Hymns in Small Groups

This is the 28th in a series of Friday posts on congregational song.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Christian jailed and executed by the Nazis during World War II, found great strength in prison through singing hymns with fellow prisoners.

Hymn singing was a key element in the Methodist class meetings in 18th century England. These hymns fueled the Methodist revival, which is still bearing fruit today.

Sunday school classes, Bible studies, and other small groups can benefit tremendously by hymn singing. Spiritual formation is often the main focus of such groups, and hymns are a powerful spiritual formation tool.

For hymns to be usable in small groups, simplicity is essential. Sometimes a keyboard and keyboardist are available for accompaniment, and sometimes recorded accompaniment is an option. But in many situations, the singing will either be unaccompanied or it will not happen at all. Hymn tunes that are easy and familiar will work best.

Someone should take care to choose the hymns ahead of time. The right hymn in the right spot is a powerful tool. A meaningful context is a hymn’s best friend. As much as possible, prepare hymns that fit the lesson hand-in-glove. When the match is right, hymns are a perfect way to drive home a scriptural lesson.

Since necessity is the mother of invention, singing hymns in your small group might be just the opportunity needed by some budding hymn writer among you. I started writing hymns for that very circumstance, to use with Bible studies I was teaching. I always provide a hymn with the Sunday School lessons I teach. A hymn works well as an opening or a closing. Or if time allows, sing a carefully chosen hymn at the opening of the class, with a brief spoken introduction, then repeat the same hymn at the end of the lesson.

Take the time to make hymns part of your small group gatherings. You’ll find your efforts richly rewarded, and perhaps in some surprising ways!

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