I think one of the hardest parts of selecting music for worship is hitting everyone's "favorites." Making it more difficult are the many backgrounds that make up our particular congregation. We are dually affiliated with the American Baptist Churches and the United Church of Christ. In addition many of our people are newly churched or ex-pats from other denominations ranging from Catholics to Pentecostals.
I grew up in the United Methodist Church, and pretty much everyone I ever knew in church had grown up UMC as well, so when we showed up for worship or at a church gathering our communal "song book" was based on the same set of tunes. I always took great pride (and still do!) in being from such a music rich faith group, but what I took for granted was that we sang well because we were all on the same page musically.
Now I face the issue that the music the rests in the hearts of our congregants isn't always found in the denominational hymnal (The New Century Hymnal), so it's like introducing new music nearly every week. Adding to that is the fact that this particular church had a period of time some years ago where one of the staff members restricted the hymns to about 20-25 "old favorites" and never strayed outside the chosen few.
So how does a pastoral musician go about discovering what the "song book" of this particularly diverse congregation is? And how do you then engrave those songs on the hearts of the singers without totally restricting the creativity I usually associate with varying music according to the particular theme of the Sunday?
To be continued...