One of our regular readers, Rachel Barber, wrote in with a question that touches on the connection between outreach and liturgy. This topic is undeniably of interest today. Often the subject of music looms large in the discussion of how to attract and keep people coming to Sunday worship. But what are our best strategies and responses?
Here’s the background: At the request of the pastor, parish staff members were asked to read the book Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, Making Church Matter (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2013). The description on the book cover states, “Drawing on the wisdom gleaned from thriving megachurches and innovative business leaders while anchoring their vision in the Eucharistic heart of Catholic faith, Fr. Michael White and lay associate Tom Corcoran present the compelling and inspiring story of how they brought their parish (Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland) back to life.” Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who wrote the foreword, gave a glowing endorsement to the book. As of this writing, the book is ranked #2 in books on ministry at Amazon.com.
At almost 300 pages, the book touches on many issues, but I’m going to zone right in on music. I should preface the recommendations by including the description of the music program at Church of the Nativity: “[w]e have five nearly identical services led by [one of two bands]. Both bands include drummers, keyboards, bassists, and various others….Typically the bands play current “praise and worship music because that’s a style of music we’ve found is attractive and engaging….And, of all the musical genres we’ve used, the vibrant and joyful cast and smooth melody of this contemporary style also has the power to get them singing.” The authors do note that they’re not advocating any particular style of music, and later explain that Nativity also uses Gregorian chant for acclamations and other spots in the liturgy.
I wonder what Pray Tell readers think of the following advice:
“–Make sure you have the best musicians you can find (paid or volunteer) and use them; do the difficult thing and ask people who are holding your program down or even making it worse to step aside….
–Raise your music and your musicians up in prayer. Fast for them.
–Whatever the style, make sure your music is worship and your musicians are worship leaders.
–Take care with the selection of your music and do it in view of the liturgy as well as the lost. You need to be talking to your musicians about the music. It’s not about what you like or they want; it’s about the lost.
–Don’t be afraid to repeat music from week to week. In loving ways, encourage your congregation to sing and sing with them.”
For the last item, the authors note that “[t]he music that we use is selected with the input of several people on staff including, but not limited to or directed by the musicians. It usually remains consistent from week to week in the course of a season, which, we’ve found dramatically increases participation.”
And don’t forget the video screens.
What do you think of this advice?