Bringing back hymnals for congregational can help to unify the Christian church as a whole. It encourages young and old to participate in worship versus observing the worship time lead by a praise band.
The growing trend in churches is to abandon hymnals and replace the experience with projected words on a digital screen. Connecting generations through sharing a tangible book, learning to read music, and being an engaged part of a church family are just a few ways bringing back hymnals bridges the gap. Hymnals take the focus off of the worship leaders and potentially distracting displays and place it on the shared participation of the congregation as one unified voice.
"A sign I found once in an antique store captures what many young people feel about hymns: ‘My grandmother saved it, my mother threw it away, and now I'm buying it back,'" – Kevin Twit shared to ByFaithOnline.com
There are a many articles discussing the topic of hymn vs worship song. As younger generations begin to consider their parent’s and grandparent’s worship, the conversation will continue to grow. A post written by Jonathan Aigner listed fifteen reasons to continue using hymnals, including keeping the theological conversation alive, many of which are common themes among many worship websites. Finding the balance between hymns and contemporary worship can be hard. However, at one point each hymn sung today was also “contemporary” when it was first introduced. So why are we devaluing them?
Here are some thoughts on why bringing back hymnals in congregational worship is a benefit. We hope this will encourage you to think more about this topic!
1. Bringing Back Hymnals Is A Way To Connect With Previous Generations
Picking up a hymnal in church is a memory book of sorts. Hymns that your grandparents sung, the same pages, the same “old book smell” are shared. These are not experiences to frown upon but to smile. You are connected in worshipping the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow! Often when we find ourselves in a difficult situation, we turn to music as an outlet for our worries. As Christians, many share that when they were faced with fear and doubt, an old hymn that they remembered from childhood filled their hearts!
Sharing a hymnal is a great way to join young and old in worship together. Our faith as Christians is supposed to be about all age groups, the Bible is clear that we should value those generations before us and in front of us. Why shouldn’t our worship also show this? When we sing hymns, we are connecting the generations together!
“Worship is our response to all that God is, says, and does. Even though the generations may respond differently, it is not how we worship but whom we worship.” – Brenda A. Rasmussen
2. Bringing Back Hymnals Gives An Opportunity To Teach And Maintain A Level Of Professionalism
Learning to follow along in a hymn book gives the reader the first steps in reading music. Hymnals take the questions out of music.
“We ought to sing our best for the glory of God. Part of singing our best is learning to sing well.” – Ryan Martin
Using a hymnbook gives the musicians, leaders and followers shared knowledge of what the music should supposed to sound like. Instead of focusing on the individual, using hymnals allows the congregation to be an active participant in the worship. It’s a team effort in worshipping God!
3. Bringing Back Hymnals Is A Helpful Source For Those Unfamiliar With The Song
When the words are on a screen, there is no further musical information given. Singers and Congregants alike have to memorize the song entirely which can be difficult for some. Not all songs are familiar and hymnals are a great tool for those who want to participate but are unfamiliar with the song.
The opportunity to see where the song is going is also useful in worship, not just from a music perspective, but it gives the reader the ability to look ahead and tackle meaningful phrases where it may lose it’s value while being sung and broken into musical phrases.
4. Bringing Back Hymnals Encourages New Worship Song Writers
The importance of each generation of Christians to write their own worship songs cannot be overlooked. Hymns are a perfect example of historical events and societal feelings being reflected in our conversations with God. Whether the words were written from the pain of losing family to influenza or war, fear of the unknown, or the realized awesomeness of how great our God truly is, the expression of these feelings may change based on the time period written. Each hymn or song has the opportunity to connect differently with it’s reader.
“Rather than complaining about how songs don't measure up, we decided to start writing, or attempting to write, what we hoped to declare and celebrate with our congregation. ” – Nathan Chapman
5. Bringing Back Hymnals Gives Freedom In Worship
Using hymnals is an opportunity for your worship to be taken anywhere. The tone, tempo, and volume are now all controlled by the group worshipping! By using hymnals, while there may be slightly different versions, church bodies are now connected together. The ability to join another church for Sunday service and be able to follow along and participate in their worship connects us under a larger canopy of Christianity versus denomination or physical buildings.
“Hymns cover a lot of ground and are classics, or standards, if you will and there is a good chance that the majority of the congregation will know them or be familiar with them. This familiarity can also prove helpful for congregations that do not have their own buildings or hymnals as they tend to be widely known. If the congregants aren't familiar with the hymn, the same music is repeated in each verse and likewise in each chorus.” – Pamela Reynoso, Faith On View
6. Bringing Back Hymnals Allows The Congregation To Connect
Using hymnals gives the congregation the opportunity look up past or future songs and refresh their memory which makes them more comfortable participating. For those who are unfamiliar with worship, or feel they are not a strong singer, congregational worship using hymns helps to balance those concerns. It gives the participant an opportunity to look ahead. Using hymnals is also helpful due to the range many of the songs are written. Many of the songs written today were created as feature pieces for the radio, often sung by those who are skilled in that area. These songs, unless heavily reworked, are not suitable for the majority of worshippers who may never have had musical training.
7. Bringing Back Hymnals Can Reinforce Our Faith
Using hymnals teaches younger generations important theological beliefs through lyric. Many churches are moving away from traditional Sunday School classes. Individuals are finding less time to study the Word on their own. This may lead to the congregation finding itself more and more Bible illiterate. The hymnal is another source for encouraging biblical truths.
“When we sing a hymn, we are singing history.” – Paul Lusher
Often in school, when children are learning for tests they will learn their facts to a musical melody (think U.S. states and their capitols). By using hymnals, the church is reinforcing the learning of beliefs by putting ideas into musical form.
8. Bringing Back Hymnals Helps Us Return To The Basics Of Worship
Returning to the words on a page vs. words on a screen allows the congregation to focus on the meaning of the words by seeing the entire sentence at one time. Sometimes being in a space without distraction can lead you closer to worship. Following words on a screen leads to distraction. Whether the projection has graphics associated with it, bold colors, lights – these can all lead to getting off focus from true worship.
“I feel like it’s too much and it takes over the worship,” shares Dorothy LaPenta. “People will just be sitting there, their eyes fixated on the screen. They’re waiting to be given something instead of participating.”
Also, by following along in a hymnal, it draws the focus inward to your time of worship versus the potential diversion that may be created by looking at other congregants or music leaders who happen to be in the visual line of the projection screens.
9. Bringing Back Hymnals Reminds Us Of What Is Unchanging
In a constantly changing world, using hymnals can be a useful option to keep the congregation feeling a sense of stability and comfort. Flipping through a hymnal, and it’s refreshing. Generations before us were fighting the same sins, the same distractions, the same frustrations, the same fears. God is never changing.
“The practice of hymn-singing continues and extends the traditions of worship that link the earliest cradle of Jesus’s spiritual life, synagogue worship, to the life and practice of modern Christian communities. We sing because our foremothers and forefathers in God also sang in this way.” – Colin Gibson
The “wars” fought today are nothing new to our Knowing God. Sometimes hearing from Him feels impossible. The distractions of life can be great. Being in a pew, opening a hymnal and seeing all of your heart’s burdens on a page with encouraging praise to a Mighty God can be a breath of fresh air!
10. Bringing Back Hymnals Keeps Our Faith Traditions Alive
There is something truly exciting about being a part of a good ol’ fashion hymn-sing. It’s a time where distractions fall away, and the congregation can join together and share their favorite songs. What if we aren’t passing those songs down to our children? As more churches choose to ignore the hymnal in the pew and see it as archaic, we are missing an opportunity to share a piece of history with our youth. We’ve added so many new songs to our worship times, that we’ve neglected what was already there.
“This reduces our familiarity with our songs so that today we have far fewer of them fixed in our minds and hearts. Few congregations could sing even the greatest hymns without that PowerPoint screen.” shares Tim Challies.
11. Bringing Back Hymnals Teaches Literature
Our children are disconnecting with the written prose. The practice of giving a child a small text of your favorite poems, often memorized by heart, is long gone. Their ability to read older text and comprehend the metaphor is quickly fading. Bring in a traditional version of the Bible, and many lose interest jumping between “thees” and “thous”. The ability to translate and fully grasp the beauty that can be painted with words is overtaken with lyrics that are repetitious and over-simplified. Using hymnals encourages thought and a reflection into what the writer may have been trying to convey. Consider an excerpt from Charles Wesley, famous for his poetic-hymns:
"'Tis mystery all: th' Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine."
Colossians 3:16 says "Let the word of Christ, richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God."
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