“Hi there. Have you heard about the new Presbyterian hymnal? It’s coming out in September!”
“No I haven’t. That’s great!”
“Yes, we’re excited about it—it’ll be full of great new hymns and songs, but also not lose those old favorites we love so much.”
“This is perfect! My church doesn’t have any young people. We’ll buy the hymnal and that should fix it! Awesome!”
I’m at the Presbyterian Youth Triennium this week, a gathering of over 5,000 Presbyterian high school youth and their sponsors. Most of my time has been spent in the exhibit hall where I’m spreading the word about Glory to God! The Presbyterian Hymnal.
While I’m pumped about the new hymnal, and do think it will be a great gift for the church, I’m saddened by how often I’ve had the conversation above this week.
I promise you that no hymnal – not even a cool new one with a website, e-book edition, and app – is going to “fix” your church’s young people problem. If you think that, I’m so sorry.
Yes, music is important. Good worship is essential to a strong faith community. But a hymnal is only a resource, a support for congregations.
A new hymnal won’t fix anything if your leadership sucks, or your mission is apologetic, or your hospitality is lacking, or your heart is not in it.
If your church is dying, a hymnal won’t save it.
So, yes, please, buy the hymnal. Spread the word, because it’s a great new collection of hymns and songs. But, let’s be realistic.