When planning an act of worship, hymns are usually selected
to reinforce the theme of the service. One technique which
I have used very successfully on a number of occasions is
to effectively reverse this and actually use the hymn words
as a basis for preaching. In other words, I don't prepare a
single 15 - 20 minute sermon but follow each hymn with a
'mini' sermon of about 5 minutes taking a particular phrase
or phrases from the words of the hymn as a text. By careful
selection of hymns it is possible to create a really
cohesive service which flows easily from one element to
another. I have found congregations to be very responsive
to this approach.
Ideally, it is best to choose a service which has a very
particular theme. I have used this approach for a Harvest
service, on a Mothering Sunday and at a church anniversary.
Any Sunday which has a very precise place in the church
calendar would be appropriate for this approach. Pentecost
or Advent, for instance, would be ideal. In all cases there
is a wealth of suitable worship music available, from
traditional hymns to contemporary worship songs.
This approach is particularly effective in an all-age
worship situation. A 'blended' worship approach would be
most appropriate for this kind of service so that both
hymns and worship songs can be used; - something for
everyone. Also, this way of doing things means that the
young people don't have to sit through any lengthy talks by
the preacher. There is a lot to commend it!
To give an example of how this all works I will refer to a
Harvest Service I did in this way a couple of years ago. I
took the twin themes of "Thanksgiving" and "Caring", two
topics which we associate with Harvest. I then used three
of the hymns as texts for my 'mini' sermons. These three
- "For the fruits of His creation" - This hymn relates to
both the chosen themes. The two main quotes from this hymn
which I used were "The just reward of labour" which led
logically to the issue of the Fair Trade movement. The line
"In the help we give our neighbour" led me neatly into the
importance of caring and sharing.
- "For the healing of the nations" - This hymn contains the
line, "For a just and equal sharing of the things that
earth affords". I made the point here that the earth has
the richness to easily feed, clothe and resource all its
people yet so many go on living in poverty, in despair and,
sometimes, in virtual slavery. The hymn then goes on to
give us the answer, "To a life of love in action help us
rise and pledge our word." The reference to "love in
action" is, of course, at the very heart of the Christian
- "God in His love for us lent us this planet" - Sung to
the tune 'Stewardship', this is a relatively recent hymn
which focuses our mind on the resources which our world has
and how we should be doing better in preserving it for
future generations. It has been said that we don't own the
planet we just have it on loan from our children.
By using these hymns in this way and expanding on the main
points I have mentioned, (I have just given you the 'bare
bones' here) I got across the message of my twin themes in
a concise way which the congregation found easy to follow.
As I said earlier in my article, I have found this approach
very successful and I intend to use it more when leading
worship on appropriate occasions. A secondary issue with
this way of doing things is that it makes the congregation
very aware of the words they are singing, perhaps giving
them a whole fresh understanding of hymns they have sung
for many years.
Robert Hinchliffe is a professional musician and Methodist
local preacher. He has a keen interest in the use of church
music of all kinds and has recently completed a study of
Music in Christian Worship. If you have found this article
of interest please visit
http://www.robsworshipmusic.com/mcweb.htm and find out how
you can access a FREE copy of Robert's new Christmas song,
"The Greatest Gift"
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