Are you involved in church music?

This is partly in preparation for a post tomorrow, and partly out of general curiosity:

Are you involved in church music? Do you lead your church’s advisory program, or help in another capacity? If another capacity, do you help vocally (e.g. choir or praise team) or instrumentally (e.g. piano, organ, or another musical instrument)?

Also: Would you be interested in seeing occasional posts on Southern Gospel songs that can be used in a church context?

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32 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. Yes, I lead worship in a few services weekly and schedule special music. We use SG along with most other styles of Christian music in our services. Would love to see posts on this.

  2. I serve as the Associate Minister of Music at my church, the church pianist, and sing tenor in the choir, and yes, I would like to see posts about SG material suitable for church use. 🙂

  3. I am a co-worship leader of a “blended” service (mainly handling music and vocal arrangements), as well as a vocalist and drummer (yes, simultaneously!).

  4. We are very traditional…piano, bass, a couple acoustic guitars, fiddle, maybe a mandolin sometimes. I play bass for everything, unless I’m playing piano for a special song. I don’t hold any official “title”, really, but I do a lot of directing on what key to put things in if we’re off the program, and I do most of the song selection and arranging for the groups I sing in. I’m interested in just about everything you post, so post whatever you want! 🙂

  5. Yes, bring it! I’m a drummer and my wife is the Co-worship leader. I would especially love to see a list of southern gospel songs I haven’t previously thought of to be used in a church context for congregational singing. We do a hymn or two every week, so those aren’t a problem. Even though there aren’t many P & W fans reading this site, those are also very easy for congregational worship. We’ve done southern gospel songs for specials, but it’s hard to find something everyone can sing, hymns & Gaither music excluded…

  6. Thanks, everyone! Dustin, SG songs that can be used congregationally is specifically what I had in mind, or at least a big part of it.

    • That would be interesting. We do lots of straight-up SG in our special singing and choir. But our congregational singing is composed of hymns and what I would call old-fashioned gospel songs. Songs like “Glory to His Name,” “When We All Get to Heaven,” “He Keeps Me Singing,” etc. I’m trying to think of the most recently-written song we do as a congregation…maybe “Because He Lives”? For a long time, we used the redback exclusively for congregational singing, and it was published in 1951, but now we use a newer book, though still composed of mostly old songs.

      • Well, here’s a specific one: “His Grace is Sufficient” (the Mosie Lister song, recently done by the Booth Brothers). It wouldn’t work for every context, but it would work for quite a few. In fact, I had that one in mind for a column opener.

      • We have a family that sings that, but you’re right, I think it could work as a congregational. The key is for the song to be singable for a less-skilled vocalist. Of course, you can take that too far, too. Church congregational singing is a great way to learn how to sing better, and to learn how to sing harmony, so you don’t want something too generic. And YOU NEED THE NOTES to look at! I learned to read music and sing parts by growing up in a church that used a hymnal. I didn’t even have to take lessons!

        And…we’re probably getting into what you want to post about and discuss in greater detail later, so I’ll stop there. 🙂

      • Well, yes. Sometimes we think so much alike that it’s just a little scary. 🙂

      • I agree with Brian in that I NEED the notes to look at when singing, especially harmony parts. I am so upset with churches doing all P & W, and eliminating all hymns and SG.

  7. I run the sound system at our church which doesn’t really directly involve music except for playing worship videos we use. Otherwise, we just have a lady who plays the keyboard. We’re a very non-traditional church with a very traditional service.

    • AJ, you said in your last sentence that your church is very non traditional with a very traditional service. I’d be interested in hearing more about that and how that works. I don’t want to get too far off topic though, so maybe we can private message some way…

      • Love to John (I’ll try to be brief), we don’t own a church building of our own because we were a congregation of 90-100 people in church building built for 600, didn’t work financially.

        We now rent the top floor and a couple offices at a Mission Site a couple blocks away from our old building and treat it like a 1 room church. Since we got there the Mission Site has grown quite a bit because of our combined efforts.

        We still do a very traditional service because the average age of our congregation is very high, probably like 55-60 range who are not very willing to change. Our pastor always includes 1 worship video song, and on Sundays where he’s tried more he gets fussed at. He’s slowly trying to get the older people to understand that young people aren’t going to be drawn to our church if we don’t update the music we sing. Odd that they don’t want to change since we’re a merged church and moved out of our building, 2 things that the church voted to do!

        To try to get back on the topic. My job at church is to run the video screen and play worship videos. Outside of that we just have a lady who plays a keyboard and we sing. The only variation would be if she plays the song as an organ or piano.

        (As a side note our old building is getting use now. One of our members knew somebody who wanted space for daycare, they bought the building and converted the first floor into the daycare which is doing very well. Sadly, though they aren’t sure what to do about the sanctuary because of fire codes)

        Sorry for being long!

  8. I lead the singing in regular service and in our youth services! I also sing in the choir and sing back-up at our church. And I love every minute of it! Would love to see posts on it!

  9. I’m the church pianist, occasional song leader, special music director/occasional special music singer, and sound system guy, but it’s a tiny Bible church, and my dad is the pastor. And I would love to see things that directly relate to things I do in church.

    • I’m intrigued by your last sentence; do you have anything in mind you’d love to see, besides a discussion of songs that could work in a church context?

  10. Yes. I am our church pianist and my husband is music minister. We also sing together on a regular basis.
    Southern Gospel music is our kind of music!

  11. Oh wow, I have so been waiting for a post like this.

    I am our official church pianist. However, I am right now the interim worship leader. That is changing as of this week as one of our best church soloist’s is joining me as part of our worship team. There is only so much I can do from the piano so I need a frontman err in this case woman to help me. I work on set lists, all the special music, as well as direction. As I said its a one man show as of late. Since our former worship leader he is very sick and it is not a good outcome by no means so please keep him in your prayers.

    As for southern gospel the majority of our choir is older and that is what they want. So that is what we are going to start working on. I have quite a few Lari Goss choral books and am going to start looking into some other titles as well.

    Congregations we use a blended worship setting in a sense but mostly it’s been traditional because that is what everyone knows and doesn’t throw them off in the asbsence of our worship leader, and it’s things that I can do from the piano. My pastor (who is pretty much my best friend) he and I have a vision of doing an entirely blended service as in doing older hymns, gospel songs, southern gospel, as well as modern praise and worship all in a seamless flowing manner. So any material for church use is greatly appreciated. Can’t wait to see what you bring about.

    • Thank you! So sorry to hear that about your current worship leader.

  12. Keyboards, director for 35+ years. It has been a very quality ride.

  13. I hope you get a better response than I did. I’ve been involved in church music for more than 25 years, but most of the articles I’ve posted on the subject over the years at MusicScribe failed to generate any comments. I would enjoy writing on the subject on a routine basis, but no one seemed to be interested.

    • Hmm. Thank you for the feedback! Now that you say that, I recall several of those posts. My overall impression from this is that I have a few readers who are interested, but not all that many compared to those interested in other topics.

  14. It would be interesting to see and hear from others regarding church music…particularly from those who plan and prepare the music for the choir and congregation each week. Personally, I’d prefer to know about the old hymns of the faith that have been tried and tested as well as some Southern Gospel music. We have plenty or resources out on the internet regarding the Praise and Worship/Contemporary brand of music but very little about hymns, Southern Gospel, or the old Campmeeting/Convention style singing. That seems to be a dying breed of music in our churches and it’s up to us to keep it going. We need music that speaks to the heart, not the flesh or emotions. No offense to anyone, but a lot of churches are going to the Praise and Worship/Contemporary music route to try to “build” a church, attract a younger crowd and to keep them entertained. You build a church on the Word of God, not music. I want to get away from the world when I’m in church, not feel like I’m in some sort of concert setting. And yes, I’m part of the younger crowd. Music is essential to a church service but if you’re trying to get folks in church with the music program, you’re not likely to keep them long. I’ve been exposed to all sorts of song services over the years and I’ve seen more people actively take part in a service by holding a hymn book in their hands, flipping the pages and singing. Once the emotional experience of the Praise and Worship song services are over, I’ve noticed a lot of folks, both young and not so young, flip out their cell phones to text, play games or surf the internet. Music is to prepare the hearts for the message, not to entertain and make you feel good, then ignore the most important part of the service which is the preaching of God’s Word. I’ve been involved in church music in some capacity for around 15 years or so and music in some churches today seem to follow something like a Top 40 format. If I can’t tell the difference between the church and the world, something is missing. I’d love to hear how some of the choir directors/songleaders prepare for the services each week as well as maybe have a place to share resources. Thanks!

    • I agree with you that the style should not be the central focus around which a church is built. I would be every bit as hesitant to attend a church that would only sing the Southern Gospel top 40 (and had a message that was ignored while people were on their smartphones checking out my site!) as a church that would only sing the CCM top 40!

  15. Haha…I agree Daniel. I’m not a Top 40 fan in any format. I’m hoping that your post will shake a few of us up who still use the old hymns of the faith and possibly be willing to share experiences and resources with each other. There’s a definite need out there…..but the resources aren’t as prevalent as they were 50 years ago.

    • Thanks!

      Oh, and by the way, I don’t think I would be a fan of using *only* the top 40 hymns of all time, either. Definitely use them, but I’d be all in favor of mixing in other valuable hymns outside of the top 40, and some newer, worthy songs as well. 🙂

  16. Yes, I would love to see post. I’m going to age myself by saying I am the “song leader” in my church. We sing from the Baptist Hymnal Sunday mornings and Heavenly Highways at the evening service. The youth especially enjoy the Heavenly Highways songs. At the evening service I usually pick a couple of songs then take request. It works out real good.

  17. I’m the worship pastor & music director for my church as well as a soloist. Our worship style is largely traditional hymnody with praise choruses interspersed in congregational music and various styles presented with our choir/ensemble. Since it’s a small congregation with a lot of irons in the fire, it’s hard to get people to practice, so we focus mostly on music that’s familiar, be it well-known CCM, beloved SG (my favorite), or hymn medleys. Typically I will plan the morning services (inasmuch as one can actually do so) and open the evenings up to congregational requests.

  18. It’s great to read all the comments above. I believe almost every church struggles, somewhat, with choosing the music that will be used in worship. For me, I trust in the Lord’s leadership as I prepared the service outlines for the church in which I now serve part-time. Years ago, I served this same church full-time. Choosing music is not designed, in my opinion, to attract outsiders. The choice of music should be aimed at bringing “your people” into the presence of God for worship. In addition to the choice of songs, you must also help create an atmosphere that allows God the freedom to move and touch people’s hearts so as to draw the people unto Himself. We, of course, must be in the right frame of mind to help in that process, as the “leader.” The Holy Spirit is the Worship Leader. We must follow Him and thus lead others to do the same. Frankly, in my opinion, the church is in trouble today for this very reason. We’re trying to please the crowd rather than give our praise and worship to God. Years ago, as a younger man, I traveled the country as a song evangelist. The greatest meetings were those where the music prepared the way for the message from God’s Word, and the results were measured by the response at the end of the service. Where and what are the results today? I’ve never seen it fail…when God is present and dealing with people’s hearts…and they respond to Him…outsiders will be drawn into the place of worship. I’m reminded of the words of an old song, “In the presence of Jehovah, God Almighty, Prince of Peace, troubles vanish, hearts are mended, in the presence of the King!”

    • Charles,
      I agree with what you’re saying.

      To me, selecting music is not really a struggle, because I faced the reality that it’s impossible to match everyone’s personal tastes a long time ago, and I don’t think that should necessarily be the prime goal anyway.

      In addition to the points you have made, I would add that it’s more important to keep the volunteer singers and musicians who are willing to share their talents happy by doing music they enjoy than it is to please those who won’t raise a finger when you ask them to actually get involved.

      If someone wants to sing a solo, I’m there to help as much as I’m needed and offer pointers and so forth, but I generally trust them when they’ve been led to select a particular song to sing. There’s no point in micro-managing what they want to do.

      With groups I direct, like Adult and Children’s Choirs, I try to choose music similar in style to music they’ve enjoyed singing in the past. With hymns and other songs involving the congregation, I try to keep it to a style that the musicians are comfortable playing. The point is not to be up-to-date on the latest trend. The point is the “give of your best to the Master.”

      Of course, I’m open to suggestions from the congregation if someone has a favorite song they want us to do again, etc. I don’t give as much weight to suggestions from someone in the congregation who brings me a new song we’d have to learn, though. If they’re not willing to get involved themselves, I’m less likely to try to cater to whatever their particular musical tastes might be.

  19. Here in Brazil almost every church has a youth choir. In my town I’m responsible for the Assembly of God Youth Mass Choir, when all the AoG Youth Choirs in town get together to perform, mostly in big events…