Sometimes it’s hard to use the 311 rule because the congregation changes so much from week to week. I would still use the 311 rule but watch the members of the congregation that are there on a regular basis, select a variety of people so that you can get a true reflection of how well the song is being received.
The other thing that I would do in the above situation is to re-teach the song (Nothing heavy just sing a verse and chorus to them). I was once in a church where I had to re-teach songs nearly every week, I prefer to re-teach and drop other songs rather than lose half the congregation because they don’t know the song.
Having said all that rules are made to be broken. Above all we should be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and sensitive to the congregation. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to energise the songs that we are singing and the congregation are gathered because they love Him and want to meet Him, to catch a glimpse of Him.
If a song is simple and has only 4 lines then I would use it wherever it felt appropriate. I would sing it once and then invite the congregation to join me.
Another great place to introduce new songs is in a ministry time although you still need to be sensitive to what ‘s going on around you. Not everyone will be having ministry many will still be worshipping. Just sing the song straight through, if there are lots of people still worshipping sing the first verse and chorus twice, just to give the congregation the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the song and join in.
In a conference setting I would be more inclined to introduce new songs from the first set and then use them throughout the conference. I wouldn’t spend time teaching them to the delegates. If you use the new songs consistently during the conference people will pick them up and make them their own.
How many times do we come away from a conference with new songs in our hearts.
I try and introduce new or unfamiliar songs to the congregation at the beginning of a worship set. At this point in the service people are generally still getting their thoughts together and are just beginning to get their focus on the Lord. So for me this is the best time to introduce a song. We are at the beginning of the journey into the Father’s presence. When I’m preparing for a journey I can’t wait to actually get into the car and drive. Before the key turns in the ignition there are check lists to tick off, people to organise and so on but once we’re in the car the journey begins and I start to relax. This is how I see the beginning of a time of worship. I feel it is a good use of time; I can’t break a flow that has not yet been established.
I always like to teach the song rather than launch into it. I’ll tell the congregation that it’s a new song, then I’ll sing them a verse, get them to sing it back to me, sing them a chorus get them to sing it back to me and then take it from the top. I generally introduce the tag if the song has one when we arrive at the tag, just pull everything back and sing it to them and then invite them to join in. It’s ok that there’s no real flow, it’s the first time they’ve heard the song.
Once we have sung a new song I tend to move to more familiar songs, you can almost feel the congregation breathe a sigh of relief. I reckon they’re thinking ‘hooray I know this one now I can enter into worship.’ This is where the flow begins to be established the congregation close their eyes, sing away and get lost in God’s presence.
Once I’ve introduced a new song I use the 3.1.1 rule to see if the song will work in the church or not. You use the song for 3 weeks; you rest it for a week and then use it again the next week. If the congregation own the song by this point it’s a keeper.