!-- Beacon Ads Ad Code -->

Sponsor Ad:

Collapse

Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Survivors of Worship Transition?

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Survivors of Worship Transition?

    Hi all!

    I would like to hear from others about this.

    If your church service had underwent a significant change in worship styles (say, from traditional to modern, or, contemporary to ancient/future), are there any stories about such? Was there a process that you went through to coax the congregation through the transition? Were there firings? Are there success stories? Are there little tips to be made that others can learn from?

    I don't have anything personal at stake here; I'm thinking of an article to put on my blog about this. I would think this to be of considerable help to others.

    Nick
    Nick Alexander
    Host, The Prayer Meeting Podcast
    Worship that is Contemporary, Traditional, Charismatic, Contemplative, Spontaneous, based on the Church calendar, play it whenever you want.
    Find out what Nick Alexander can do for your conference, retreat or workshop.

  • #2
    Not just surviving, but thriving!

    My husband and I were hired by our current church (a United Methodist Church in east Texas) to help them transition from a very traditional style to blended contemporary, almost four years ago. They had only used organ and piano, had an aging traditional choir, a strong hand bell choir and children's choirs, and an older music director who led songs from the hymnal. The church leadership (a combination of laity and staff) had recognized for a while that they needed to do something to become more relevant and when the music director moved on, they hired someone temporary but began a search for someone permanent, who could help them with the transition. We had done this in two churches before this one, so had plenty of experience in this area.

    The first year we were here, I played the piano and my husband led the singing. The church had recently installed projectors and screens, so there was no problem with projecting song lyrics, and we immediately began using one or two contemporary songs in each service, in addition to 2-3 hymns. We work at planning our song sets so that the songs blend from one to the next with minimal stopping. We also love hymn arrangements that have an additional chorus added on (like Just as I Am by Travis Cottrell or Chris Tomlin's The Wonderful Cross.) Our pastor also asked for our input in changing the elements of the worship service in order to flow more smoothly, which added to the more contemporary feel of things.

    These changes alone were plenty for the first year. It's easy to jump ahead to things you want to do, but the people can only handle so much change.

    One day at a party, a church member casually mentioned to me that he'd love it if we could start a praise band. I said we were definitely planning on it, in due time and asked him if he played an instrument. He laughed and said no, there's really not much talent in this church. I was disheartened to hear that but around our one year mark, I met a drummer who was attending our church but hadn't been very involved, and I asked him if he would like to try playing along with me. We met for rehearsal several times and somewhere along the way another church member told me that he heard about it and wondered if he could bring his guitar and come join us. So we had a few rehearsals and it went very well so I asked our pastor if it would be ok to let them start playing on Sundays... and just like that, our band was born. Within weeks a bass player and another guitarist joined us. We did not make any big announcements about it to the congregation - just started playing.

    Having the band changed the energy level so much! Not only did the songs become energized and more exciting, but our congregation LOVES seeing more of their own people up on the platform. After about a year our drummer was forced to move several hours away for a new job, but by that time another drummer had begun attending our church and took his place immediately. Our bassist left for college but we were able to teach someone else the bass, so we haven't missed a beat. We now have 3-4 singers on a regular basis as well. (Side note, I have never had a band so committed and so relationally healthy - there are no ego problems, everyone loves spending time together and enjoys rehearsal. We all have fun together. I feel so blessed in this area.)

    At the beginning we taught the congregation 1 new song per month, pretty much. We made sure to repeat the song for at least two more Sundays after introducing it. Some songs are very easy to teach because most people have already been hearing them on Christian radio for a while.

    The choir limped along for two years. We tried valiantly to keep it going, but it was made up of mostly older people who were tired or didn't want to do the hard work of making changes. Several dropped out because of age or health or loss of hearing and although we did get a few new members, we just didn't have enough people to sing all the vocal parts... so we made the decision to discontinue the choir but we started a new choral group that sings occasionally, in a traditional style, accompanied only by piano. We rehearse for 2-3 weeks, then perform a song; take a break and then rehearse a new song. This has been working well because it involves less of a commitment for everyone.

    In the first year we were here, our church grew by 20% and welcomed more new members than they had in the past 20 years. Things are going very well. We have incorporated videos in worship, a countdown prior to the service, lots of new songs, and several other instruments on an occasional basis. Our handbells and children's choirs are still going strong as well.

    Things that helped:

    Prior to our arrival the pastor held a series of home meetings explaining the upcoming changes, and the reasons for them.

    The church moved to a new facility and did not have a sanctuary yet, so met in a Family Life Center, which naturally gave the services a more casual feel, in addition to the hymnals being put in storage since we don't have pews at this time.

    The Sunday before we arrived, the organist of many years officially retired, which paved the way for me to play the piano/keyboard. (We would have never asked her to step down... but to be honest, we weren't sure how we were going to handle that situation, because she played in a very old style.)

    Many folks in our church listen to K-Love radio, which made it easier to teach new songs.

    In the beginning we kept the choir going, although we shifted to some newer songs and a younger sound.

    And most important of all, the leadership was totally sold on the idea of the transition, and remained unified and supportive throughout the process.

    I hope this helps, Nick! I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. My husband and I love what we do, but it has its challenges, and we have never met anyone else who guided a church through this type of major change. So, if we can be of help to anyone else, we'd be happy to do so.

    Comment


    • #3
      This is very interesting. Thank you.

      I am not in this position, particularly. I am thinking this might make a very interesting blog post, in case anybody was curious as to how to do it--not just from traditional to contemporary, but also the reverse.

      It appears to me that you had many things in your favor; your entire staff was supportive and hired you for this purpose. Many of the congregants were also supportive, and they had songs from K-Love that they wanted to include. I suppose this was all so very new and exciting, and it helps that the top of the Christian music scene is a whole lot of praise and worship artists. And, unless you have anything to add, it appears that the only resistance you might have had was from an aging group that was decreasing in numbers.

      Curious to hear other stories, perhaps with a little bit more resistance, and how such was overcome.
      Nick Alexander
      Host, The Prayer Meeting Podcast
      Worship that is Contemporary, Traditional, Charismatic, Contemplative, Spontaneous, based on the Church calendar, play it whenever you want.
      Find out what Nick Alexander can do for your conference, retreat or workshop.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by NickAlexander View Post
        This is very interesting. Thank you.

        It appears to me that you had many things in your favor; your entire staff was supportive and hired you for this purpose. Many of the congregants were also supportive, and they had songs from K-Love that they wanted to include. I suppose this was all so very new and exciting, and it helps that the top of the Christian music scene is a whole lot of praise and worship artists. And, unless you have anything to add, it appears that the only resistance you might have had was from an aging group that was decreasing in numbers.

        Curious to hear other stories, perhaps with a little bit more resistance, and how such was overcome.
        You know, Nick, it certainly hasn't been entirely easy.... Along the way there have been a lot of negative comments, people complaining that music was too loud, wondering if drums 'belong in church', feeling nostalgic for the hymnals, etc. There was talk for a while that we killed the choir and that we never wanted to have a choir all along. (Which is why we started the traditional choral 'group' and have kept the handbell ministry going... there needs to be a fair representation of traditional style, since that is meaningful to our congregation.) There is also a contingent of younger adults who prefer the traditional style and wish we would go back to it.

        The only way to overcome those things, in my experience, is with patience and love - to keep talking with those people, keep greeting them warmly each time we see them, have them over for a meal, answer their questions in a kind and patient way, and try to grow a thick skin... because no matter what, it hurts. When they don't like the changes, they tend to take it out on us personally. I continually pray that God will give me LOVE for these people... when they hurt me, when they don't appreciate me, when I'm discouraged.

        I'm thankful that our leadership is committed to this process, because without that it would have been impossible for it to succeed. And it has been slow. We didn't just suddenly start jamming to the latest David Crowder tune. We eased them into the change over a long time.

        Some of the Sunday School classes read the book "Who Stole My Church," which was very helpful during this time of transition.

        I'm not naive enough to think there aren't some people who are waiting for us to leave or for the new sanctuary to be built so 'things can go back to normal.' Just recently someone donated money 'for a new organ' and I'm sure that issue will be an interesting one to resolve.

        Blessings!

        Comment


        • #5
          Nice to see you, Sky!(Sorry Nick...shout out to a friend) As a survivor of, at last count, three different transitions, I can definitely echo Sky's advice about not trying to do too much too fast...thats a progress killer for certain. Changes like this MUST come from the top down, there needs to be support for what you do at every level, and at every phase.
          Love ONE woman...MANY guitars!

          www.davidsproblem.wordpress.com

          Comment


          • #6
            What would you say are the phases of such a transition?
            Month 1: 3 hymns, 1 p&w song
            Month 2: 2 hymns 2 p&w songs
            Month 3: 1 hymn 3 p&w songs... eh?

            Or is it different?
            Nick Alexander
            Host, The Prayer Meeting Podcast
            Worship that is Contemporary, Traditional, Charismatic, Contemplative, Spontaneous, based on the Church calendar, play it whenever you want.
            Find out what Nick Alexander can do for your conference, retreat or workshop.

            Comment


            • #7
              You can do it that way. The transition that worked best for me looked like this:
              Month 1 - 2 hymns, 2 reworked praise choruses, 1 "new" contemporary worship song, add electric bass.
              Month 2 - 2 hymns, 1 reworked praise chorus, 2 "new" contemporary worship songs, add keyboard for approx. half the selections.
              Month 3 - 1 hymn, 1 reworked praise chorus, 2 "new" contemporary worship songs, add 2nd guitar - half time electric, and half time acoustic.
              Month 4 - 1 hymn, 1 reworked praise chorus, 3 "new" contempory worship songs, add percussion.

              Keep in mind that you need buy-in from your leadership, and you need to be prepared to defend your actions to lots of old timers...they will surprise you though...many of them LIKE it fast and loud!
              Love ONE woman...MANY guitars!

              www.davidsproblem.wordpress.com

              Comment


              • #8
                ...they will surprise you though...many of them LIKE it fast and loud!
                Good point- there are a lot of the more senior generation that cut their teeth on Elvis, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Del Shannon, et al.

                The biggest places I've seen it cause heartburn is doing one extreme to the other- organ and hymns to power chords and crash-bangy drums on everything.

                Another thing I've seen backfire is trying to use two or more 'teams' that play different styles. For example, one church I was in tried having rotation teams where one was more traditional and one was more contemporary. It looked good on paper but what happened is the people that didn't like the traditional would skip out on those weeks, and the ones that didn't like contemporary would skip out on those weeks, and it almost became two churches for awhile.

                This thread reminds me of an article I was reading some time ago about a Barna study done on music styles. Barna's research highlighted some interesting areas- one, there were several areas with a pretty big disconnect between what church leadership thought was important versus the congregation, and the churches that tried to use 'blended' music during a service actually had the most strife. The theory is that a major factor in the strife was the 'blended' style highlights that people have to share music "space" because people are intolerant of each other's styles.

                https://www.barna.org/barna-update/a...d#.Uw5zl_ldXIs

                It's worth a read.
                If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Mike on Bass View Post
                  It's worth a read.
                  Another place with some interesting reading on this topic is the blog by the North Carolina Baptist Association. http://blog.ncbaptist.org/renewingworship/

                  There's a lot of material there about "unified worship". One buzzword (phrase?) there is "deference over preference". Although I hate buzzwords, the idea is spot-on: Everyone should love their fellow Christian more than their own musical preferences.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks for the resources; will check them out.

                    It might be wishful thinking, but I'm also curious about groups that transitioned from the opposite direction. If not in this forum, is there another forum I should check out?
                    Nick Alexander
                    Host, The Prayer Meeting Podcast
                    Worship that is Contemporary, Traditional, Charismatic, Contemplative, Spontaneous, based on the Church calendar, play it whenever you want.
                    Find out what Nick Alexander can do for your conference, retreat or workshop.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      My church has had a P&W band every Sunday for about 5 years now. This Easter Sunday (4/20/14) will end that, and they'll start alternating weeks with a more traditional singing group. So I guess you could say we're getting ready to go in the opposite direction. I fear that "Mike on Bass" may have predicted what will happen.

                      Nick - I'll have feedback for you at that point... but it may be better for me to share it in a more private way. pianomandan at gmail dot com.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        We have spent several years in transition. At this point we run with a blended service. Music and other elements that are considered contemporary or traditional have proven to be polarizing. Some people have come and gone, and we are gradually moving toward a higher percentage who support contemporary. The most important thing that has developed over time has been a sense of grace between congregational members that allows for people with differing personal preferences to worship together. We have had to rediscover how to love and trust each other. I guess that is the real lesson and test of any change.

                        Blessings...
                        Dave

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by skyescraper View Post
                          Just recently someone donated money 'for a new organ' and I'm sure that issue will be an interesting one to resolve.
                          The issue of the organ was one of the most difficult of our transition. It had to be phased out slowly. Eventually we zeroed out the maintenance budget. But we really had to wait until our organist had retired to completely eliminate it out of respect to her and her years of service. Once the band was playing every service by itself and we were growing and adding younger families support for and calls to begins using the organ again waned. The band just took the energy to a new level.

                          Eventually we remodeled the Sanctuary and needed the area where the pipes were for the team. So away went the organ. Transitioning away from the organ was painful and drawn out to the point that, now that it is gone, we would never put one in again. First, we don't need it. Second, we don't need the potential for conflict back. We have politely declined offers to donate a new one!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Jenn Cahill View Post
                            The issue of the organ was one of the most difficult of our transition. It had to be phased out slowly. Eventually we zeroed out the maintenance budget. But we really had to wait until our organist had retired to completely eliminate it out of respect to her and her years of service. Once the band was playing every service by itself and we were growing and adding younger families support for and calls to begins using the organ again waned. The band just took the energy to a new level.

                            Eventually we remodeled the Sanctuary and needed the area where the pipes were for the team. So away went the organ. Transitioning away from the organ was painful and drawn out to the point that, now that it is gone, we would never put one in again. First, we don't need it. Second, we don't need the potential for conflict back. We have politely declined offers to donate a new one!
                            To some extent I fear this step more than many others. We have a very similar situation. Despite having a beautiful, great sounding newer electric piano, the prior generation of musicians refuses to use it, providing nothing but complaints about it. As a result we have three large keyboard instruments on one side of the sanctuary, including the organ which is used about once or twice a year. Any time we have mentioned moving out the acoustic piano or organ, all heck breaks loose. We have come to the opinion that this is an issue that we should let God work on. As a result, we have moved around the issue, it is now a non-issue. Some day a different decision will come, but for now, in the interest of ministering to the fellowship, we will "let it be".

                            Blessings...
                            Dave

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by sycamoredave View Post
                              We have come to the opinion that this is an issue that we should let God work on. As a result, we have moved around the issue, it is now a non-issue. Some day a different decision will come, but for now, in the interest of ministering to the fellowship, we will "let it be".
                              Dave
                              This sounds like the best way to handle it for now.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X