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Five Point Plan for Singing and Worship Renewal

Restoration preachers were known for their five-point sermons. Whether the subject was salvation or worship, five points were chosen to simplify the message and help listeners remember. This week, I heard a five-point message presented in a political speech. Again, the intent was to simplify a complex message into meaningful, memorable talking points. I have assembled a five-point plan for singing and worship renewal for the church. Although distilled into five concise suggestions, serious follow-through can reap amazing results.

Number one, we need to do everything we can to encourage 100% participation in singing and worship. Understanding that worship is not a spectator activity, the entire church family needs to be involved — not just a select few.

Secondly, everyone needs to learn to harmonize; both in the way we live and in how we sing. Let’s teach everyone to sing in harmony as our worship is transformed into the life-altering experience it should be.

Third, we need to teach new songs to remain relevant to younger generations as well as to seekers. Those congregations who are not interested in learning new worship songs risk the danger of dying or becoming irrelevant.

Fourth, we must worship with passion. Those who have been convincing our people that enthusiasm is wrong have seriously damaged the health of God’s family. It’s important that we maintain our zeal and spiritual fervor.

And number five, we must train effective worship leaders. We have done a marvelous job in training preachers, youth ministers and the like, yet, comparatively, we have failed in developing highly effective, well-trained worship leaders.

The first four points are the heart of our congregational singing Praise & Harmony Workshops, providing a proven, practical program to equip congregations for worship renewal.

The last point is the reason we assemble experts from around the world to teach and mentor through the annual Worship Leader Institute. If we desire serious progress, we must prioritize the advanced training of gifted leaders.
In summary, here are five points that can radically improve our churches:

Encourage 100% participation
Learn to harmonize
Teach new songs
Worship with passion
Train effective worship leaders

We pray that you’ll join us in committing to these five goals to the glory of God and for the edification of the church.

Short URL: http://keithlancaster.com/?p=6416

37 Comments for “Five Point Plan for Singing and Worship Renewal”

  1. I like it. Simple and to the point. The fifth point seems to be the one that is most needed in congregations today.

  2. my only concern is that people who are tone deaf can be marginalized by good singers. God loves our joyful singing…and while i love harmonizing; i feel we fail when our ‘not so good’ singers feel they must sing quietly, so as not to disturb the ‘good’ singers. and that happens more than you might think.

    • You are right, Judy. Having every person participate in the singing and doing so with passion trumps my request for singing in four-part harmony. I’m convinced that, through teaching and mentoring, we can do it all, emphasizing that God is concerned with our hearts, not the perfection of our music.

    • Yes, Doug. Just this weekend alone, four more leaders expressed interest in applying for the Worship Leader Institute. There are thousands of leaders who need this training – so I pray that congregations will decide to invest in their future.

  3. We expect our preachers to have a certain level of training and education but we’ll had a songbook to the first guy who walks in on Sunday morning and his preparation consists entirely of sitting on the front row picking out songs before the service starts.

    We’ve benefited enormously from both P&H and the Worship Leader’s Institute at the Laurel church. I highly recommend both.

    • Yes, Mike. We’ve seen a double standard toward more emphasis upon the pulpit, in comparison to worship. It’s time to improve our worship (without taking anything away from the importance of preaching.)

  4. Judy, you are right, people good at something like singing can become “elitist”, but it doesn’t have to be that way! :) Consider another perspective. I don’t have the best voice, but when I’m in my car jamming to acappella or rock, I crank the music and sing my heart out, and it sounds much better than if I was just singing to myself. Most people I know do that for that reason. Well, it’s the same thing in a worship assembly. When there is spirit-filled, passionate song worship, average or even bad singers will want to participate, especially since they can’t hear themselves as well. :)

    Good, average, and bad singers, under proper direction, all sound great together. With development, as Keith said, they can grow even more!

  5. I have really become more focused on why and how we worship in the last 6 months. Our worship planning has become very focused and intentional and in turn our worship had become very powerful and encouraging. By using the techniques taught by Keith in the Praise & Harmony and the Worship Leader Institute, we as a congregation have raised the level of worship. Before WLI I was intimidated to lead worship, to be myself when leading, and to try anything different or new. Now I am anxious to lead more often and have even been invited and led worship at 2 other congregations in our state. Our worship has grown so much and I know that it pleases God and is more uplifting to members and visitors alike.

    • Seth, I have seen men with very vibrant and lively personalities “clam up” as soon as they stand up to lead worship. It seems we have set a precedent that song leaders should completely avoid being demonstrative of emotions (including joy) during worship. I have a good idea as to the causes that have contributed to this reality; and it’s very sad that our assemblies have come to this. Thanks for allowing your personality to “shine through” in your leadership, Seth.

  6. I’ve been trying to work on #3. I’m in the middle of the quarter teaching new songs at a sister congregation on Wednesday evenings and will begin next quarter on Wednesday nights at my home congregation.

    • What a blessing you are, Wayne, in your dedication to helping people learn the new songs. Your efforts are igniting a fire in the hearts of believers, as I have seen first hand.

  7. In preparing for our P & H workshop in a couple weeks, I have been working with a group at my home and a Wednesday night class. I have singers of all abilities in both but I find the most effective way to keep enthusiasm up and wanting to learn to sing better is lavish praise and encouragement. Although I can hear those out of tune, they become a part of every success. You can almost watch (listen) as they improve.

    As you teach at WLI it is the passion we bring as leaders that sets the tone. Yesterday a gentleman came up to me after worship to let me know how much he appreciated the enthusiasm I put into the songs. Enthusiasm and encouragement start with the worship leader and needs to be “contagious”!

    I quoted Romans 15:5&6 Sunday: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    • Thank you, Mark, for your wonderful example. I’m thrilled that you are calling every member (young and old) to give their absolute best in singing and worship, while carefully avoiding an atmosphere of musical elitism. We can teach musical literacy without discouraging those who find music to be challenging. The 100% participation principle trumps the worthy goal of musical literacy.

      So glad you are focused on enthusiasm and encouragement in a spirit of unity. Thanks for sharing Romans 15.

  8. I do think we need to teach and learn new music, but I disagree with the reasons given in point three. I believe that true beauty is timeless. And that good music can never be irrelevant. Comfortable or familiar may be a better word choice. Also, I think that it is the difference between Christian and secular culture that attracts seekers, not our ability to copy theirs.

    • Outstanding points, Jonathan. In rethinking my wording, I’m reminded of what a dear friend (and hero of a cappella singing) James Tackett shared with me: The treasured hymns of our faith are, in fact, “new songs” to many of our young people and new converts. I should amend point number three to include the re-introduction of precious hymns of our heritage; as you rightfully stated: “true beauty is timeless.” I was simply trying to say that it’s a mistake for the church to preclude contemporary music in communicating the Gospel and in singing songs of worship that touch the (contemporary) heart.

  9. Amen Keith!
    I believe passionately in what you have said, and have made it my business to work every week to implement all five of these points – these are irreducible minimums to the restoration of a cappella culture in the church.

    I would add only one more, and I don’t do this lightly. In order to facillitate the above goals, we must build an integral culture of music literacy. Every culture is supported by a form of language, and as worship leaders we must be able to know and teach this language of music so that we can raise the levels of literacy within the church. We need to embrace this, with the like dedication we have shown in past times to understand the Scriptures for ourselves.

    • Jules,
      As a muso I agree, however I am concerned with muddying the water for the average folks. I have witnessed well meaning brothers bore the brethren with too much musical detail, turning them away from the very harmony we try to promote. Love ya brother

      • Which is why we must learn how to teach musical tradition and literacy without the form becoming a priority over true worship. This is a challenge.

    • The church in Australia is greatly blessed by your work, Jules! (As well as leaders around the world.)

      I have seen, first hand, how the local church can foster an atmosphere of musical literacy, resulting in a rich and rewarding environment. I pray that we don’t lose such a wonderful tradition.

  10. 5 excellent points. We MUST curate environments that encourage people to lift their voices in songs, hearts in prayer and ears that are longing to hear the Word of God. I think that music is one thing that can truly engage anyone- Christian, non-Christian, seeker, saved, whoever!

    Your training at the WLI reminded me of how badly I need to be aware of what I do as a worship minister. It’s not something we should take lightly and just leave for “some deacon” or “volunteer” to take care of and leave them out there with absolutely no guidance. I recommend, even the most experienced worship leaders to take some time and retrain themselves on the basics- so they are reminded of the foundational principles of what we do as worship leaders. It’s often easy to get into the details and forget about what things really make the most difference.

    I have been talking about worshipping with passion & purity (spirit & truth) a lot these days. As I’ve been visiting many churches in our tribe (churches of Christ) throughout Atlanta it’s appeared that many of our people lack passionate emotions when it comes to worshipping the Lord, whether in song, scripture, prayer, communion or giving. May God revive us!

  11. Yes! Number 4 hits home for me. I grew up in a congregation where clapping was a big “no-no”. When I was a teenager, we had gone to many Acappella concerts as a group, but the eldership determined that the concerts were stirring a temptation to dance. It wasn’t long after that when I realized that was no longer the congregation for me. I am happy now to be in a congregation where everyone (even the elders) are clapping along when it’s appropriate. Passion in the worship service is a big one. Thanks for this!

  12. I’m so thrilled that the church we have been attending lately has lively, passionate worship. It’s like you are part of a 250-member choir. Such beautiful voices and harmony. Of course, it takes good leadership and willing hearts. Add a building that was designed for voices and not to soak up the sound and it is just plain inspiring! I’m talking about Glen Springs Church in Gainesville, FL. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a congregation where I could hear and participate in such good singing, praising God!

    • Glad you mentioned acoustics designed for singing, Andy – as many church auditoriums have been designed to ruin vibrant singing with very poor acoustics.

  13. Worship is NOT a spectator sport! It’s a FAMILY TIME focused on God who desires worship from every member of His family. As a minister, I’m a firm believer in “good preaching,” but that doesn’t mean singing and the other parts of worship should take a “back seat!” Praising God with our voices is the most obvious way we can all participate and demostrate our unity. Music has the power to inspire and instruct–that’s why it must be done with excellence! Acappella music is beautifully simple, yet if we’re not careful, we take it for granted and it shows. That’s why it’s important to renew our efforts and resources to insure our vocal praise is worthy of the One who makes us worthy!

    Let’s invest in our worship leaders and get them the training and support they need to facilitate the quaility of worship we all need!

  14. A great resource for new music is the very talented, Randy Gill at http://www.fearless4you.com/randy-gill-collection/

  15. I personally think this is a very good initiative that needs to be implemented, because its about we encouraged good congregational worship and songs.
    The first point about encouraging 100% participation of singing by congregation is perfect, it does boost spirit.
    moreover learning to harmonize songs is very important
    Teaching new songs, Worshiping with passion and training effective worship leaders needs to be encouraged in our churches.
    thumbs up for Keith

  16. I appreciate your “five point plan” Keith. I agree with them all. I think within the training of worship leaders would be probing a healthy vision or theology of worship. I think that vision feeds our desire or hunger to worship with gusto.
    Bobby Valentine

  17. I get that the Praise & Harmony Workshops are gender inclusive. Is this Worship Leader Institute a gender exclusive program? I have never read otherwise, but only seen pics of all-male at these.

  18. Not sure if this has been mentioned, but good singing is worthless without good “being.” You can have the most beautiful singing congregation on the planet, but their worship offering is worth nothing if their week was spent living as pagans. Are we all about worship assemblies? Or should we begin to realize that our worship assemblies are reflecting who we’ve been in the past week? For a church to sing In Christ Alone in perfect harmony with great enthusiasm and 100% participation would be wondrous – for a church to know exactly what they’re saying and to have spent their previous week saying it over and over in how they were living is what gets heaven’s attention. Remember, if I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…

    And one more thing for worship leaders: please remember, we place words on the lips of worshipers each week. Choose those words carefully!

    Thanks for all you do, Keith!

  19. In this discussion, there is one major point I would add.

    Even though I am(barely) in the group of people commonly referred to as the “baby boomers”, I for one realize that it is far from a waste of time to learn why some of the older songs are special to some of our brothers and sisters.
    Don’t just assume it’s resistance to change. Take time to not only ask the question, but understand the answers.
    I’ll offer one such story:
    My mother loved the song “Just As I Am”. It was sung at her funeral, as a matter of fact–but it was also sung right before she was baptized! How many of “us” younger people(whether 15 or 50) remember what was sung–or any special words in a prayer–when we were baptized?
    Take time to notice, to encourage, to unify!

  20. I completely agree! I have recently been challenged in my beliefs, why church of Christ and not this or that church and one of the points raised was praise and worship in churches and this is just what I think! The churches of Christ in Australia really needs to take this on board especially for our youth :/ I
    Thanks for posting! :)

  21. I think it would do many of us in the Church of Christ heritage to experience other forms of worship experience. I love a cappella singing and grew up learning tenor from my dad, singing the ‘old standards.’ As I’ve gotten older (I’m 46), I’ve had numerous opportunities to share worship time with believers of other denominations, and I think, for me at least, it’s the harmony of our hearts that is the most important thing. I know that non-instrumental worship is something that is considered a non-debatable issue, so I’m not trying to start down that road. My point is simply this: as Christians, we all worship the same Savior, the same Spirit, the same God. When we worship together, especially in song, our hearts are the voice that is most important to our Creator.

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