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Christmas Worship Or Just Caroling?

Written by Nathan Gifford on Wednesday, 28 November 2012. Posted in Blogs

What does Christmas look like in your church?

Christmas Worship Or Just Caroling?

Yes, it is that time of year again... Christmas! As a worship leader, this is either a time of the year that you look forward to or dread. There is no middle ground. For some, this means an overload of time and rehearsals for a big Christmas production... for others it is just throwing a couple of Christmas carols into the set list on Sundays.

So what does Christmas look like in your church?

For myself, I used to dread Christmas in regards to the music ministry. It seemed that everyone expected me to spend the Sunday worship set singing a bunch of traditional Christmas carols just because it was December. However, I always found that hardly anyone in the congregation actually worshiped during these songs. We were singing them "just because"... out of ritual... out of obligation... and they seemed to have no value in the overall experience of the worship service.

As a worship leader, I do not want to ever sing a song that has any other purpose than to encourage the people in the congregation to worship the Lord with their whole hearts... songs that will be that vehicle that takes us to the next level in our worship... songs that serve a purpose in the overall flow of the service, getting us to where God wants us so He can do the work that He wants to do!

So, if you are just singing traditional Christmas carols for your Sunday worship sets in December, you will probably be as frustrated of a worship leader as I used to be. Used to be? Yes... that's right. I've moved from the stage of dread to the place of anticipation!

I have learned and experienced that you can take those Christmas carols... which are great songs to begin with (although not always conducive to worship "out of the box")... and tweak them a bit to still create and have a meaningful worship experience on Sundays. Fortunately, many modern worship artists have put out some great Christmas projects in recent years that not only demonstrate this, but give you some great material and ideas to use in your church! Here are some suggestions:

1) Take the traditional Christmas song and find another non-Christmas worship song that has a similar theme... some point of connection. If needed, change the key of one of the songs so they both end up in the same key. Then modify the rhythm, tempo and feel of the Christmas song to match the feel of the other worship song you are combining it with. As long as you keep the basic melody line of the Christmas song the same, the congregation should be able to follow along just fine, even with small changes to the background music. You could even make slight chord alterations to the song that still fit with the melody, but just give a touch of freshness to the traditional and familiar song. You could do this where two songs are combined as a medley, or just take part of one song to use as a "Bridge" or added section in the other song. Putting all of this together will not only satisfy the desire or need for Christmas music inclusion in the worship set, but will allow that song to still be a vehicle that drives people to worship as you slide right into another worship song!

2) Realize that you do not have to sing all 47 verses of that Christmas hymn! Let's be realistic... the congregation is really only familiar with one, maybe two, of the verses to that Christmas carol... so singing any more than that will likely be dead time in your worship set. Use Verse 1 and 2, then go back and repeat Verse 1 again as opposed to singing verses 3-47. The familiarity will help the congregation to engage more instead of focusing on just reading the more unfamiliar words off of a screen or bulletin.

3) Get familiar with the more "contemporary" Christmas songs. Many artists have written original Christmas songs in recent years that can be very effective for your worship service! These modern alternatives, combined with some of the traditional songs, will certainly help your worship to be more than just singing Christmas carols! Some great examples would be Paul Baloche's "Offering (Christmas Version)" or Lincoln Brewster's "Shout For Joy".

Whether these ideas are just common sense to you or they are revolutionary concepts, hopefully I've at least encouraged you to make a real effort this year to go to the next level in your Christmas time worship services! Don't sing songs just to sing them. We have an awesome reason to celebrate and worship as we bring attention to Jesus Christ coming to this earth, being born into human flesh, for the sole purpose of providing a way of salvation for all of us! What an incredible gift to us and reason for us to bring our highest praise! So, be an effective worship leader in your church this Christmas. Your church needs more than just a caroling session on Sundays throughout December. Let's kick it up a notch!

Get some Christmas music ideas by checking out our Christmas Chord Charts.

About the Author

Nathan Gifford

Nathan Gifford

Nathan has been a worship leader for about 25 years, serving in multiple churches from a new church plant to a large urban congregation... serving mostly in the state of Indiana. He grew up as a PK in Indiana and was actively involved in worship music from the age of 12. Over the years Nathan was involved as a saxophonist in his church band and also played in many other groups and events. While in college at the Indiana University School of Music, Nathan began moving into worship leading. Then after graduating, he went right into full-time ministry as a music pastor. He began writing new worship songs that have continued to be a part of his ministry as well as many churches across the country. Nathan has recorded 9 projects, which are mostly live worship projects. He is currently a part of the worship ministry at Mill City Church in Fort Collins, CO.