Last week, this article appeared in the Toronto Star.
The basic idea behind the article is that many new couples are choosing to program their own wedding playlist instead of hiring a professional DJ. The bride and groom load up their iPod with their favourite songs, and ask a willing guest to run the list throughout the night.
As someone who chose to have a friend make our wedding video, and as someone who will go through life with no wedding video, I'm a fan of hiring professionals to do professional jobs on your big day. But I digress...
The reasons for not hiring a DJ ran from budget to simplifying the wedding process, but the biggest reason was music choice.
"Outside of the budget-conscious, the couples most likely to program their own playlist tend to have — as (DJ Scott) Rideout puts it — 'specific tastes.'"
Couples want a particular kind of music, only their favourite songs, played throughout the evening. It makes sense on first glance, but this is the statement that really caught my eye:
“Generally, I find those people try to cater to a smaller number of people and don’t look at the big picture,” Rideout said. “You’ve got a room of 100 people —
you want 100 people to know the songs you’re playing.”
Wow. My mind flashed to the many conversations I've had with worship leaders and music directors.
In most churches, the music director will have the job of choosing all the music for Sunday morning. There may be input and consultation with clergy, but the main direction for a congregation's song choice will often come from one person.
What happens when that one person allows their personal taste
to dominate the musical voice of a congregation?
I've talked with music directors who only want hymns, from one specific hymnal. I've chatted with worship leaders who only choose songs from the CCLI Top 20 list. I've met others who insist that their congregation only likes Country, or refuses to listen to Jazz, or some other genre prejudice.
But here's the truth:
You want your 100 (or 10 or 1000) people on Sunday to know the songs you're playing.
I'm certainly not saying we shouldn't introduce new music or stretch our musical boundaries - anyone familiar with our Infinitely More ministry knows that we're big fans of creating and sharing new music. And yes, the personal taste, knowledge, and skill set of any worship leader will always affect the music we play. But we need to think about all 100 people when we're planning our songs for worship. They may not 'know' every song, but wouldn't it be great if they could at least find one song that connects with them personally in worship?
Do you have folks in your congregation who love hymns? Include some.
New worship songs? Teach some of those too.
Do you have children in your worship? Make sure there's a song for them.
Do you have songwriters? How could their music influence your worship?
Music style influences worship, but no one style dictates or defines worship.
All music styles can be used for worship when directed towards God.
What I'm proposing definitely makes our jobs harder. Searching multiple sources, creating new music, finding fresh ways to play ancient songs, performing a variety of styles, and being cognizant of the full diversity of your congregation is a lot of work. But here's the payoff: at the end of Sunday worship, the Soccer Mom, the Overworked CEO, the Rebel Teen, the Kind Grandmother, the Struggling Doubter, the Tween, the Lifelong Faithful, the Visitor, the Flag Waver, and the Prayerbook Defender can all leave saying, "I felt connected in that worship. That song... That song was for me."
Let's rise to the challenge. We can't please all the people all the time, but perhaps, by expanding our own personal palette, we can create a musical voice that represents our full church family, draws us closer into worship, and brings joy to God.
Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page visit us every Wednesday!