We've been discussing "gift-giving" as a metaphor for introducing a new song. If you haven't read the previous posts in this series, you can find them on the "Planning Songs" resource page.
The opening is simply the first time the congregation is invited to join in with the song.
You’ve done your best to create anticipation for a song. You’re team has prepared the content and wrapped it beautifully. You’ve presented it to the congregation in a way that helps them know it’s important and worth the investment to learn. But once you give it to them to open, it’s now up to them to make it their own.
Barring an outright rejection on first sight, what happens next in the gift-giving/recieving process is a “sampling.” And the sampling follows so closely with the opening that it makes sense to look at them together.
So what’s the sampling look like?
Let’s say you buy your grandpa a new sweater. The knitted kind with red reindeer and powder-blue snowflakes.
Grandpa holds it out to look at it. Then holds it in various angles so everyone in the room can ohh and ahh. Then he holds it up to himself to check the fit.
Then, if he really likes it (and I think he does), he takes off his Iowa Hawkeyes sweatshirt and tries it on. Hopefully he’s wearing something under the Hawks sweatshirt, or it’s a tad awkward for the rest of the family. Especially grandma.
He just sampled it.
This is where this gift metaphor breaks down. (Actually, it breaks down a lot, but you’ve been gracious enough to go this far with me.) Most people are concerned about the gift-giver’s feelings. The sampling is part of the ritual of gift-giving/receiving that says, “I like this so I will to try it on (turn it on, open the case, touch it, smell it, taste it, etc.).” It affirms the giver that she gave a good gift.
Your congregation, however, is likely not worried about your feelings when it comes to learning a new song.
It’s not that they’re bad people. They just aren’t out there thinking, “Oh geez, we better sing this song so Pastor Mike won’t get his feelings hurt.” (Unless you’ve demonstrated to them that you’re an emotionally needy person with a fragile ego. In that case, you should probably be reading a different book that could help you with that. Or finding a therapist.)
So the sampling by your congregation likely runs a wide spectrum. On one side, you have the arms-crossed, brow-furrowed guy studying the projected lyrics to ascertain whether this song is worthy of singing. You’re tempted to send your 4’ 9” spitfire soprano down to grab him by the collar, get in his face, and yell, “Just sing the song, dude!”
You know she’d do it, too.
On the other side, you have that one lady who sings super-loud to everything whether she knows the melody or not. She also has fourteen cats in her house. That she knows of.
Most people are in between, neither eliciting a beat-down from Kristin Chenoweth nor needing a cat-hording intervention.
The bottom-line with the opening and the sampling is this:
It’s now up to them.
People will respond differently. Just give them the time and space to learn the song. BUT, don’t overdo it the first time out.
What do I mean by that?
Let’s say you give someone a box of chocolates. Chances are, she’ll eat one, maybe two, pieces. And of course, she’ll offer you a piece. (Let’s face it, that’s pretty much why we give people chocolate.)
What she won’t do is hork down the whole box right after opening it (unless she’s related to the cat-lady).
And what she doesn’t want is you hovering around, saying, “Oo! Try this one. That’s the caramel one. Oh, and this one has almonds. Here, eat it. And try the one that looks like a turtle. OMIGOSH – nougat! You’ve GOT to try the NOUGAT!”
But we as worship leaders tend to do that. We’re so excited about the new song, so we want everyone to experience the full depths of it right away. We try to cajole people into “singing out” and “entering in.”
But our congregation is just trying to match the words on the screen with the ones you’re singing. And we think we’re being helpful when repeat the song “a few more times.”
But let me encourage all of us worship leaders to adopt this philosophy when it comes to new songs: leave them wanting more.
Why? Because we want them to want to do it again. Which is the ninth component for introducing a new song. And we'll dive into that soon.