Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thoughts on blended worship

In addition to being a musician, I am a sometimes-worship leader. One of the things that often comes up in worship leading circles is the question of "blended worship style" - that is, using both modern Praise and Worship songs as well as hymns in a service. Some people think it's the greatest thing ever, and some people say it does not work. I've thought about it, and it seems to me that for some churches the correct answer may be the former, while for others the answer may be the latter.

Which group your church might fall into can be discovered, I believe, by asking yourself one simple question: why do I want to do blended worship here? I think that there will be essentially two possible answers to that question:
  1. Because the members of my church appreciate old hymns for their theological depth and majesty, but they also appreciate modern Praise and Worship for the intimacy with God the best modern songs represent.
  2. Second, because some members of my church only enjoy old hymns or think them proper for use in church ("hymns" generally being loosely defined as any hymn proper, or a gospel song written before about 1960), while other members only enjoy modern P&W songs and think hymns are stuffy and boring. One is tempted to say that the former group can also be described as people who want "songs that I heard in church when I was growing up" and the latter can also be described as "anything BUT the songs I heard in church growing up," but I'll leave that on the side for now.
Anyway, if your church falls into the first category, then I'd say go ahead and try blended worship. Even if some people prefer one type of music or the other, I would bet that they will be satisfied with both. My church is very much like this, consisting mostly of young people who prefer the modern songs, but many appreciate the old ones; with a non-trivial population of people (often, but not exclusively, older) for whom the sentiments work the other way round. Prepare to have people tell you how much they appreciate the mix of music, especially if you can pair up newer and older songs, building on common themes.

However, if your church falls into the latter category, then you will likely have a difficult time with blended worship. It will probably make neither group happy; the old song lovers (again, not necessarily the same group as chronologically older people) will complain about the lack of theological depth of modern songs (and let's face it, many modern songs do have this problem), and the new song partisans will complain that the boring hymns are "wrecking" their worship time. It seems to me that a worship time wrecked by a song that does not match one's personal taste is a very weak one indeed.

Addendum: I am not addressing situations where the church members only think psalm-based hymns appropriate because of the Regulative Principle of Worship. That is an interesting question, and one that I will tackle in the future, but it does not apply to this posting. For now, I am talking of groups who prefer older hymns or newer worship songs for stylistic reasons only.


Eve said...

my church would fall in to the first category. I love hymns myself but I also enjoy many modern hymns and some of the rich and simple praise and worship songs. do you follow Bob Kauflin's Worship Matters column at all?

Gary Bisaga (aka fool4jesus) said...

I have in the past - as evidenced by the fact that I have it in my favorites menu :-) - but it's been awhile. I think I should start reading it again. Thanks for the pointer!