How to Use Music and Singing Effectively

On special occasions, music—sung, watched live or on video, listened to on recordings, or played on musical instruments may comprise the focus of a home church worship experience. However, normally music will serve to lead your church into a deeper and more effective worship experience that uses other senses and methods to bring your congregation before God.

The emotion that music can generate can help lead to, but should never substitute for, the presence of God in the corporate worship experience. Sadly, some groups depend on an emotional "high" to commune with God. Learn to use music to teach doctrine, evangelize those who need Jesus, offer comfort, enhance fellowship, and direct thoughts toward the Father in His presence.

Each HCO Bible Study and Worship Guide includes music suggestions for the congregation. However, most home-based churches will have their own musical "flavour" and music sources. Some will wish to sing much more than others. Always let your church be the guide to your praise and worship through music. If God has provided a person in your church with the talent and spiritual gift of to accompany you singing on an instrument, look for a way to make it happen. Guitars, small keyboards and portable digital pianos can now be purchased for reasonable prices.

Many great praise books and hymnals are available both with and without musical scores. A number of websites offer praise and/or hymn music accompaniment for downloading onto MP3 or other recording processes. A church can purchase "sing along" videos and DVDs.

Do not feel compelled to follow the suggestions for music made in the HCO material. It is provided for those who wish to use some or all of it. For others the suggestions may best serve as examples of the doctrine and theme emphasized for that session.

Honour all copyright regulations when copying music scores or words. See "How to: Manage Copyright Information" for details on copyrights, copying, and obtaining a license that permits a church to produce multiple copies of music lyrics (words) for use by their congregation. For an extra fee, many of their songs have a "lead sheet"—a music sheet containing the melody notes as well as notations for guitar cords.

Prepare for the singing and playing of music before the day of worship. Remember to ensure that the music is ready to be sung and/or played. The smooth use of music practiced and known by the group without extra comments or other distractions enhances worship. Introduce and learn new songs during or after the Gathering Time when it is more appropriate for inclusion than is the Worship and Commitment Time.

The best expressions of worship do not depend on the musical style of our songs nor the eloquence of our prayers. God is more pleased with our worship when we seek to obey him.

Once in a while, download and briefly include the story that produced a particular hymn. Many hymns come out of very special moments in the lives of the writers. Many writers of the scores (the music) and lyrics (words) are persons of immense ability and lives worthy of our remembrance, from former slave traffickers to blind persons, to those who suffered beyond our understanding.

Do things that will deliberately include young children and preschoolers in the singing. Sing songs that they know and others that they can learn. Make sure that those songs have concepts that are meaningful to children. Remember that young children are "concrete" thinkers". That is, they take words and ideas literally. Using symbolism such as armies, swords, flowing fountains, etc. in children oriented music may not be best for young children, regardless of popularity and fun.

Provide sets of rhythm instruments for your preschoolers and young children. Tambourines, shaking gourds, sticks, triangles, bells, and other rhythm items can provide a real sense of belonging in the worship experience for young children. Otherwise, they tend to feel that the worship time is for the "big people" and they are simply guests.

The HCO writing team has deliberately limited the number of music books suggested for use. Your church may choose to use others. However, the following are inexpensive and of good quality in both doctrine and presentation. The HCO guides at times utilize the abbreviations seen below to indicate sources for suggested songs.

WH The Worship Hymnal BH Baptist Hymnal MMP Maranatha! Music, Praise Chorus Book, 1983 ed.. HFG Hymns for the Family of God, 1976 edition HH Heritage Hymnal

WH The Worship Hymnal
BH Baptist Hymnal
MMP Maranatha! Music, Praise Chorus Book, 1983 ed.
HFG Hymns for the Family of God, 1976 edition
HH Heritage Hymnal

Note: The Worship Hymnal and the Baptist Hymnal are identical in content. Both were published in 2008 by Lifeway Publishing. If an earlier version of the Baptist Hymnal is referenced, that edition will be indicated.