Hymn sings can be grand affairs, with special anthems combining choir with congregation, extra instrumentalists to plan for and rehearse, and scripture readings to coordinate with the hymns’ themes.

But a hymn sing can also be very easy to plan and host.

Here’s the 3 basic steps:

1. Decide on a general theme for the hymns

You need a theme because otherwise you are faced with literally hundreds of wonderful hymns and no way to filter them into a cohesive package.

If your congregation follows a liturgical calendar, your theme could relate to the season. For example, I’m currently planning a Lenten hymn sing around the theme “Journey to the Cross.”

2. Pick out hymns

Page through your congregation’s hymnal(s) looking for hymns on the theme that your congregation knows.

Then narrow down the list to a number that fits your planned amount of time. If you’re singing all the stanzas, allow about 3 minutes each hymn.

3. Order hymns into groups of 2-5

Group the hymns into subthemes, taking into consideration which are more energetic and which are more contemplative.

Are any of the hymns on your list “gathering” or “parting” hymns? These could function as bookends to the event. Make sure these hymns are ones your congregation knows very well.

At this point, your easy hymn sing planning is done! You have a hymn list, and you’re ready to go!

Depending on your idea of “easy,” these other ideas could also serve you well:

Bonus Ideas

Do you know instrumental arrangements for any of these hymns? Interspersing 2-3 instrumental hymn arrangements into the congregational singing gives the congregation a change to catch their breath and time to meditate on a hymn text. If you already know the music, polishing it for the event should be fairly easy.

Plan specific stanzas and singing variations (like an a cappella stanza). If you are announcing hymn numbers, you can also signal which stanzas to sing and other information. And if you are planning a printed program with images of the hymns, you can print and stanza numbers and other information in the program. (Of course, preparing a printed program is much more work than simply announcing numbers from the hymnal—so if easy is the most important factor here, skip it!)

Want to hear more about hymn sings? Check out this episode of the Music and the Church podcast!

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