There’s nothing like escaping to a beautiful mountain stream when life is busy.  I recently went fishing early in the morning with my brother.  He was fishing up stream a bit, and I was downstream just taking in the serene setting.

photo credit: stocksnap.io | Boriskin Vladislav

photo credit: stocksnap.io | Boriskin Vladislav

It was spectacular.  Mist rising off the stream. The chill of the morning. It was crazy peaceful.

Now, this didn’t happen, but imagine whatever peaceful escape you like to go to.  You’re there enjoying the stillness, then a helicopter flies by.  All the stillness is interrupted by the loud chopper!  Moment over.

Music can have the same calming impact on a person’s spirit as a mountain stream.  But, as leaders, we can interrupt it because of poor planning.  Awkward transitions chop up the service like a helicopter flying over a mountain stream.

You and I both have been guilty of not thinking through the transitions, and when we have, we have mismanaged the attention of the church, allowing it to be diverted away from the truths they are singing.

At our ministry, we work toward smooth musical transitions.  We don’t always hit it, but we have made a concentrated effort to keep the flow of music continuing in between songs, when it’s helpful.  

You may already use some form of musical transitions.  If you don’t, I want you to consider planning ahead enough so that you can give some attention to how the service will flow, specifically in the space between songs.

Consider planning ahead enough so that you can give some attention to how the service will flow, specifically in the space between songs.

I’ll be getting into the details of how to do this in another post.  Before we do that, I want to dive into why it’s worth the effort and then give you some basic considerations.

Now, let me say this – everything doesn’t rise and fall on the space between the songs.  God is big enough to use music whether we do this or not. That being said, good transitions can be useful for these reasons.

Reasons to Plan Transitions

  1. Continuity of the service. Planning how the music flows in a service gives continuity to the messages that your congregation is singing.  It can add greater impact to the music.
  2. Connecting thoughts. I have written about how the impact of a song is affected by the songs surrounding it.  Keeping the music going in between songs aids in connecting the thoughts of multiple songs.
  3. Connecting emotions. I don’t intend to develop a full theology of this here, but suffice it to say that God created us with emotions and music impacts our emotions.  Connecting songs with musical transitions helps us stay connected emotionally with the truths we are singing.  This is not manipulation.  It is helping us internalize truths.  I could elaborate, but perhaps that’s another post for another day.

Considerations

Here are a couple of considerations if you are going to implement this:

  1. Planning ahead is key. The “flip-through-the-hymnal-on-Sunday-morning-to-see-where-it-opens” method won’t work here.  Neither will the “let’s-ask-them-for-their-favorites-every-Sunday-morning” method.   You’ll have to plan ahead. Most music ministries plan at least a few days ahead.  But you’ll have to plan ahead enough that you have time to think specifically through how one song flows to the next.
  2. Communication is key. Depending on where you and your musicians are (assuming you are not the lead instrumentalist), this may be simply printing the song’s key on the cue card after each song and getting that card to the musician early enough that he can give it a quick look. It may be scheduling a brief rehearsal to quickly hit the transitions.  Whatever the case, know your musicians and communicate according to the need.
  3. Sticking with your plan is key.  There are times that you just need to change the order of things mid-service.  That’s understandable at times.  But it should be the exception, not the rule.  If you are known for changing things on the spot all the time, the people you work with won’t be motivated to put in even the slightest  extra effort.

So, I hope you will consider planning for the musical transitions in your services.

I think you’ll like the difference.

Action step: Decide that you are going to plan the worship service early enough to think through the transitions between songs.  Go ahead and pick out the songs for this Sunday if you haven’t already done so.

Do you build continuity in your services by using musical transitions?  Why or why not?

Mark is the music pastor at Oakwood Baptist Church in Anderson, SC. Read full bio here.