate with my church”. A few weeks later, you and the band rehearse it and it sounds AMAZING!
You wake up on that Sunday super pumped to play that song.
After singing the first few measures you quickly realize that nobody is into it. Not a single person in your church is singing the song and many of them are just starring off into space. What you thought was going to be a hit quickly turned into The Phantom Menace (rated #1 worst movie sequel of all time).
You walk off stage, listen to the message, finish up the set, and go home to binge watch episodes of Friends to help you forget about what just happened.
You are not alone friend. All of us have been through it!
So…why did that new song you played crash and burn?
#1 No Introduction
When you’re introducing new songs to your congregation, it’s good to give them [your people] a little bit of a heads up. Springing something completely new on people without a heads up can cause even your most involved churchgoers to be thrown off in the service. Find a good way to segway into introducing the song. I’ve often found using scripture to be one of the most effective ways to do this. Even just telling a brief story can be good for this. Anything is better than just simply saying “hey this is a new song”.
#2 You played It First
In most cases, playing a new song as your first song will be doomed to failure.
Because people need to get eased into it. By playing a couple well-known songs first, you get your congregation actively involved and “warmed up” so to speak. It’s much easier to get people singing a new song if they have already sung a few others beforehand. In combination with this, you typically still have people shuffling around during the first song of worship. By waiting until later in the service to introduce a new song, you ensure everyone is there.
#3 The Lyrics
One of the most common things that cause people not to sing in church is not knowing the lyrics to sing. If you’re using a projector for lyrics, you need to make sure the person running them is familiar with the song. If they keep displaying the wrong lyrics you will just confuse people with what you’re singing and what they’re seeing. Make sure they have listened to the song and know which arrangement you are doing.
*PRO TIP: The best way to avoid having the wrong song with the same song title is to verify the CCLI number of a song. This ensures that the version of Jesus Paid It All you are singing is indeed the version they are displaying.
#4 The Wrong Person Leading
Some songs require a certain person to lead them. I was playing electric at a college worship rally once and we had an airy soprano lead “Like A Lion”. Despite her being a classically trained professional with a killer voice…this was one of the worst songs to have her sing. A song that was meant to be in “IN YOUR FACE” with grit just sounded like one of Disney’s latest hits off a princess movie. I vividly remember looking at her during the bridge and she telepathically spoke to me saying “Why did they pick this song for me!”.
For a brief moment I felt bad for her…but then I got back to killing that sweet guitar lead.
#5 It’s A Bad Key
This has been a hot topic as of late. It’s for good reason. There are many songs popularly done in worship that are extremely high in the original key. I’m not saying that you should make every song a low key…but you need to minimize how much you push your congregation vocally in terms of keys. Just because you as a leader can sing every Rend Collective song without modification doesn’t mean you should. Likewise…not everyone can sing like Kari Jobe.
Whether the song is female or male-led, everyone needs to be involved. Pick a key that’s accessable by the masses.
Some Songs Just Don’t Resonate-
Picking new songs is kind of like car shopping.
Years ago, After my huge SUV (Ford Expedition) bit the dust, I was in the market for another one. Being a musician, I needed something with lots of space to transport my gear around town. As I test drove multiple SUV’s in my quest of finding a new car, I just wasn’t sold. I went to a local dealer to look at an SUV and they had a Chili Pepper Red Mini Cooper parked on the showroom floor. My head said buy another SUV. My heart said to get the little red car and pretend that you’re in the movie The Italian Job.
Despite it being small and impractical, it resonated with my inner desire to feel like I was Mark Wahlberg pulling off a gold heist while on my daily commute. I got inside, test drove it …and bought it immediately.
If a song doesn’t resonate with your people, you can’t force it on them. Much like the joy I felt driving that Mini Cooper…some things you just can’t measure!
Avoiding these 5 reasons will help you as you introduce new songs to your congregation. Just remember, there is no science to it and every church is different. You will never fully avoid having songs fall flat, but you can certainly minimize them.
Now if you’ll excuse me…I need to go car shopping. I miss that little red car!