About Songs2Serve EU

‘All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.’ — Psalm 86:9

Songs2Serve Europe is part of Intercultural Church Plants (ICP EU). ICP EU helps starting new networks of intercultural church plants in Europe. Songs2Serve Europe helps the local networks to shape intercultural worship, with the goal that all people can meet God in the language and music of their hearts. Ultimately the goal is to help them run a national network of Songs2Serve where they contextualise intercultural worship.

Songs2Serve Europe offers:

  • a collection of songs
  • training
  • coaching
  • contact with an international family of intercultural churches
  • a ‘training the trainer’ conference

Our Songs2Serve Europe team consists of musicians, ethnomusicologists and people with experience in the field of intercultural worship in the local church, and we are connected to other organisations worldwide in the same field. Our role is to facilitate the work of the local Songs2Serve networks, like NL and UK, by training, coaching and equipping.

What we do

Song collection

Together with a team of musicians, song writers, worship leaders, and pastors we are compiling a database of songs to help intercultural churches. We translate, compose and arrange music from different cultures so that it is fitting for our churches.

Browse songs

Training day

Before each ICP Europe conference, Songs2Serve organizes its ‘training the trainers’ day. We want to equip people to use intercultural worship and grow in the ability to take other people along with them. On this day, worship leaders or musicians from ICP churches from the European networks come together to attend workshops and gain inspiration on the theme of intercultural worship. Experienced musicians are invited, to train the participants in small groups. Topics covered could be vision building, playing intercultural songs, band coaching, vocal coaching, and more.

Intercultural worship

The beauty and power of praise that will come to the Lord from the diversity of the nations is greater than the beauty and power that would come to Him if the chorus of the redeemed were culturally uniform.

(Let the Nations Be Glad, page 222, John Piper, published by Baker Books)

At Songs2Serve we encourage intercultural churches to develop an intercultural worship repertoire that is appropriate to their contexts, so that the Church worships God together.

An intercultural church is a community that reflects, embraces and enjoys the diversity of its context, and by the power of the gospel transcends it and creates one new community in Christ where unity in diversity is celebrated (based on the definition of ICP Europe). So intercultural worship should empower this by reflecting, embracing and enjoying diverse worship expressions through worshipping God together.

We base ourselves on the Lutheran ‘Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture’ from 1996:

  1. Worship is transcultural.
  2. Worship is contextual.
  3. Worship is counter-cultural.
  4. Worship is cross-cultural.

1) Worship is transcultural. It has certain shared liturgical elements that are expressions of unity with the worldwide body of Jesus. You may think of the fact that we worship, pray Our Father, eucumenical creeds, baptism in the name of the Trinity, Holy Communion. This reflects that the body of Christ transcends time and space. Worship is first and foremost a lifestyle of magnifying God and meeting Him.

2) Worship is contextual. It reflects local patterns of speech, dress, and other cultural characteristics. We want to bring our message across in a culturally relevant way. Our question is: which music is most fitting to the city/context we are called to?

Mission organisations such as WEC Arts Release and Inspiro Arts Alliance studied this subject and concluded that people from urban contexts, especially the educated, often enjoy a mix of styles, ideas and instruments from the global community.

We find ourselves in a ‘fruit salad’ of music, where one culture touches the other one and influences its taste. We have contacts with different people for whom music has different functions - one culture (Western) is focused on language in music, the other wants to hear complicated rhythms, the other one melodies and another one harmonies.

In some cultures it is about the shared experience of singing together in a group - singing, clapping and dancing unites people to one another and to God- others are focused on what music does emotionally and whether it helps people in their daily lives. For some cultures singing and believing are synonymous, and meeting God means singing and dancing. That is the diversity of the context in which we work!

3) Worship is counter-cultural. Worship is critical of its culture, it distances itself from the idolatry of any given culture. This means that we want to be very much aware about aspects of the culture of our church members that contradict Kingdom principles. Therefore we will continue to submit each aspect of it to the Bible. When we meet God and lead a church in this, we adhere to His principles. For instance, in a culture it may be custom that a worship leader always has the final say ‘over’ the singers and musicians. In the culture of the Kingdom we do not find this and there we have respect for the input of each other. At the same time we hold leadership in high esteem, for that too is a Biblical given - but this can be tricky in a Western setting.

4) Worship is cross-cultural. It shows that we can respect and celebrate our differences. Worship expression may vary by culture but God is glorified in a special way through that, especially when we learn to worship Him together!

How

Each church needs its own repertoire of songs in which they can express their faith. It is important that members/visitors can identify with the music. It really needs to become mutual worship, not that one group is worshipping and the other group is watching and then the other way around. God’s glory is being magnified more when the church is doing it TOGETHER and a new shared worship culture is birthed.

The musicians in the church are a key factor. They are often good teachers and know the culture of the church and are aware of what works and what doesn’t work with the congregation.

In the case of an intercultural church, the repertoire needs to have a variety of rhythms, musical styles and expressions. Each song always has cultural characteristics. The challenge is to compile a repertoire that is accessible to many and in which elements from different cultures can be found.

In addition to that, it is important to look for songs specific to one given culture - songs that are not only accessible, but that have the distinct flavour of that specific culture. And let us not forget the ecclesiastical culture; the old songs and hymns, the solemn chorales of orthodox churches. It is important to involve the actual cultural groups in this - we can never make their music as well as they can. Practically speaking, most will happen when you actively involve the people around you. Often musicians have more capabilities than they let on.

Intercultural worship requires that you:

  1. check out the cultural makeup of your target group (for instance in your area) and the music styles that are popular among the people
  2. check out the cultural makeup of your current church and the music styles that are popular among them
  3. develop a vision as to what would be the ideal situation for your church (not just that which is popular) - do so together with the leadership of the church
  4. check out the current possibilities
  5. make a strategic course of steps to be taken
  6. get to work!

More ideas:

  • Introduce easy, accessible songs at first (e.g. multilingual)
  • Display English meaning as well (to sing or not)
  • Medleys can work well
  • Give known songs a cultural ‘twist’
  • Sunday morning may not be the starting place
  • Introduce it slowly — take easy steps at first
  • Explain why it glorifies God
  • Engage in meaningful conversation across cultures
  • Come as a learner — avoid cultural pride
  • Be determined — don’t give up easily
  • Enjoy the ride!

If so desired, S2S EU could work together with you to coach you in this process and help you to tailor these steps to your own context. Contact us for more information.

Usually using songs from the cultures of your church members is much appreciated. An important branch of the work of Songs2Serve is that we have these songs translated into English (or another language) in a singable format, so that we are one step closer to worshipping together. For instance, the whole church now sings the song in Arabic and English! At first this takes some getting used to, but after some time the songs become more familiar and then we can really all worship together out of our hearts.

These songs have the flavor of that other culture, because we use their music and melodic structures. They are identifiably different from the songs usually sung in churches. We do that on purpose, because intercultural music is important in an intercultural church. It reduces the ‘us/them’ culture of the ‘host and the guest’. The identity of the church will become more intercultural. The ‘guests’ will not feel like guests anymore, but fully respected participants. Visitors will be pleasantly surprised to recognize their language, seekers will become extra curious as to why a church would make so much effort for them.

Songs2Serve is steadily building up a database of songs which we are collecting and translating from different cultures.

All for the glory of God!

Practical ideas

Songs2Serve wants to serve the cause of worshipping communities.. What is your next step this month to radiate diversity?

Click here for an overview of liturgical models regarding intercultural music.

More creative ideas for a worship service:

Music:

  • Make sure that your music team is diverse and that majority-culture people don’t always have the lead
  • Co-lead the worship together with someone from another culture
  • Use foreign instruments
  • Use music tracks from varying musical styles
  • Invite a guest musician from another culture
  • Sing a well-known song with new instruments
  • Sing a song in different languages
  • Make sure that the background music is intercultural too

Relax:

  • To help people in an intercultural church feel more comfortable, give people time to greet each other at the start of the meeting
  • Have meals together, perhaps a bring-and-share
  • Be creative in stimulating relationships
  • Involve the people of the church during the meeting

Prayer:

  • Pray for the countries your people come from
  • Have someone pray in their own language or let your own prayer be translated
  • Use different ways of prayer like: praying loudly all together- silent prayer- background music during prayer, etc.

Language:

  • During Scripture reading, have it read out in another language
  • Take care of good spelling when using another language
  • Read the Bible antiphonally
  • Practice pronunciation of a foreign language

Image:

  • Develop videos from your own church
  • Make use of visual materials that depict other cultures: pictures of the people, written language, quotes from heroes, and banners. (For example: Pictures of palms can help people from tropical climates feel at home.)

Offering:

  • Different cultures have unique ways of collecting money - ask your congregation for their ideas