Praise and Harmony

When you’re involved in a cappella congregational worship, something profound happens. Maybe you’ve noticed it, the thing that makes a capella worship services great. Good sound is nice, yes. Pretty voices are a plus, and the latest and greatest worship anthems are all wonderful. None of these, however, are the clincher for truly great worship. Do you know what the secret is? If not, your praise gatherings are missing out.


Enter Keith Lancaster’s SongFests. Drawing on nearly 40 years of worship ministry experience, Keith believes that, whether you describe your Sunday morning worship as uninspiring of engaging, you can have more energy, better flow, more songs, more connection, more music competency, more emotional variety, and fresh arrangements of the classics by incorporating just a few, simple techniques that revolve around one goal: 100% participation.


That’s it. That’s the secret. Consummate praise is not achieved by execution so much as inclusion. We see this principle in scripture passages like Ephesians 5:19: “Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” In fact, God himself sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17), calling us to join the song of the universe.


Here’s the problem: 100% participation doesn’t always happen. In fact, it rarely ever happens, growing more infrequent each year. Each day, our consumer culture instills in us a craving for passive, vicarious, spectator experiences. Whether in television, concerts, movies, or sporting events, we look for exciting multimedia spectacle with little investment. Of course, this is fine for entertainment, but when we bring such a mentality to our congregations, we assault the integrity of our worship together. God has invites everyone to join His choir, regardless of vocal ability, and we shortchange both our congregations and our Lord when we don’t do everything we can to muster every member to praise.


So, what’s the solution? We need to structure our assemblies around principles that get everyone to take part. But how do I know what the principles are? Where can I find strategies to put these principles into action?


SongFests will equip you with the tools and know-how you can use to leverage “worship inertia” and inspire total participation. Here’s what it looks like: We’ve designed four sessions, each of which focuses on different aspects of worship for your congregation’s long-term benefit.


Friday evening kicks off each SongFest with a closed session, intended solely for the leadership/staff of your congregation. We recommend you invite your elders, ministers, song leaders, and anyone else who has a role in planning or facilitating worship, including those who coordinate prayer leaders, communion talks, etc. In this session, we discuss the principles as they relate to worship planning.


The primary SongFet then takes place on Saturday afternoon or evening. It lasts about two hours. We seat the participants in sections, determined by voice part. Invitations to area churches are great, but we ask that you, the hosting congregation, give priority to recruiting your own members, especially the self-proclaimed “non-singers” and “non-musicians.” The more participation you muster, the more long-term benefit for your congregation’s future.


A combined Sunday school then follows the next day. We request that all adult, college, and teen Sunday school classes combine for this hybrid class and discussion forum.


Finally, the Sunday morning worship assembly merges all the principles explored over the weekend. We ask the pulpit minister to speak on worship and/or singing, usually an abbreviated message to allow for extra songs.


For a successful SongFest, we urge the hosting congregation to prepare well in advance of the weekend by organizing weekly singing classes for learning the assigned songs. The participants, both beginners and seasoned musicians, should sit in sections to master the music. Ahead of the SongFest we distribute Ear Training CDs to the church, making it easy for everyone, regardless of musical experience, to isolate and memorize any harmony part. We distribute these discs one to every family (and often more than one per family) to promote song memorization throughout each week, particularly during commutes to school, work, etc. If the congregation masters at least a dozen of the arrangements ahead of time, we can focus the weekend on the valuable principles for establishing 100% participation in worship.


So, are you ready to give your best, most inclusive worship ever? To take your praise gatherings from the tyranny of spectator mindset? To unite your congregation like never before?


Begin your journey with a SongFest. Something profound is about to happen at your congregation.