On this week's podcast, I'm talking about the odd phenomenon of rewriting melodies for familiar hymns. Yes, it gets a little ranty, but if you're offended by that, you should hear what we edited out!

All jokes aside, I think the hymn conversation is a good one for us. We've been in a "hymn resurgence" for some time as worship leaders, but a lot of us are still unsure of how to adequately and effectively implement them into our sets.

Because I try to keep the podcast short, I can't always get to all the nuances of conversations like this. But this is where the blog comes in handy! If you struggle with find a way to fit hymns into modern worship sets, here are some tips.


I love 7th chords, but not everyone does, and that's often the catalyst for changing up hymn melodies. But it shouldn't be. Yes, 7th chords will give your song an antiquated or folky/country aspect, but you can bring the song into a slightly more modern place by just playing the normal chord and not the 7. You don't have to blow up hymns and rebuild them. Simply going to more neutral chord positions will immediately dial down some of the old-timey flavor.


Worship leaders who are uncomfortable using hymns sometimes feel they have to justify the song before playing it. This usually is something akin to "hey, we're going to do an old song today, but it still really fits with what we're talking about today." I actually don't mind song intros (for new stuff, especially) but most of the time, you can go right into the hymn and your folks won't miss a beat. Even if they're not familiar with hymns, there's very little chance your congregation will be bewildered or thrown off.


This actually comes up on next week's podcast (sneak peek!) but it's a good tip for guys and gals who struggle with hymns. The fact is that HYMN WORK. Many of us have learned that throwing an old hymn in the set automatically connects with people. It's almost a given that a hymn will get people singing. There's a tendency, though, to pull back from that because it feels like manipulation. And it is - just grabbing a hymn so people will like what you're doing is a form of manipulating the crowd. But there's the beautiful thing...eventually those hymns will get you. Some of you know this; you used to do hymns solely to appease the old people and now you realized you've come to love these songs. You find comfort in them now. They're valuable to you personally all this time later. I don't want you to manipulate your people, but I do want you to try hymns even if your motivation may not be 100% on the up-and-up.


The internet is a big help when it comes to this. We know that "hymn stories" can help our people to appreciate the timelessness of these songs. But it also can be a big help to you as a worship leader. Remember that these songs were written by people who A) lived in difficult times and knew their need for God in a tangible way and B) cared deeply about the local church. These old men and women were serving the body of Christ plain and simple. Nobody was making these hymn writers rich or famous. They weren't perfect people, but many of them cared just about church as much as (if not more than) you do.

What about you out there?
Do you do a lot of hymns?
How do you feel about the rewriting of familiar hymns? Good idea? Bad idea?