I developed this guide for the purpose of helping the teachers and music leaders of our congregation understand my philosophy when it comes to church music in public worship and in youth work. It is, currently, a work in progress. But here are some preliminary ideas. One I considered adding was a principle I learned from Rev. Marcus Zill: Pizza is great, but it ain’t the Gospel!
Guiding Philosophy for Congregational Work
There are three principles that provide the driving force behind my work within the congregation, particularly with regard to the youth. Years of serious study and reflection have led me to embrace these principles as my guiding philosophy for all work within a congregation.
LEX ORANDI, LEX CREDENDI
“As you pray, so you believe.” This axiom which was coined first by an early Christian writer expresses the long-standing belief that the faith and piety of the average Christian is formed, shaped, and influenced more by the prayers and hymns that they are given to pray and sing than by the formalized doctrine of that Church. In other words—worship, sing, and pray like a Baptist, and you will believe like a Baptist. The way we pray forms our faith. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. This is why it is vital to the ministry of any orthodox Lutheran congregation that genuinely Lutheran hymns, songs, and prayers are used not only in the context of public worship, but also in the leading of worship and music for the youth. There should not be a huge disconnect between what is happening on Sunday morning and what is being done in Vacation Bible School, Midweek youth programs, and Sunday School. There is no reason why children cannot, from an early age, begin to learn the hymns that they will be singing (Lord willing) into their adult years.
WHEN WE WORSHIP, WE WORSHIP; WHEN WE WORK WE WORK; WHEN WE PLAY WE PLAY
This principle I learned from Rev. Klemet Preus through Higher Things. It basically goes like this: it is often said that Americans worship their work, work at their play, and play at their worship. At Higher Things (and I would like to think in our congregations as well) it is said that when it is time to worship, we worship, when it is time to work, we work, and when it is time to play, we play, and we play hard! We do not mix them. Too often these things get blended and mixed up in youth work. We think that we have to make worship fun in order for people to like it. Reverent meal time prayers are replaced by prayers sung to the tune of “row, row, row your boat,” to use a common example. Or we think that we have to add a religious element to every playful thing we do. This principle means that prayer time and play time should be kept separate. Otherwise you confuse the children. You teach them to expect worship to be entertaining, rather than reverent and holy.
REPETITION IS THE MOTHER OF LEARNING
“Variety is the spice of life,” but “repetition is the mother of learning.” I remember reading this in a paper delivered by Rev. Peter Lange and it is one of the principles that drives my practice, especially when it comes to children and youth of the congregation. For this reason I try to stick with a consistent order of service for our opening before Catechism class, and I might use only one or two hymns all year with them. Sometimes I pick the same closing hymn for an entire season of the Church Year. And I try very hard not to change or vary the liturgy too much throughout the year. I will generally use one order of Service throughout an entire season, or for several weeks at a time rather than changing it every week. By keeping to a consistent liturgy, especially for our Catechism opening, the children learn the language of the Faith.
In summary, my goal as a Lutheran pastor is to strive to make children and adults more Lutheran, not less. To that end, I prefer to put genuinely Lutheran hymns and prayers on the lips of people in the church, trusting that by this their faith is being formed in ways that it may not be otherwise.