One of the bright spots in the worship leading world is the resurgence of hymns.
Now, hymns are just as good as they always were, but a lot of worship leaders (and churches, for that matter) decided to leave them behind at some point.
If you're a worship leader who doesn't use a lot of hymns - or even wants to up the quality of the hymns your church is singing, here are some things that may help you on your journey to introduce hymns back into your church life!
TYPES OF HYMNS
The categories below aren't the academic definitions. It's a list of the four types of hymns circulating in church life these days.
1. Known Hymns - These are your tried-and-true, beloved hymns. Sung the way they've always been sung. Consider "It Is Well" or "Blessed Assurance." These are the hymns people will recognize (and sing almost instantly.)
2. New Hymns - No, not talking about the Gettys here. These are old songs that your people haven't heard before. You find songs like this by going further back into hymn history or even exploring the hymns of other denominations. To most of your people, these songs would be brand new.
3. Retuned Hymns - These are "new hymns" that have been reworked musically. In fact, many old hymns have had so many different melodies that it's hard to find the original version. The retuned hymn movement seeks out old, unknown songs and adds new melodies and sometimes new song sections (i.e., verses and choruses.)
4. Modernized Hymns - These are typically known hymns that have been modernized with new melodies, edited lyrics and newer, "worship choruses."
WHICH ONES DO I USE?
Like lots of things in worship leading, you have to think about your congregation when choosing hymns. While we certainly don't want to pander, we do want to limit distractions when we lead. In some churches, a known hymn with a newly added worship chorus is going to be distracting. In other communities, an antiquated melodic structure may be an obvious distraction and departure from the flow of the worship. If you're wanting to use hymns, think more about the congregation's context than your own.
WHAT WE DO AT BETHEL
At my church, we do tend to focus more on Known Hymns and Retuned Hymns. A lot of our known hymn arrangements have different chord structures that are streamlined. (Although, I'm not above a big II major chord now and then!) However, I try to make sure than the melody stays the same. I don't think we gain anything by trying a new melody for "How Great Thou Art." I think it's distracting, even.
Because the retuned hymn movement is so big now, there's lots of options out there. In our case, we try to do a little bit of teaching before using those songs to give some historical context. In some cases, the vibe of the song may not sound like a hymn, but I think it's important for our congregation to know when we're singing something powerful and true...from hundreds of years ago!
WHY NOT TO DO HYMNS
Don't use hymns for nostalgia. Don't do them to make the old people happy. Sing hymns because they say true things beautifully. They remind your people that the battles we fight aren't new. The struggles we face aren't original. Jesus-followers who have gone before us faced the same challenges and found hope and purpose is songs of faith.
And what's more? Most of them are way better than the latest/greatest worship hit on the radio.