Posted by: rcottrill | February 28, 2010

30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing

I’ve heard it before, from one or another person: “We need to be more contemporary, and not keep using those old-fashioned hymns….The young people don’t understand them…We need to be more up-to-date” (etc. etc.). C. S. Lewis called this dismissal of the traditional, and the tried-and-true, “chronological snobbery.”

My answer is always: “Don’t capitulate…Educate!” Yes, use the best of the new songs. But it’s also possible to learn to appreciate the great hymns of the faith that have come from over the past twenty centuries. I’ve seen it happen, even with teens who don’t think they’re going to like these songs. But just how do we teach folks to enjoy hymn singing? This lengthy article provides some things you might try.

Note: The article began with “30 Ideas” years ago, but I’ve added others that have come to mind since, and more have come from readers of the blog. (About twenty of them came from my missionary son, Jim.) So, here are “30+ ideas,” now amounting to over 80 of them!

First, a couple of general points.

1) If your purpose in singing is to be novel, to work up emotion, or to entertain, you’ve likely missed the whole point. We are to sing praises and prayers to the Lord, and sing to one another with biblical teaching and testimony (Col. 3:16). Above all else, we should exalt the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and point people to Him. And in a well-planned service, much of what we sing should emphasize and enhance the subject of the preaching that day.

2) Don’t just sing hymns, use them thoughtfully. I mean by that, don’t just sing a hymn (any that happens to come to mind) because this is the time in the service when we do that. That can be empty ritualism, and God is not pleased with it. Let it never be said of us, “‘This people honours Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Mk. 7:6). Far better, “I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (I Cor. 14:15). Every hymn in the service should be there because it serves a definite purpose–and you should be able to articulate what that purpose is.

And now for some practical ideas. I think I can guarantee that there are at least a few things here that will enrich the hymn singing in your church–maybe many more than just “a few.” I encourage you to study the possibilities, and use them with care and prayerful preparation. Don’t make the mistake of using too many at once. Introduce things gradually, and assess the response.

3) Instead of singing a hymn, use it occasionally for a unison or responsive reading. (Some hymns lend themselves to alternating lines between the service leader and congregation, between men and women, or between those on one side of the church sanctuary and the other.) Try this with the questions and answers in Bickersteth’s Peace, Perfect Peace.

4) Try some medleys: Combine 2 or 3 hymns (using a stanza or two of each) with no break or introduction between. (Unless you have an accompanist who can modulate or transpose, it’s best to pick songs in the same key.) If you use only a couple of hymns, it’s easy to have the congregation look both up ahead, and keep a finger ready in the second place. To make it simple, it might be best to sing the same stanzas of each (e.g. first and second, or first and last). Or you could combine a hymn with a chorus or two. To add the latter you could put the words on overhead transparencies or in the bulletin.

Tip: You should be able to read the unprojected print on an overhead transparency from 10 feet away. That will usually guarantee easy readability when the material is projected. Test it beforehand by trying to read the projected image from the very back of the room. Also test visibility from various spots in the auditorium/sanctuary, making sure the service leader will not block the line of sight.

5) Take a little time–perhaps in one service a month–for requests, so that peoples’ favourites will not be missed. You don’t need to sing all the stanzas. Sing one or two, so you can include more songs.

6) If you know your people would be at ease to do it, once in awhile, in a “request” time, you could ask individuals to tell why a song is one of their favourites. Or, you could ask them to choose which stanzas you’ll sing. (Again, do this only once in awhile, so you keep things fresh.)

7) Take a hymn poll, and build an entire service around the “Top 10” (singing a verse or two of each). With a bit of thought, these can often be arranged in a logical order so a related devotional message or theme will unfold throughout the service.

Tip: Take the poll for two or three weeks, well ahead of the date you intend to use it. That way, any who are absent the first Sunday will be able to contribute. It will also give the service leader and the pastor time to work out a theme.

8) Feature a hymn writer in a service, with biographical information, and a number of his/her hymns. It might also be possible to build a message around some “lesson from life” illustrated by the individual (e.g. God’s use of Fanny Crosby, in spite of her blindness; Philip Bliss’s sudden death at age thirty-eight in a tragic train accident).

9) Occasionally, sing a hymn to a different tune than the one employed in the hymn book. (The Metrical Index can help with this. See my article About That “Metrical Index”.) Make sure the tune fits the word emphasis of the metre, and the mood of the words.

10) Occasionally, in announcing a hymn, give a brief biographical note about the author, or quote a relevant verse of Scripture. It is also helpful to give some insight into the meaning of the song, or explain unusual words. If there is a doctrinal error in the hymn, point it out, and either omit that stanza, or provide alternate wording.

11) Sing a verse of the hymn unaccompanied–and encourage people to sing a harmony part if they can.

12) You could have the men sing one verse, and the women another, on occasion. And if there are enough children in the congregation, and the song is familiar to them (e.g. Jesus Loves Me), have the children sing a stanza, perhaps with a little help from one or two adults.

13) If there is a soloist in the congregation, have him/her sing a verse. (Just be sure to forewarn the person–though I saw it done once when the person had no warning at all! She was used to singing solos, and she did fine.)

14) Plan a Community Hymn Sing, inviting other churches to join in a service of hymn singing. I’ve led many of these, and folks find them a blessing, and a great time of fellowship with believers from other congregations. You’ll find instructions and tips for doing this here.

15) Be on the lookout for new hymns and choruses of top quality (or older ones that are unfamiliar to most), and introduce them to the congregation over a period of weeks. (Don’t just sing them once. Use them several weeks in a row, so people have a chance to learn them.) Keep a record of these, and when they were used, and return to them from time to time.

16) As a service leader, if you are not familiar with a hymn, don’t automatically avoid it. Instead, work on it and learn it. You could look it up on the Cyber Hymnal (which will also play the tune for you) and learn it that way.

17) We’ve usually had a “live” instrumental prelude in churches I’ve attended. But here’s an alternative. As people are gathering for a service, play a good tape or CD of hymns that are suitably arranged and well sung (or played). The congregation may learn some new ones without even realizing it!

18) Have a Bible study (perhaps in the adult Sunday School class) that explores the biblical themes in a hymn. (Try it with How Firm a Foundation, a good choice since almost every stanza is based on a passage of Scripture.)

19) Encourage the pastor to use illustrations from the lives of hymn writers in his messages. (If a song by the writer fits the sermon’s theme, it could perhaps be used as the closing hymn afterward.)

20) If you are a service leader, work with the pastor to build each service (hymns, choruses, Scripture readings, music ministry, etc.) on a theme–preferably related to the preaching of the Word that day. Discuss: what is the goal for the message this week? What do you want people to feel or believe or do as a result? This will give better direction to the choosing of the hymns. Sometimes this may be more difficult, if not many hymns seem to suit the sermon topic. In that case, the theme of praise and thanksgiving in the hymns is always appropriate.

21) If you have instrumental talent in the church, could you start an orchestra? If the group becomes skilled enough, have them accompany the singing. (In my view, they should avoid loudly amplified instruments, or heavy repetitive percussion. The instrumentalists are to “accompany” and support the singers, not compete with them!)

22) Put a hymn quiz in the bulletin one week, with the answers printed there the following week.

23) Print a hymn on a bulletin insert that’s not in your usual hymn book (especially helpful if the hymn is needed to fit the sermon theme). Sometimes, when I’ve done this, I’ve included the story behind the hymn on the other side of the insert. (Check the Index of Wordwise Hymns for this information.)

24) Teach people to value their heritage of sacred music by sharing (from the pulpit, or in a bulletin insert) how hymns were born out of times of persecution, or times of personal suffering. My article here on the subject of suffering hymn writers will be a start.

25) Place books and videos on hymn writers and their hymns in the church library, and promote them occasionally.

26) Train a singing group to introduce a new hymn. It could be played as an offertory one week, and used as a ministry in music (a special number) the next. Then taught to all the week after.

27) Select a couple of key young men and train them to lead services effectively. Give them the opportunity to lead a service. Then offer some constructive criticism afterward. (Yes, women can do this too, but I prefer to see men in leadership.)

28) Choose a hymn (or chorus) of the month, and sing it each Sunday. One week, you could include some background information on the hymn in the bulletin. You might also teach it to the children in Sunday School, Children’s Church, or week-day club, with a story about how it came to be written.

29) Take a few moments to explain something about music in the service, so that we can worship with excellence. How can we improve our singing? Why is the melody of this song the way it is? (For something more extensive, see the next item.)

30) Have a singing lesson during the service. (Yes, you read that right.) Depending on your church, there are various ways to do this. You could have folks come early, and have a ten-minute session before the service. If you have an evening service that’s less formal, try it then.

For example, you could teach a little bit about music notation, and teach the proper use of the diaphragm in singing. You could maybe try a bit of two-part singing. Even practice in how to hold a hymn book (as flat as possible, with the head up) will increase the sound. Don’t take more than five or ten minutes for this. But if you do it even once a month, you should hear an improvement in congregational singing over the course of a year.

You could also hand out the words and music to a song and challenge people to learn parts at home. Use the song several weeks in a row, and have the worship leader teach the harmony. Sing all or part of the song a capella (without accompaniment) when parts are learned, so the harmony can be more fully appreciated.

31) Sing more hymns in the services–even if you use fewer stanzas of each on that occasion. There is no need to sing all the verses, all the time. Pick ones that suit the theme. Save the other stanzas for another time.

32) Once in awhile, repeat the final chorus of a song. It can add to the impact. (Try it with Blessed Be the Name.)

33) Occasionally suggest a slight change to a hymn that can be enjoyed by the singers, or make the song more meaningful. (Try not to make the changes so complicated that folks won’t remember or be able to follow them.)

Following are a few examples:

34) The last music line of Immortal Invisible–”‘Tis only the splendour of light hideth Thee”–can be repeated as a four-fold Amen.

35) The last line of When I Survey the Wondrous Cross can be sung as, “Love so amazing, so divine, / Shall have my soul, my life, my all.”

36) Try repeating the last line of How Firm a Foundation three times, slowing down considerably the last time” “I’ll never–no never, no, never forsake!” (It definitely will help to make the point!)

37) One or more stanzas of Take Time to Be Holy can be sung as, “Take time to behold Him.”

38) Try singing the final refrain of He Keeps Me Singing at about half speed, with a hold on the second syllable of “Jesus” each time.

39) You could include some excellent stanzas of hymns now and then that are not in the hymn book, projecting them with the overhead, or printing them in the bulletin. (Often you can find the complete version of our hymns on the Cyber Hymnal.) Here are just a few examples of stanzas that are sometimes missed:

40) Most hymn books miss the last stanza of There Shall Be Showers of Blessing, but it is important: “There shall be showers of blessing, / If we but trust and obey; / There shall be seasons refreshing / If we let God have His way.”

41) A wonderful last verse of Fairest Lord Jesus is seldom used: “All fairest beauty, / Heav’nly and earthly, / Wondrously, Jesus, is found in Thee; / None could be nearer, / Fairer or dearer / Than Thou, My Saviour, art to me.”

42) The hymn Nearer, My God, to Thee is based on the record of Jacob fleeing from his brother, Esau. But it was written by a Unitarian. English hymn writer, E. H. Bickersteth, felt it was incomplete. He offered this lovely final stanza: “There in my Father’s home, / Safe and at rest, / There in my Saviour’s love / Perfectly blest; / Age after age to be / Nearer, my God, to Thee.”

43) Consider including the missing stanzas of It Is Well With My Soul once in awhile: “For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: / If Jordan above me shall roll, / No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life / Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.” And “But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, / The sky, not the grave, is our goal; / Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord! / Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!” (These are actually Stanzas 4 and 5, with the final one usually found in the hymn book being Stanza 6.)

44) You will notice that Bickersteth’s hymn Peace, Perfect Peace has a most unusual structure. The first line of each stanza but the last is a question, for which the last line provides the answer. Try singing this hymn antiphonally, either with the ladies singing all the first lines, and the men all the second lines, or perhaps with those seated on one side of the sanctuary singing one, and those on the other side responding. (The gospel song No, Not One works well this way too.)

There are a number of stanzas of Peace, Perfect Peace not usually included in the hymn book, covering other troubling circumstances. For example: ”Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours? / Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.” And when one of the pastor’s sisters pointed out that the hymn does not deal with physical suffering, he added: “Peace, perfect peace, ’mid suffering’s sharpest throes? / The sympathy of Jesus breathes repose.” Then, there is a final stanza which does not contain a question (both groups could sing it together): “It is enough: earth’s struggles soon shall cease, / And Jesus call us to heav’n’s perfect peace.”

45) Encourage families (or singles) to purchase a copy of the church’s hymn book, and use it in personal or family devotions. I am convinced this should be emphasized. It’s important to have this devotional resource in each home. Good hymns can be read with profit in daily devotions, as well as sung.

Tip: See if you can order hymn books with a different coloured cover for home use–different from the ones at church. Then they won’t be confused with church copies.

46) Instead of having visitors to your home sign a guest book, you could have them neatly sign next to their favourite hymn in your book. Great memento! Each time you sing or read that hymn, it will remind you to pray for the person.

47) Encourage Bible colleges to teach a course on hymnology, and be balanced in the music they use. (Otherwise, graduates will move into pastorates uniformed about this key area robbing their congregations of their heritage.)

48) Perhaps you could form a children’s choir and purposely teach them hymns. That will benefit both them and those that listen later.

49) A blogger talked about a project being given to children in a choir in which she sang years ago. If they memorized the first stanza of twenty hymns, and could recite them in front of the group, they earned their own personal copy of the hymn book. That is an excellent idea!

50) Here’s another idea that came from a fellow blogger. Find two or three families who love to sing hymns. Then, arrange to get together once a month, in a different family’s home each month, for a mini-hymn sing. A sufficient number of old hymn books should be easy to find (or perhaps you could borrow some from your church).

51) Once in awhile, you might try singing a hymn twice in a service (not one right after the other, but spaced out by other items). Or, if the words suit it, you might try reading the hymn one time, and singing it another. If it’s a great hymn, with important doctrinal teaching or rich devotional content, this would be especially appropriate. Or if it ties in well to the subject of the sermon, it could be sung early in the service, and again right after the message.

52) Children’s summer camp programs and Vacation Bible School programs are especially valuable for teaching hymns, since there is likely singing every day–perhaps a couple of times each day. Leaders should plan to teach at least two or three good hymns during the week, and tell the stories behind them. (Not all the stanzas need to be used. Pick ones that will be meaningful to the children–sometimes a single stanza will do.)

Tip: Sing these hymns in the program in following years, adding others each time. Children who are repeat attenders will help others to learn the ones they remember.

53) If your church has the luxury of having sufficient copies of two or three hymn books used over the years (as ours does), why not switch books for a few weeks, and sing some old favourites that aren’t in the book you’ve been using?

54) If you know of musicians or musical groups that have some traditional hymns or gospel songs in their repertoire, why not book them to minister to your people, encouraging them to focus on some of the great hymns. (Perhaps some of their selections could involve the congregation in a sing-along.)

55) If folks feel comfortable doing so, have them suggest several hymns they would like to have sung at their Memorial Service. (Ask this in private, and be ready to make some suggestions, if they’re stuck. You can find a list of a few suggestions here.) When all the contributions are in, compile a list, and work the hymns into the regular services in the coming months–especially ones that are lesser known, so that the congregation is more familiar with them.

56) Obviously it doesn’t work if you are planning the service for a particular person who has passed away, but you could ask for suggestions for Memorial Service hymns during a church service. Distribute slips of paper and have individuals write the songs down, and put them on the offering plate. You could do this several weeks in a row, so that all have a chance to take part.

57) Use only one hymn in a service. This will work with a longer hymn of good quality, in which each stanza says something important. (For example, try it with My Jesus, As Thou Wilt.) Build the whole service around it. Intersperse the stanzas with Scripture verses, devotional readings, or testimonies. (For the latter, you may wish to ask the people before hand, requesting them to illustrate the lesson of a particular stanza from their own experience.)

58) I heard of a parent who had children in the home memorize a Bible verse and a stanza of a hymn, each week. Having children and adults recite hymns could become a fun family activity. It highlights this great treasure, and reinforces these songs in the memory, also encouraging participation when the hymns are sung in church.

At tea time every Sunday (4:00 to 6:00 p.m.), English hymn writer Edward Bickersteth (Peace, Perfect Peace and other songs) asked each member of his family to quote a hymn. He did this himself–or recited a new one of his own. His son remembered this, years afterward as their invariable practice.

59) Make use of this site and the Cyber Hymnal to gather background on hymns you plan to use on a particular Sunday. Short, helpful notes could be included in the Sunday bulletin about a hymn, or perhaps a picture of the author. Or a few facts could be shared from the pulpit before the song is sung. If you check the Almanac section of Wordwise Hymns (see the sidebar), you may occasionally find that the author of a particular hymn was born or died on the very day you plan to use it.

60) Something I’ve done once in awhile is have members of the congregation sit in parts sections (soprano or melody singers, altos, tenors, basses). It’s easier to sing a harmony part if those near you are on the same note! (You’ll know your congregation. This won’t work with all.)

61) If you are a small congregation, put the seats in a circle, or semi-circle once in awhile, so you can all see each other. The sound of singing will be directed toward the centre and it tends to be heard better by all.

62) A song such as He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands lends itself to adding stanzas about your own congregation. With a little thought, you can make various names fit. “He’s got Jack and Mary in His hands…” Or “He’s got the Dempster’s new baby in His hands…” Or what about reminding folks of your shut-ins: “He’s got Helena and Lois in His hands…” It’s a fun thing to hear your name sung in church, and a wonderful reminder of the personal care of the Lord.

63) You could read through a song such as No, Not One (skipping the repetitive “No, Not One’s”). This could either be done by the service leader, by some volunteers, or as a unison reading. Then, ask for testimonies of how a particular truth expressed in the song has blessed individuals recently, or how they’ve been a living example of a particular line. It may make the singing of the song especially meaningful.

64) If someone says he (or she) can’t understand the old hymns, you might suggest this project. In his/her own copy of the hymnal at home, read through each hymn, looking up words not understood, writing a brief definition in the margin. Then, suggest he/she read the hymn through again, underlining significant things. (Suggested: A promise to believe; a command to obey; a blessing to enjoy and share; an example to learn from.) This is bound to increase an appreciation for these songs.

65) Did you know the Index of the hymnal can be a special blessing to you. It can. Here is something to try on your own, and share with the whole congregation. Check out the article Blessings in the Titles. Encourage folks to try it later, during a time of meditation and prayer, just before the start of a service.

66) I heard recently of a church where some fall asleep during the sermon. (It happens in other churches, too.) Here’s an idea that may help to solve the problem. Have the pastor plan for a congregational hymn at some appropriate point in the middle of his sermon. It could accompanied, but it’s probably easier if it isn’t–if the pastor or service leader can simply get it started. Have folks stand for this. Sing only a stanza or two. And above all, if at all possible, make what is chosen relevant to the theme of the message at that point. The change of position, and the use of the lungs will refresh everyone.

67) Here’s a project for pastors and/or service leaders. It will take some time, but you can do it over several weeks, a bit at a time. Go through the hymn book and mark or list hymns that have not been used over the past year but could be. (This presupposes that you keep a record of that. A very good idea!) In my own long experience, a congregation tends to gravitate toward the familiar few, and many great hymns are never used. I just did it, as an experiment, with the first 52 hymns in our present book. I found a dozen that haven’t been used in the past year–some familiar, some less so (but we could learn them).

68) If you are a small congregation, don’t neglect good recordings as a means of a special ministry in music–or to teach an unfamiliar hymn. As well as being on CD’s, these songs are often available on YouTube. And there are archival recordings (of Ira Sankey and others) that will allow your people to hear how songs were sung way back when. (Check out for this.)

69) If you are a larger congregation, and able to offer adult electives in Sunday School, what about having one on Music Appreciation–focusing especially on sacred music. You could include music from the great oratorios, as well. But it’s a great opportunity to share the history of our hymns, and examine the words more closely. Or you could have a series through one quarter (13 weeks) studying the biblical message of some great hymns.

70) Have a time of silence for prayer and reflection after the singing of a hymn. Or this could be done before the hymn is sung, asking folks to read a stanza, or all of the hymn, and meditate on it and pray for a few moments.

71) Sing several songs in a row, and choose people from the congregation (ahead of time) to read Scripture between the songs. You might try going through a passage of Scripture with your songs (and words), perhaps a psalm.

72) Help everyone to memorize a passage of Scripture over perhaps several weeks, then recite it together and sing a song (or songs) related to the theme. (Try this with Psalm 1.)

73) Have someone share a testimony related to the next song to be sung.

74) Have a service, or series of services, on the theme of the gospel, with songs and Scriptures related to each point. For example: Our Great God; Sin/Repentance; Jesus, His death and resurrection; Salvation/Forgiveness; Growing in Character and Service.

75) Celebrate Christmas in July, singing Christmas carols. These songs will bless you in a new way when you do. The sermon also should relate to this theme.

77) Celebrate Christmas and Easter together in a service, halfway between Christmas and Easter (around the middle of February). Remember the incarnation, why Jesus came – sing songs of Christmas, the cross, and the resurrection.

78) If you have a gifted person that can do so, have him/her write a new song and sing it, or perhaps set a passage of Scripture to music that the congregation can sing.

79) If your services are informal enough for it to be appropriate, sing a children’s song and teach the actions to everyone!

80) Invite a missionary to teach a stanza of a song or hymn in another language. If this is done with a familiar hymn using a familiar tune, it will be meaningful to sing it again in later weeks.

81) Unplug: Have a whole service with no amplification. And/or have a complete service with the singing unaccompanied. This could be tied to an explanation of worship in the early church, or worship in lands where gathering as a body of believers is forbidden. You may be surprised at how enjoyable unaccompanied singing is, and want to do it more often!

82) Explain the meaning of a word in a hymn, or the song overall (don’t assume that everyone knows).

83) Briefly explain to the congregation why you–the pastor or service leader–chose a specific song to sing this week.

84) Once in awhile, remind people to think about what they’re singing. If you are singing a true hymn (i.e. one addressed directly to God in praise or prayer), remind folks they are singing to the Lord–who is present in the service.

85) If it suits your numbers and the logistics, try having a service outside once in awhile.

86) During the service, record a message and a special song for someone who cannot attend due to illness or infirmity. Pray for them. Then have the pastor or another person take the recording and play it for the individual during the week.

87) As I have said before, everything possible should be done to integrate the hymns into the service. They should be part of the overall theme and direction of the service. Help all in the congregation to realize why they are being sung. Whether he himself chooses them, the pastor should know what hymns will be used days before the Sunday when they are sung. As much as possible, songs should be chosen that reflect the message to be preached. Here are two ideas for connecting these two elements more closely.

a) The pastor should search for memorable lines or phrases in the hymns that he can quote in his sermon. This should be done by calling specific attention by name to the hymn sung earlier, or one to be sung after the message. Over time, this will educate people to look for connections and see the hymn singing as an integral part of the service.

b) If the announcements are given right at the beginning of the service, you might try having someone (the pastor, the service leader, or someone else) take a couple of minutes to comment on the hymns to be used, showing their connection to the coming sermon. This might involve quoting the hymn, or a related Scripture, or giving a brief biographical note about the author, or telling about the occasion that inspired the writing of the song. Keep it short, and interesting. Something along this line could also be put in the Sunday bulletin, and referred to at this time.

88) It can be effective to insert a Scripture reading into the midst of a hymn. This can mark a transition in the hymn or highlight a particular truth being sung about. The reading can be done by the pastor or service leader, or as a unison reading by the congregation. For the latter, the Scripture passage can be projected on a wall, or printed in the bulletin. Keep the passage fairly short, so that the flow of the hymn isn’t lost. (In the following examples I’ve numbered the stanzas as they’re found in the Cyber Hymnal.)

¤ Crown Him with Many Crowns: sing CH 1 and 3; read I Cor. 15:20-21; sing CH 4 and 6.
¤ Rejoice, the Lord Is King: sing CH 1 and 2; read Rev. 11:15 (or Rev. 19:11-3); sing CH 3 and 6.
¤ Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness: CH 1 and 2; read Rom. 8:33-34; sing CH 7 and 8.

89) Some very robust and spirited tunes can be used in more subdued settings. I’ve always thought of the tune Hyfrydol (to which we sing Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners, and Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, as a rousing, lively tune. But last Sunday my wife (our church pianist) played the tune during the distribution of the Communion elements. She slowed it down, and play softly. The result was wonderful, so suited to the quiet reverence of the moment. Try it, and I think you’ll see.


  1. ***** It’s a definite “5-star” article! Should be on the “required reading” list for ALL Bible college students (and especially for those with Pastoral Studies and Church Music majors). This is a “slam-dunk”, Robert! Nice work! (I do hope you’re not writing these lists on your church bulletin during the sermon each week… especially if you’re the preacher!)

    And now for a question (why should I miss an opportunity to learn?) that has often puzzled me about one of my own “Top 20” hymns: When singing “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”, tune: SAGINA, most congregations seem to use vs. 1 as the words to the Refrain for every verse! Has my experience been warped, in that I have always heard each verse of the Refrain match the preceding text? (i.e., sing vs. 1, then sing the Refrain for vs. 1 using the words, “Amazing Love! How can it be…?”; sing vs. 2, then sing the Refrain for vs. 2 using the words, “‘Tis mercy all, let earth adore!/Let angel minds inquire no more”, etc.) Your thoughts?

    ps #2 (I “cheated” by adding an extra question;-)) What hymns are in *your* “Top 10” or “Top 20” list, Robert? (We KNOW that “In the Garden” or “Whispering Hope” are toward the top…)

    • Thanks for your enthusiasm. I’ll try to comment on a few things you’ve said. (Glad you enjoyed “metre” and my other colourful labours to write Canadian. It probably gave my publisher fits when they went through the manuscript for my book on Christmas carols. They had to Americanize me!)

      As to Canadian hymn books: Most of our hymnals are published in America. One reason for this is that quite a few denominations have their headquarters there. Another is economic. Publishing hymn books is costly, and the publishing industry in Canada is quite small. And even those few that are published here have mostly British and American songs in them. However, here’s a sampling of what I have in my collection:

      The Canadian Hymnal, published by William Briggs (Toronto) in 1911
      The Methodist Hymn and Tune Book, published by William Briggs (Toronto) in 1917
      The Hymnary of the United Church of Canada, published by the United Church Publishing House (Toronto) in 1930
      The Book of Common Praise–Being the Hymn Book of the Church of England in Canada, published by Oxford University Press (in Toronto) in 1938
      The Hymn Book–of the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada, published in 1971 (couldn’t find a publisher listed)

      A surprising number of hymns have what I call a “Canadian Connection,” written by Canadians, or people living in Canada. I hope to eventually post a list in my Topics section, but here’s a sampling:

      Crown Him With Many Crowns, was written by Matthew Bridges (1800-1894), who spent many years in Canada. I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go, was written by Mary Houghton Brown, born in Canada in 1856. Unto the Hills, was written by John Douglas Sutherland Campbell (1845-1914), the former Governor General of Canada. So Send I You, and many other hymns, were written by Canadian Edith Margaret Clarkson (1915-2008). The Ninety and Nine, was written by Elizabeth Cecelia Douglas Clephane of Scotland (1830-1869), about her wayward brother, who resided in Fergus, Ontario. Work, for the Night Is Coming, was written by Anna Louisa Walker Coghill (1836-1907), who lived for a time in Sarnia, Ontario. Gentle Mary Laid Her Child, is a carol written by Joseph Simpson Cook (1859-1933). He was educated at McGill University, and served with the Methodists and the United Church of Canada. God Who Touchest Earth with Beauty, written for campers by Mary Susanne Edgar (1889-1973) of Ontario. My Jesus, I Love Thee, by William Ralph Featherstone (1846-1873), of Montreal, was likely written when he was converted at the age of 16. Breathe on Me, Breath of God, by Edwin Hatch (1835-1889), an Englishman who served for a time as professor of classics at Trinity College, in Toronto. All Your Anxiety, was given to us by Edward Henry Joy (1871-1949), who was for years a Salvation Army Officer in Winnipeg. God Will Take Care of You; and His Eye Is on the Sparrow, were written by Civilla Durfee Martin (1866-1948), born in Nova Scotia. Jesus, Wondrous Saviour, by Daniel Arthur McGregor (1847-1890), was the great theme hymn of McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, in its more evangelical days. Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary; and Why Did They Nail Him to Calvary’s Tree? are by John M. Moore (1925- ), a pastor in Toronto. Is It the Crowning Day? was written by Henry Ostrom (1862-1941), a pastor and evangelist, born in Ontario. What a Friend We Have in Jesus, was written by Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1819-1886), of Port Hope, Ontario. The Wonder of It All; and the music for I’d Rather Have Jesus are by George Beverly Shea (1909- ), born in Winchester, Ontario. Deeper and Deeper; God Is Waiting in the Silence; God Understands; Joy in Service Jesus; Saved! The Saviour Can Solve Every Problem; The Song of the Soul Set Free; and Then Jesus Came were written by Oswald Jeffrey Smith (1889-1986), a Toronto pastor who wrote something like 1,200 hymns. He likely ranks as the most prolific author of Canadian hymns. What, Never Thirst Again? (also called simply Never Thirst Again) was written by Salvation Army officer, May Agnew Stephens (1865-1935), born in Kingston, Ontario.

      As to And Can It Be? Yes, some hymn books take the end of stanza one as the refrain for all the stanzas to follow. Can’t exactly say why. It may have something to do with saving a bit of space. Another time when this is commonly done really bugs me–with the carol What Child Is This? The first stanza ends: “This, this is Christ the King, / Whom shepherds guard and angels sing; / Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, / The Babe, the Son of Mary.” Then, some use that as the refrain for the other stanzas, missing this at the end of stanza two: “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, / The cross be borne for me, for you. / Hail, hail the Word made flesh, / The Babe, the Son of Mary.”

      Regarding my Top 10 favourite hymns. Well, along with In the Garden, and Whispering Hope, and maybe Beautiful Isle of Somewhere (tongue in cheek), I have many favourites. Can’t give you a definitive list. But a few of the many that have meant a great deal to me are: It Is Well with My Soul; Be Still, My Soul; Jesus Loves Even Me; and Take the Name of Jesus with You.

  2. These are all excellent ideas. Something that I have found to be very effective in my Hymnology classes and seminars is this: I carefully go over the *words* of hymns — explaining words such as Sabaoth, Ebenezer, and panoply; and giving Scriptural backgrounds and foundations, where applicable. Sabaoth (and the entire hymn “A Mighty Fortress”) comes from Psalm 46. Ebenezer and the story behind it comes from I Samuel 7. The phrase “Great is Thy Faithfulness” comes from Lamentations 3:22-23. Several hymns refer to the fire and cloudy pillars and the manna from the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings. “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” comes straight from Psalm 103. “O Worship the King” (all 6 verses) comes straight from Psalm 104. “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” (all 9 verses) comes straight from Psalm 90. I could go on and on. When people see what the words mean and the Scriptural foundations of hymns, they sing with understanding and see the importance of hymns for today.

    • The words you mention do need explaining. (Some editors replace them with other terms, seemingly on the assumption that folks aren’t intelligent enough to understand if the words are explained. (It would help if a hymn book put a Scripture reference under the hymn for words such as Ebenezer.)

      One time in class I introduced the gospel song There’s Honey in the Rock. One student mocked the song, saying it was a goofy idea for a theme. But I pointed out that it’s in the Bible and that gave him quite a different attitude.

  3. […] 30 Ideas for Promoting Hymn SingingSome helpful tips for encouraging hymn singing. document.getElementById("post-3217-blankimage").onload(); […]

  4. Try singing How Great Thou Art to the tune of Finlandia only finish with “How great Thou art, my God How great Thou art.” According to our UMH metrical index, “How Great Thou Art” is irregular and “Be Still My Soul” is so I was surprised to find that it works. When I first realized this I considered this revelation was a gift God gave just to me and one would never think to put those together. Since then I’ve seen both hymns listed as the same meter as well as many more (O Holy Night) for instance.

    By the way, Robert Morgan’s story on “Be Still My Soul” from his book “Then Sings My Soul” will touch your soul.

    Another one to try is the two verses of an old hymn “I Would Be True” to one verse and chorus of the tune of Londonderry Air. It was sung that way at Princess Diana’s funeral.

    • H-m-m… Well, “I Would be True” certainly fits Londonderry Air, if we use two stanzas each time. The other pairings seem more of a stretch. I’m loathe to lose the last couple of lines of the text of “Be Still, My Soul” to accomodate it to the tune for “How Great Thou Art.” And “O Holy Night” doesn’t quite fit the tune for either of these. Close, but for me all three work best with the tunes they have. Thanks for sharing though. And your idea of Methodist churches featuring Tindley and his songs in Black History month sounds like a good one. Maybe someone will read your comment here and give it a try.

  5. […] (For some creative ways to encourage more hymn singing in your church, check out 30 Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing.) […]

  6. How thankful I am, and we are (your faithful readers) for those church bulletins and inserts, Robert… I trust that your church secretary knows that she’s stacking up her treasures in heaven by printing & folding all of those bulletins each week! (Do you happen to have a separate sketch blog for the Spanish galleon sketches, et al.? I’d love to see them — I have NO doubt that they’re good work, as is this blog on hymns. I’m thinking that perhaps your earliest practice sketching in church was… doing caricatures of the grown-ups in the choir, as well as an occasional quick sketch of soloists! 😆 )

    Thanks for sharing with us several of your “favourites”! I, too, love “Take the Name of Jesus With You”. When I was in early elementary school the church our family attended always sang the first verse of it Sunday evenings after the closing prayer — often the pianist would drop out when the congregation reached the chorus, and so I grew to love hearing it sung a cappella (and now, of course, am confident that a cappella music will be what I hear, nano-seconds from entering Heaven). It’s really been just the last 10 years or so that I’ve especially grown to love the not just the 1st verse of that Gospel song, but ALL of the verses! “Hope of Earth, and Joy of Heav’n!” YES!!!

    A few additional comments (sorry for hijacking your blog here) on this great article on hymn-singing: I like the occasional use of a verse or two of a hymn being used as a responsive reading, however, I think that the worship director should be fairly comfortable in leading such a reading — a few churches I’ve visited where the song leader announced that part of the next hymn would be read responsively seemed to provoke a response similar to advising the congregation that the first half of the message would be given in Chinese ~ a very interesting mixed response indeed.

    Your suggestion that perhaps a little time be devoted each month to singing congregational favorites brought to mind one innovative worship director who did that very thing the 5th Sunday of the month! People really grew to look forward to it — some keeping 3×5 cards/lists on their fridge doors for listing hymn favorites and page #s, so as to be all ready when the 5th Sunday came!

    Suggestion #12 ~ re: “Canned” pre-service music nearly caused at least one reader to collapse in shock while reading this post. Surely you must be thinking of churches with NO musical instruments available as candidates for canned prelude/postlude music, right? (Ha!) A young person studying the piano/organ, and with enough ability to play the 4 parts of a hymns with correct notes and proper tempo can be a possible solution for churches that believe they are not able to have “live” prelude/postlude music. I realize that suggesting a young person play in a service is a potential “can of worms” (but a relatively smallish can) to some congregations who believe that every note is to be played flawlessly 110% of the time, but it is still something to be considered… (here: I’m handing back the can-opener;-))

    THANK you — YES! — for reminding everyone (but this may be like “preachin’ to the choir” on this blog!) that instruments are to accompany and support singers — never to drown them out!

    Finally (for now!) I like your suggestion of a monthly “theme” chorus or hymn, as well as the idea of having a small vocal group present it the first time or two, to make it easier to learn. Not only does having a “theme” chorus sung regularly aid in better remembering the words & melody; it has the added benefit of encouraging a greater sense of unity & warmth (I believe the “official” term is “warm fuzzies”) to the entire congregation. (And what congregation couldn’t use that?!) THANKS again for your work…

    Eagerly awaiting the galleon blog (with or without caricatures…) 😆

    p.s. THANKS, too, for including a cappella singing! With the advent of overhead-projected music & power-pointed music, many people are missing the words of the great hymns AND the harmony ~ and have no clue how to sing the harmony “by ear”, so unfamiliar the old hymns have become! Blessings and THANKS-givings to God for this blog! Keep up the good work!

    • Wonderful blog–and I had some good laughs along the way. (You may notice that I edited out the paragraph describing my Sunday doodles. Didn’t want to lead others astray.) But it reminded me of something that happened when our son (now a missionary in Mexico, with his wife Shari) was a little boy. I was preaching, and my wife Beth was in the pew, with our son, who was drawing or colouring a picture. Suddenly, he started jerking his head upward, and my wife whispered, “What on earth are you doing?” Said Jim, “I’m lifting up my head.” (I was speaking on Ps. 24 with its “Life up your heads, O you gates!”) My point is that it is possible to draw and listen–even for children in church.

      As to the use of “canned music” for the Prelude to worship, I certainly wasn’t suggesting that we do away with the instrumentalists. But it can be a refreshing change, used occasionally. My wife plays beautifully, and she’s our usual accompanist. But we have occasionally used a music video, with beautiful scenery and edifying music, as folks enter–and Beth is delighted to enjoy this along with the rest of us.

      One more point, somewhat related to the P.S. about singing in harmony. In the 19th century, Singing Schools were common. Folks learned to sing, to sing a part, and read music. I believe churches would be well served to conduct a program like that. It could even be advertised as a community event–a variation on the Community Hymn Sing. (One time I led one of those and had the folks sit in sections: soprano (and melody singers), alto, tenor and bass. It worked quite well.) And see my newly posted article, Singing in Harmony.

      Months ago a reader asked me if I knew of a program to teach singing to church groups. It took me some time to track down, but there is such a thing. Bob Jones University has produced it, and there’s both a leader’s and students manual. I know of one woman who’s used it, and recommends the material, though I’ve yet to see it myself. You can check it out at…

  7. […] (For some creative ways to encourage the singing of traditional hymns and gospel songs in your church, see 30 Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing.) […]

  8. […] Would you like to do more to promote hymn singing in your church? Check out 30 Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing. […]

  9. […] you are concerned that hymn singing is being neglected in your church, check out my article 30 Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing. There may be a few ideas there you could […]

  10. Mr. Robert, I wrote in your blog about 2 months ago, sharing with you about the event called: HYMN APPRECIATION NIGHT (for Youth).

    Well, now the event is being prepared and the committee has been very busy now. By the way, I am the leader of the committee, and there are a few questions I would like to ask:

    I have no idea how to promote this event. As you know, the event such as praise and worship night is very popular. Almost every church (their youth especially) hold this kind of event. But, they don’t use hymns. They use contemporary songs with bands playing out loud. While what we are trying to do is totally the opposite. We sing hymns accompanied by orchestra. It’s quite classical, I think. While youth’s interest now is not on the classical stuffs.

    What can I do to get this youth’s attention? Moreover, how can I change their worldview to make them able to appreciate hymns? What kind of publication and advertisement I can use to attract them?

    I think that’s all. It’s nice to have a person like you who has same opinion and worldview. Thanks for letting me share all these burdens in my mind.

    God bless you.

    • Thanks for getting in touch. I assume you’ve had a look at my article on how to plan a Community Hymn Sing. It will give you ideas with regard to promotion. Posters in appropriate places, in the church and around town, are a help. And bulletin inserts several weeks in advance.

      As to how you can promote this event among the youth, that is not so easy. If they haven’t been taught over a period of time to appreciate the great hymns of the church, you are not likely going to convince them to come all of a sudden. I had one teen say to me, bluntly, “If it ain’t got drums and guitars, I ain’t interested!” (Well, at least he was honest!) If you have a youth program in your church, and the youth leader is well-liked, he/she may be able to promote the event among the teen-agers and convince some to give it a try. You could do something similar if there are one or two guys and girls among the young people who are themselves popular, and who’d be willing to encourage others to come.

      The program itself is going to be a key as well. If a few teens do come, will they be interested in coming to the next one? Would they be willing to invite friends to join them? (If it turns them off, you’re sunk!) You say the program planned is “quite classical.” But if every number is like that, it will not likely appeal to many young people. You don’t have to descend to loud bands and mindless contemporary songs, but you should be able to vary the program with some upbeat gospel songs. Tell the story of Luther Bridgers, and sing “He Keeps Me Singing.” Or use other upbeat gospel songs (and don’t sing them too slowly): “A New Name in Glory,” “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing,” “Springs of Living Water,” “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart,” and so on. (Pick ones your own congregation is familiar with.)

      Or what about singing “Count Your Blessings,” and in the middle of it, doing the Wave? Do you know what I mean by that? At football games, it starts at the end of a row, with one person standing up and sitting down, followed by the one next to them quickly doing the same, and the next, and the next. It’s a lot of fun–and it does look a little like a wave traveling along. Well, this version would be to stand up and mention–let’s say, in no more than 3 words, something you thank God for. Go back and forth along the rows, until the whole church has participated. Then, maybe sing the final stanza of the song.

      You will know whether your folks would be willing to do this kind of thing. But you need to do some things to loosen up the evening and make it fun. An evening of hymn singing shouldn’t be deadly dull. Give a listen to what the Cathedral Quartet does with the tune of “O Happy Day!” It’s done just for fun, and those present sure seem to be enjoying it. Or, another example: Here’s a Bluegrass rendition of the hymn Tell It to Jesus. Wow! Great, toe-tapping music. (That boy can sure play–and sing, too!) But I sense a real sincerity from this group.

      One more tip: If you sing a hymn that includes an unfamiliar word, one that the young people will not likely know, take a moment to explain the meaning. Then all can sing with understanding–something the Bible exhorts us to do.

      Do you have young people in your orchestra? (If not, that points to a longer range project!) Or what about inviting a guest instrmentalist or soloist–a young person who plays or sings the kind of music you are trying to promote. If you can find a quartet of attractive young men, or a trio of attractive young ladies that sings hymn arrangements in a suitable style, why not invite them to take part.

      Well, there are a few ideas off the top of my balding head. Some may not work for you. But see what you can do, and let me know how it turns out.

  11. […] 3) The local church must share the blame if the people are uninformed on the subject of Christian hymnody. To concentrate on the newest and latest misses centuries of rich blessing. And to always sing “something we know” does not expand the musical vocabulary of the congregation. Even worse is letting the hymnal remain in the pew, unused Sunday after Sunday, or removing the books altogether to some dusty cupboard. (See my article 30 Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing.) […]

  12. Hi, Mr. Robert! It’s me again. I would like to know if you could help me in providing the materials I need for 2 videos to be published on that Hymn Appreciation Night.

    The first video is about “the introduction to hymns”. The video is going to tell us in brief: what hymns are, what’s so special about hymns, etc. This video is going to be shown at the very beginning of the event.

    While the second video is going to be shown after the sermon. Actually, I myself have no idea on the topic of this second video. But, I think, it’ll talk about our appropriate response to hymns (how to appreciate, sing them, etc.). Could you help me on this?

    Oh, just an additional information the theme of this event is: “O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing”. Maybe it could give you a global view of our event.

    I’m sorry to make you busy with this. But, I think I can only ask you for help on this. For you’re the only appropriate expert I know.

    Thanks before and may God bless your ministry.

    • Thanks for getting in touch. I’m afraid I’m not able to help you make videos. That’s not my area of expertise. And I’m not exactly sure why you want to use videos. Putting something like that together would be a lot of work. Could you not simply tell people what you want them to know–perhaps with one or two examples played on tape, or even on the piano? You will find lots of material in the Topics section of this blog–for example, see Hymns and the Bible, or What Makes a Good Hymn?

      I wish you well with the project. And one further tip. Keep any comments short, so that the focus is on singing. Anything more than a couple of segments 3 to 5 minutes is likely too long.

  13. It’s me again. I’m sorry for my unclear explanation before. Don’t worry about the video because I got some people (expert in this) going to make them for me. The problem is, these people need materials from me.

    Once again, don’t worry about the videos. Perhaps, I only need answers from you (from an expert) on these questions:

    1 What are hymns?
    2 What’s so special about hymns?
    3 Why we should appreciate hymns?
    4 How to appreciate them in an appropriate way?

    Just don’t mind if the answers will be theoretical or difficult to understand. I and my team are going to work on it again. I need answers from you because my knowledge on this is very poor, or perhaps you can give me link or reference to any valuable source.

    Thanks and God bless your ministry.

    • Well, my answer is the same as before. You’ll find all kinds of material in my Topics section. As to “What are hymns?”, check out the article Hymns and Gospel Songs. To understand what’s special about our hymns, and why we should appreciate them, see The Value of the Hymn Book. In dealing with how our appreciation can grow, you could divide material between church use and home use. To foster a love for hymns and gospel songs in church, use some of the suggestions in 30 Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing, and teach the key principle in Worship in Song.

      As to home use, each family (or single person) should have a copy of the church’s hymnal at home (one they purchased, of course 🙂 ). Hymns can be read in individual or family devotions, or sung as a family. It would also be great to have a couple of books on hymn history at home (Ken Osbeck has produced several). Then, the stories behind the hymns can be shared as a family. Another idea is to use the home hymnal as a kind of autograph book. Have guests in the home sign their names next to their favourite hymn. It could be a great family memento.

  14. […] If you have not read my article Ignorance…Blissful or Otherwise, please click on the link and give it a look. There are a number of suggestions there for increasing our awareness and appreciation for these old songs. (You might also check out 30 Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing.) […]

  15. […] 30 IDEAS FOR PROMOTING HYMN SINGING. Sadly, in some churches the singing of our traditional hymns and gospel songs has been neglected. Here are some ideas for reviving interest in this practice. […]

  16. Send information on how I could help to support young people to love traditional hymns. Are there any churches actually doing that? Could one visit to verify and give financial support?

    • Thanks for your question. The article 30 Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing is intended to provide some answers. The various tips and suggestions will help to make hymn singing more interesting and enjoyable for all, not just the youth.

      If a church has a long tradition of hymn singing, the job is easier. But if the leadership has fallen for the idea that we have to be modern and contemporary, and leave those old songs behind, then the solution will take more time, and pray-filled patient effort. As pointed out (#29 in the list), it will help if families learn to love the hymns of the church, and make use of them at home in family devotions. Children will then grow up knowing and loving them. We also need more Bible colleges that teach hymnology and our traditional hymns, and don’t simply cater to sometimes worldly youthful tastes.

      The people who post comments on my blog–over 75,000 of them as of now, from all over the world–tell me there are many who love the old hymns and gospel songs, and many who attend churches that still use them. As to finding churches in your own area that do, I’ll have to leave that to you, but I can give you an example from my own experience.

      One time my wife and I were staying in the city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, for several weeks. We wanted to find a good church to attend while we were there. I looked in the phone book (our Yellow Pages), and found a church advertisement that caught my eye. I forget the exact wording, but it said something like: “We sing the old hymns and use godly Christian music.” I phoned the pastor, and knew immediately that we were in agreement on many things. We’ve attended that church several times, over the years, and always been blessed by the wonderful singing. The pastor and his wife have become great friends of ours.

      God bless you, as you continue to investigate and learn.

  17. “We also need more Bible colleges that teach hymnology and our traditional hymns, and don’t simply cater to sometimes worldly youthful tastes… looked in the phone book (our Yellow Pages), and found a church advertisement that caught my eye. I forget the exact wording, but it said something like: “We sing the old hymns…”

    Wow, Robert! These two suggestions alone are worth their weight in gold! 1) the Bible colleges: Many of them appear to have abdicated their responsibility to take seriously that they are educating (training is what is done to animals, not people ;-)) the next generation. Perhaps if Christian colleges/universities in the previous generation had been more diligent on this count, there would be far more churches and fellowships *presently* valuing the great old hymns and gospel songs.

    2) The “yellow pages” idea’s outstanding! (like farmers here in the Midwest, out in their fields…) I imagine that many Bible-believing churches are “all about” stating that they believe/preach/teach the Bible, and include a small map of where their church is located when they have yellow page ads, but my guess is that it has occurred to far fewer churches to *specifically* state that they love and sing the “old traditional hymns”! Maybe someone reading this will share this idea with everyone on their e-mail list who is in ministry! — gracie;-)

  18. […] Use Hymns Creatively. Below are just a few thoughts. For more, check out my article 30 Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing. a) Consider using hymns, occasionally, for congregational readings–perhaps even responsive […]

  19. I didn’t have time to read the whole article, but here is my dilemma. My granddad taught me music through hymns in the ’50’s and early ’60’s. I continued singing in choir and did some solo and duet work.

    MY present church may fold soon, and I’ve been looking around to see which churches still sing traditionnal hymns. FEW in the Dallas TX area do.

    The new rock band type music in churches reminds me of being in a bar. I just don’t need that, since I’m 20 years sober, and protect it with everything I have.

    The traditional hymns are very healing to me, and I think if people would actually sing them and study them, their meaning and history, they might feel differently. Those hymns helped raise generations pretty well.

    My favorite part of one hymn (In The Garden) says “…and He walks with me, and He talks with me and He tells me I AM HIS OWN” To me I don’t need a lot more.

    Pray for me that I find a church that sings those wonderful hymns. Dallas is a wasteland almost in this.

    • I do sympathize with your problem. But being far away in Canada, I have little knowledge of Dallas churches. If I were there, I’d probably try Scofield Memorial Church. From their website, I see that they follow a “blended” worship style, which means a blending of old and new music. But if it involves blaring rock, I couldn’t take it, either. I’m going to check with an American friend, and see if I can come up with any suggestions. Meanwhile, keep trying. Dallas has a lot of churches, that I do know. I pray that the Lord will guide you.

      • God always stays with me, even when I’m not in a church. The Scofield church in Texas has very few places for women to serve. Ih the Disciples church I attend women can be elders, deacons, read scripture in service and even preach.

        The preaching I personally feel is better done by men, but there must be a place for female ministers. Often women (and sometimes men) don’t want to talk with a male minister.

        I know I will find something if my church closes. My g randdad told me to always be in church Sunday mornings to worship our Lord. He didn’t care which church, just be there. Granddad was very , very wise…..and didn’t think himself so.

        FYI: Often when you see “blended service” in a Dallas church, it means 90% contemporary and maybe a verse of an older hymn.

        Thank you for the reply. As my aunt Adelyn used to say:

        “May God hold you close” Ellen

      • Thanks for your input. (I’ve contacted an American pastor to see what I can find out about other churches in the Dallas area.) And you’re absolutely right in your comment about “blended services.” That’s about the percentage I’ve seen too–a service focusing on contemporary choruses, with maybe a token hymn (and sometimes not the whole hymn, just a verse or two).

        However, your comments on women pastors raises another issue. Yes, I agree that women will often be more comfortable talking to another woman about their problems. And the Bible does seem to leave room for women to serve as deaconesses (Rom. 16:1-2). However, the elders (pastors) of the church are always and only men (I Tim. 3:1-7). That may not be politically correct in current culture, but I believe it is God’s design.

  20. […] back tomorrow, for new Reflections on a hymn. Meantime, I invite you to read the Topical Article 30 Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing. It will give you many practical ideas for increasing the usage and enjoyment of hymns in your […]

  21. Thanks for posting this, I look forward to reading your insights into hymns.

    • Thanks Charles. And as you can see, the article has now grown past the “30” in the title. If you come across ideas that work, please pass them on, so I can share them with Wordwise Hymns worldwide readership.

  22. […] Cottrill, a long time contributor to the Cyber Hymnal, wrote in his excellent article 30 Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing:   ”Occasionally, sing a hymn to a different tune than the one employed in the hymn book. […]


  24. Wow, what a fantastic list of ideas. Thank you for the time you put into this website. It’s such a blessing. I wrote a blog post today on The Importance of Hymns and linked to you as a resource.

    • Thanks for your comment. Your enthusiasm is encouraging. Let’s hope it’s contagious! 🙂 And if you think of other ideas for promoting hymns, let me know. I may be able to include them on the list.

  25. […] looking for ways to promote hymn singing in your church and community, take a look at the article 30 Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing. (There are now more than fifty practical ideas there, as the list keeps […]


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