We’ve all been there.
The last thing we want to do is sing How Great is Our God or Here I Am to Worship…again. They feel old, tired, and worn out.
Songs go through cycles. It’s possible to do them to often as well as not enough. Striking that balance is tricky, to say the least.
But just because a song is old doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. Great worship songs stand the test of time because they take a timeless message and wrap it in a fresh sound.
Oftentimes that older, more familiar song is exactly what is needed because it connects. People don’t have to think so hard. They can be more free to engage.
The truth is, worship leaders and band members get sick of a song much sooner than someone in the congregation. When you combine personal practice, rehearsal, and playing the same song for multiple services on a weekend, that makes sense. But just when the band is getting sick of a song is right when people in the congregation are starting to grasp it.
The problem isn’t with how old the song is. The problem is that we do it the same way all the time. Doing songs like your favorite records is fine, but you need to shake it up from time to time.
Our songlists should be crafted on the foundation of two questions: 1) Are we celebrating and declaring the truth of the Gospel? and 2) Are we helping people engage with heart, soul, mind, & strength?
Cool and cutting edge is great if it accomplishes that purpose. Otherwise it’s just a waste of time.
5 Tips for Taking Worn Out Songs and Making them Fresh
So here are 7 tips for taking a worn out song and breathing some life into it:
1. Speak in the middle – Sometimes pausing in the middle of the song to either encourage, exhort, or read a Scripture can completely change up the feel to a song. It helps to reconnect with the worshipers in the room as well. For example, oftentimes I’ll tie a particular verse of a song to a Scripture, like the final verse of Cornerstone:
“When He shall come with trumpet sound. Oh may I then in Him be found. Dressed in His righteousness alone. Faultless stand before His throne.”
Before I sing that, I’ll declare 2 Corinthians 5:21:
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
If there’s one thing I know, there’s nothing that lights up a worship service like the Word of God. It is power and when it lands on hearts filled with faith, explosive things can happen.
Try this with your songs. Speak out. Declare truth. Plan your songs to be an experience with the Word rather than just a sing-a-long.
2. Change the Arrangement – Just because you typically use a loop doesn’t mean you always need to. If you’re used to doing a song fast, try it slow. If you’re used to doing a song with an electronic feel, try it acoustic. If you’re used to doing it in a high key, try it in a lower register for a more tender feel.
Simplicity is a powerful force in corporate singing. I find myself gravitating more towards the simple music and raised voice of worshipers. So don’t be afraid of a little acapella. The goal is to get people singing with all their hearts not just experiencing your music.
3. Change the Singer – A guy usually leads it? Try it with a female lead. Changing the worship leader on a song can completely change the feel from something intense to something tender – a declarative sound to something more intimate.
4. Include it in a medley – Another great way to breathe fresh life into songs is to create medleys. Rather than doing one full song, do parts of two or three songs. I talk about the power of medleys in this recent blog post.
There’s a powerful connection that happens when you combine an old song with a new song, when they have a similar theme. Feels fresh.
5. Use Video – Sometimes utilizing video in a song can cause the truth to land with more power. Maybe all you do is change up the background of a lyric slide. Or sync a lyric video to the band’s click. Considering visual elements is important to making a songs fresh. For more insight into this, make sure to check out what Stephen Proctor is doing over at Illuminate.
This list is by no means exhaustive. How do you take an older song and breathe fresh life into it?
Let’s talk about it in the comments. You can leave your thoughts by clicking here.