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Worship resource previews new hymns

To help WELS members get a taste of some of the new hymns that will be included in Christian Worship: Hymnal, the WELS Hymnal Project has released Christian Worship: Hymn Preview.

This digital resource showcases 54 of the more than 200 new hymns that will be included in the new hymnal scheduled to be released by Advent 2021. With each hymn is a brief comment on its origin, spiritual meaning, usage in the wider Christian church, or other interesting detail. The booklet also includes several examples of additional accompaniments that will be available for musicians in the accompaniment edition.

“It’s more than just a little appetizer—it’s a full course,” says Rev. Aaron Christie, chairman of the Hymnody Committee. “If you spend time with it, you will have an excellent sampling of the various types of hymns and concepts that are there for you in the new hymnal.”

Due to copyright restrictions, Christian Worship: Hymn Preview is only available as a downloadable, viewable (but not printable) PDF at christianworship.com. The WELS Hymnal Project has also added several other hymn resources online, including a comprehensive list of the 683 hymns planned for inclusion in the new hymnal and a list of cut and retuned hymns from the 1993 hymnal and 2008 supplement. Several articles explain more details behind the creation of a new hymnal. Read more about these new additions.

Christie prays that the preview will be a tool to help leaders make a decision about the new hymnal but also that “it gives a wide swath of members a new appreciation for the treasures we have in hymnody.”

He continues, “Spend time experiencing it. See what wonderful things are there. Work with it. Read it. Listen to it. Pray its texts.”

Learn more about Christian Worship: Hymnal at christianworship.com.

 

 

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Hymns for Life: preserving a priceless spiritual treasure

For many Christians, hymns are woven into the fabric of our faith lives. “Jesus Loves Me” may be the first song we learn as a toddler; “Amazing Grace” may be the last song that passes our lips before Jesus carries us home. Hymns have the power to convict and comfort, to instruct and inspire. And for many, a beloved hymn may be a memory that lingers when others are stolen by age or disease.

In 2012, the WELS Commission on Worship discussed the importance of preserving our rich hymn heritage—ensuring that the next generation of believers doesn’t lose this priceless spiritual treasure. In response, the Hymns for Life Committee was established to craft a three-year hymnology curriculum for WELS teachers to use in their primary, middle, and upper grade classrooms. Content from the curriculum can also be incorporated into Sunday school programs.

“The Hymns for Life curriculum is designed to impress the biblical truths expressed in hymns on the hearts and minds of young believers,” says Mr. Jeremy Bakken, publishing editor of the project. The title of the curriculum sums it up simply: hymns learned in childhood will stay with children for an entire lifetime. Bakken continues, “Our prayer is that students will appreciate these hymns and recall their spiritual truths in every stage of life.”

The curriculum helps students learn from and appreciate all components of a hymn: from its scriptural truths to the poetry of its language to the joy and beauty of its music.

Mr. Kevin Bode, teacher and music director at Emmanuel Lutheran School, Tempe, Ariz., is the curriculum development chair of the Hymns for Life Committee. As a teacher, he understands the need to connect young believers with hymns: “This curriculum is so important because hymns are a powerful blessing God has given us. They keep us close to him amidst all the chaos and evil around us.”

In fact, Bode has put the curriculum into practice in his own classroom. Each week, he introduces students to the content of a hymn, which is then sung each day. Once students are comfortable with the melody, Bode adds musical variations or physical movements to bring out the joy of the music: “They are simple to do, keep the hymn fresh, and students find them fun to do,” he adds.

According to Bode, two powerful elements come together in the Hymns for Life curriculum: music and biblical teachings. “Music moves the soul and has a way of touching our emotions, and we want to give students the chance to experience this. And we know the power of biblical truths and the words of Jesus. Hymn lyrics remind students what God has already done for them, is doing right now, and will continue to do for them until they are safe in his arms.”

To learn more or purchase Year A of the Hymns for Life curriculum, visit online.nph.net/hymnsforlife or call 800-662-6022. Year B will be released in the summer of 2021, and Year C will be released in the summer of 2022. All three years of the curriculum have been developed to coincide seamlessly with the new Christian Worship, which will be released in 2021.

 

 

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New website helps introduce upcoming hymnal

To help introduce WELS members to the hymnal and additional resources coming out in late 2021, the WELS Hymnal Project and Northwestern Publishing House have developed a new website, christianworship.com. Named after the title of the new hymnal, the Christian Worship site highlights features of the upcoming worship book as well as the suite of resources that will accompany it.

According to Rev. Adam Mueller, director of the WELS Hymnal Introduction Program, the website follows the outline of Christian Worship Preview, a booklet received by all congregations in February. This booklet shares more information about the contents of the new hymnal, including sections on Scripture, the service, Psalms, hymns, technology, and artwork.

The site also delves into the roles of a WELS member in a congregation—whether worshiper, planner, leader, and musician—and emphasizes what the new Christian Worship family of products offers to each person.

An exciting tool for worship planning is also featured on the website. Christian Worship: Service Builder provides worship planners a quick, easy way to plan a service and produce the worship folders. Online video previews offer an opportunity to see the service builder in action.

To assist congregations as they plan for the upcoming release, christianworship.com includes budgeting tools for the new suite of products, a list of tentative pricing for the hymnal and its accompanying resources, and some tips for funding. “Now is the time for congregations to start thinking about the new hymnal and its value for the church as they are creating their budgets for the next few years,” says Mueller.

Explore more at christianworship.com. There you can also sign up for updates on the release of the hymnal.

Learn more about the new Christian Worship in the February edition of WELS Connection.

 

 

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Hymnal Project continues to move forward

The WELS Hymnal Project Executive Committee met for its final face-to-face meeting this month. This 14-member committee charged with carrying out the development of the new hymnal and its auxiliary resources started meeting in 2013.

At that meeting, the committee made final decisions on the two main pew books—the Hymnal pew edition and the Psalter pew edition—before sending the files to Northwestern Publishing House for editing, proofreading, and layout.

“There was a temporary pause for reflection at the meeting,” says Rev. Michael Schultz, director of the WELS Hymnal Project, “but there are still a lot of things to finish to get the balance of the books out.”

Schultz is talking about the 15 to 17 books and 3 digital products that will accompany the hymnal—the majority of which will be released at the same time as the hymnal in Advent 2021. Several subcommittees of the WELS Hymnal Project are continuing to write and develop these materials that will provide direction, support, and resources to pastors, worship planners, musicians, and choir directors. The Technology Committee especially is ramping up as it takes finished materials and inputs them into a digital service builder software program.

To begin introducing the new hymnal to WELS members, the WELS Hymnal Project is releasing a 64-page preview booklet at the January 2020 WELS Leadership Conference in Chicago. Each congregation also will receive multiple copies of the booklet. Schultz says the booklet will show features of the new hymnal, psalter, and other resources so that congregations can start planning for the hymnal’s release. A formal Hymnal Introduction Program will start at the same time, offering introductions to the products that are coming out, ideas for introducing the hymnal to members, as well as tips for funding. New hymnal materials also will be highlighted and featured at the next worship conference in 2021.

Schultz says the executive committee will still meet online as products continue to be finalized. He says, “There’s still a lot of work to do!”

Read more from Schultz in his October Forward in Christ article. Learn more about the work of the WELS Hymnal Project at welshymnal.com.

 

 

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Lutheran Leadership Conference to kick off 2020

WELS Congregational Services will host the first WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership at the Sheraton Grand in Chicago, Ill., Jan. 21-23. WELS Congregational Services works under the Conference of Presidents to help congregations assess, plan, and carry out gospel ministry.

The conference will have five keynote presentations that deal with major cultural challenges before every WELS congregation. Twenty-five breakout sessions will deal with issues specific to certain congregations, including overcoming a consumer mentality in church, Christian apologetics, increasing volunteerism, retaining and gaining young members, fully utilizing the gifts of women in ministry, equipping members for personal evangelism, having a “high-expectations” church, strategic planning, using social media for outreach, operating a financially sustainable elementary school, and more.

“I hope individuals walk away from this conference with three things,” says Rev. Jonathan Hein, coordinator of Congregational Services. “First, I hope they are motivated to throw themselves into gospel ministry in every way: feeding the faithful, reaching the lost, and pursuing the straying. Second, I hope attendees better understand the massive challenges before our congregations but also realize that God will help us meet those challenges. Finally, I hope that they can take home some practical resources from the breakout sessions that they can immediately implement in their mission efforts.”

The National Conference on Lutheran Leadership is open to all: called workers and lay volunteers, men and women, lifelong Lutherans and new congregants. Congregations are encouraged to send multiple participants to the conference.

“A church gets the most out of a conference like this when there is a critical mass of members attending,” Hein says. “They can divide up and hit every relevant breakout. They can present a united, excited voice when they go back to their congregation.”

Travel rebates are available for congregations that send three or more individuals to the event.

Registration is now open, with an early registration discount through Oct. 31. Register online at lutheranleadership.com. There you can also find free promotional materials—including a video, posters, social media graphics, and other digital images.

 

 

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Learning to be a church that welcomes members home

As part of its “Welcome Home” initiative resources, WELS Congregational Services released a series of four videos with accompanying Bible studies to address some of the most common reasons Christians stop attending church and how to show love and minister to these members. The videos are meant to be used by congregational leaders and members to guide congregations as they strive to bring straying sheep back to the Good Shepherd. Rev. Nate Bourman, Mt. Lebanon, Milwaukee, Wis., was featured in the videos discussing how to be a welcoming congregation.

Bourman explains that a welcoming church is “a church where no one stands or sits alone; everyone feels comfortable and safe. A place where everyone knows what is going on and feels that they can navigate the facilities or get information about our congregation. A place where parents, adults, and children feel safe to hear God’s Word and can easily participate and are welcomed to participate.”

He says the most common reasons he’s heard that members haven’t felt welcome is because they weren’t greeted, no one talks to them, and they felt like an outsider. “It’s possible to be a stranger in your own house,” says Bourman.

It’s important that all members participate in being a welcoming church. “Care and concern for the members of the church is not just the pastor’s job. It is not just the elders’ job. It is the job of each and every member. Love calls us to participate in their care. None of us sits on the sidelines when it comes to welcoming God’s people home,” says Bourman. “All are coming to church with sin and weakness and brokenness and frustration. Be part of the throng rejoicing to gather for worship with each other.”

All congregations are encouraged to participate in the Welcome Home Sunday, either Oct. 20 or 27, 2019. The mission is to “pack the church” with every member. The four videos and accompanying Bible studies in the Welcoming Returning Members series—“Members drawn away because of sin,” “Members who left after being sinned against,” “Members whose needs were ignored,” and “Members who left for another church”—are available at welscongregationalservices.net/welcome-home.

 

 

 

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C19: Sharing the meaning of Christmas with others

According to current research, Christmas is the most appealing time for the unchurched and dechurched to attend a worship service. That makes C19, this year’s synodwide outreach campaign for Christmas, a critical opportunity.

Available from WELS Congregational Services, C19 equips congregations and individuals to share the good news of Jesus’ birth with others in their community and to invite them to Christmas worship services. This year’s theme is “God so loved the world.”

“Many people look at the pain and suffering in our world and conclude that either there is no God or that, if there is a God, he doesn’t love the world,” explains Rev. Eric Roecker, director of WELS Commission on Evangelism. “Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem proves that God does indeed love the world, a world that includes every single soul.”

Here are some of the resources that are available:

  • Worship materials for Christmas. C19 provides ready-to-use worship folder templates with liturgy and music that edify heart, soul, and mind.
  • Evangelism materials for Christmas Eve. Low-cost outreach postcards as well as free Facebook video advertisement and digital files to post on church websites are available to share the message of the theme.
  • School resources. C19 provides guidance for using schools as outreach arms during the Christmas season. The program resources help encourage even the youngest WELS members to invite others to worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
  • Special needs ministry. C19 includes materials to help congregations reach out to families who have children with special needs.

About 70 percent of WELS congregations utilized some or all of the resources provided through 2018’s synodwide outreach campaign, C18. Its goal was to reach one million souls, and Roecker has high hopes again this year with C19: “With the Lord’s blessing, we would like to see more than one million people invited,” he says.

Many C19 materials will be offered as free downloads at welscongregationalservices.net/c19. Some materials are available now; others will be provided in the coming weeks. Pastors and interested laypeople should sign up now to receive updates, which will include notices when new materials are posted online as well as planning tips and timelines to carry out the program successfully.

 

 

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New survey asks for members’ favorite hymns

What’s your favorite hymn? A new survey from the WELS Hymnal Project asks WELS members that very question.

The survey gives worshipers an opportunity to share up to ten of their favorite hymns fromChristian Worship (CW) or Christian Worship:Supplement (CWS), three from The Lutheran Hymnal that aren’t in Christian Worship, and three from the songbook Let All the People Praise You.

“Use this survey as an opportunity to celebrate our rich heritage of hymns by sharing with us your personal treasures,” says Rev. Jonathan Bauer, chairman of the Communications Committee of the WELS Hymnal Project. “We simply want to know the hymns that are close to your heart.”

For those who want to do a more extensive review of the hymns in CW and CWS, an additional survey allows worshipers to rate each hymn individually.

A special effort is also being made to give students the opportunity to share their thoughts on their favorite hymns. “The student survey will be accompanied by a lesson plan that teachers can use in a hymnology/religion class,” says Bauer. “It will serve as a way to do a little education and introduce students to the project in addition to giving them a chance to think about their favorite hymns.”

The favorite hymn survey can be taken online or printed and filled out by hand. All surveys are due by May 31. “There are so many good hymns. If nothing else hopefully this exercise leads people to appreciate how many good hymns God has blessed us with,” says Bauer.

The results of these surveys will be shared with the members of the WELS Hymnal Project as they continue to determine what hymns to include in the new hymnal that is being developed. Bauer says the Hymnody Committee is also looking at current usage of hymns as well as carefully reviewing and examining each hymn individually for its quality and usefulness in worship.

Four additional surveys have been conducted by the WELS Hymnal Project. A look at the survey results will be included in the May and June issues of Forward in Christ.

Find the favorite hymn survey at welshymnal.com.

Hymnal project survey

The WELS Hymnal Project team is asking for your input. Be a part of the development process by filling out a survey about the current WELS Christian Worship and Christian Worship: Supplement hymn books and how WELS members use them in worship and personally. It will take about 20 minutes.

During 2014, the WELS Hymnal Project has conducted three previous surveys to solicit input about how the current hymnal is being used and how the new hymnal can best serve our church body. The first was for pastors, the second for teachers, and the third for musicians. This fourth survey, intended for all WELS members, will ask for feedback on things like chanting psalms, instruments that accompany worship, wording for the songs and prayers of worship, and singing hymns and songs of the liturgy in four-part harmony.

The survey results will help the WELS Hymnal Project committee analyze the issues that have already been identified and make decisions about the next hymnal. Rev. Jonathan Bauer, communications committee chairman of the WELS Hymnal Project, says, “While the survey isn’t by any means a vote, it will help the subcommittees make various decisions. Just as an example, question 22 asks about several items that Christian Worship doesn’t currently include that we are considering including in the next book. So we want to know which ones people would find valuable.”

The WELS Hymnal Project is a collaboration between the Conference of Presidents, Northwestern Publishing House, and the Commission on Worship.

The deadline to submit your input is Tues., Nov. 25, 2014. Learn more about the hymnal project at www.welshymnal.com.