I have often found it funny that out of the 700 hymns we have in our hymnbook, our congregation only sings around 100 of them. However, I don’t think we are unusual. In fact, I would be willing to bet your congregation is similar to mine.
As music directors, we often shy away from hymns that are not familiar to our congregants. Instead, we choose material that we know will “raise the roof.” In the process, however, we cheat our folks out of the opportunity to hear the gospel presented with fresh texts and melodies. So, if you are interested in expanding your congregation’s repertoire of hymns, here are a few thoughts for you to consider:
1) Be sure to pick a hymn that is theologically sound and somewhat easy to sing (perhaps it might have a particularly catchy refrain, etc.).
2) Post a YouTube link to the hymn on all of your church’s social media pages.
3) In preparation for the congregation singing the hymn, you might have your choir or praise team sing the hymn in the worship services leading up to your planned introduction date. The choir or praise team could sing it as an anthem, an introit, a benediction, a response, etc.
4) When the moment arrives to actually present the hymn, you may wish to give a brief introduction to the hymn, what it teaches, and why the congregation would benefit from learning it.
5) Ask the congregation to follow along in their hymnals as your accompanist plays through one stanza.
6) Ask your congregation to follow along in their hymnals as your choir or praise team sings one stanza of the hymn (melody only, no harmony).
7) Ask the congregation to sing the hymn, but be sure your choir or praise team is helping the congregation by continuing to sing only the melody line and no harmonies.
8) Don’t wait too long before programming the hymn again. Some directors become so anxious to always present new material to their folks that nothing is ever repeated.
Always be willing to expand your congregation’s repertoire of hymns. As you search your hymnbook, you are bound to find some treasures and nuggets of gold. I hope you are enjoying a wonderful summer, and I look forward to sharing many more choir loft “hints” with you in the coming months.