How to...Introduce Worship Songs: Some helpful pointers for pastors and other worship leaders

Worship leaders rarely give much thought to something as simple as announcing the next hymn. Maybe they should, especially in congregations where new worship leaders are involved.

Winkel’s helpful suggestions, adapted from an earlier article published in Modern Liturgy are one small example of the care with which Roman Catholic leadership is attempting to encourage congregational singing.

—ERB

There is always room for improvement in the ways we enable our assemblies to join in song. Some of the following tips may help worship leaders:

  • The words we choose to invite the congregation to sing can be important. Initially, provide the basic information: number, title, special instructions (like stanza numbers), and then the number again, in that order. Pause between each element to give people time to find the song. Be sure to speak loudly and slowly.
  • As the people start to sing, remember to back off from the mike. They are not singing along with you. You are singing along with them. When announcing, avoid saying, “Please join me in singing.” Use instead, “Please join in singing or “Please join in our hymn. . . .”
  • Teaching new hymns prior to the worship service can be a challenge. To engender a good attitude in the assembly, instead of “Let’s practice/rehearse our new hymn,” say instead “Let’s try/run though/look at/sing through our new hymn. . . .”
  • Avoid using phrases or words that imply that the assembly has an option of whether or not to sing. They are, of course, expected to sing!
    Bad: “You are welcome to join . . .”
    Good: “Let us all sing together hymn number . . .”
  • Let your personality come through. It is not irreverent to smile and show happiness. Let the people see that God’s presence is in you, as well as in them.
  • Give careful thought to how you name various parts of the liturgy. At the beginning of the service, for example, “Gathering Hymn” seems to more accurately describe the action taking place than “Opening” or “Entrance” or “Processional.” Likewise, you may decide to begin calling the “Closing Hymn” the “Parting Hymn.”
Invitations to Sing

To avoid monotony and create a little enthusiasn, consider some of these invitations to sing:

Before the Gathering Hymn

“Joining our praise into one, let’s stand and sing our Gathering Hymn, number/title ...”
“Let us sing of the strength and presence of our God as we begin today’s worship in song, number/title ...”
“Let us begin our celebration together by singing number/title ...”
“We greet God as we greet each other in song: number/title ...”
“Acknowledging God among us in this time and place, we stand to sing number/title ...”
“Along with the psalmist we mean to sing to our God as long as we live! With one voice, please join in our Gathering Hymn, number/title ...”

Hymn of Thanksgiving

“To the God of Abundant Life, we sing a hymn of thanksgiving: number/title ...”

Parting Hymn

“Let us be channels of God’s peace as we go forth from this place. Our parting hymn is number/ title ...”
“To give us new courage to spread the Good News as we go forth, let us sing number/title . . .”

Any Time

“To God who gives life to our faith and fulfills it, we (stand and) sing number/title ...”
“Let us allow the Spirit to fully speak to us as we join in singing number/title ...”
“Let our words, melodies and actions here move us to deeds of justice as we join in praise: number / title.”
“Our spirits take delight in the wondrous presence of God as we sing number/title ... ”

Seasonal

Autumn/Creation: “We celebrate today the gifts of the earth in song: number/title ...”
Advent: “As we wait in joyful hope of Christ’s coming, we (stand to) sing number/title ...”
Christmas: “In this holy season of light, our voices are joined in song: number/title ...”
Lent: “Revive us and restore our lives, Lord, as we sing in faith to you: number/title ...”
“In the light of the cross of Christ, we join in singing number/title ...”
“May the vision of the cross of Jesus guide and direct us to sing with conviction number/title . ..”
Easter: “May we be reawakened to life and hope as we sing our resurrection song, number/title . ..

The late Frank Winkels was minister of liturgy and music at Immaculate Conception Church, Columbia Heights, Minnesota.