Before each designated chapel, worship leaders Taylor Showley (jr) and Meg Sanders (jr) meet to pray about which songs they want to sing at the service. After shooting around ideas, they leave, pray on their own and convene before making a decision.
“Our motto is that we seek God first, and he takes care of the rest,” Showley said.
Worship teams at Indiana Wesleyan University have garnered both praise and criticism for the songs they perform in the Chapel Auditorium, especially the new songs. But regardless of certain comments, the worship teams have one goal in mind: to honor God.
“We’re praying about everything … but also taking into consideration and praying about what our student body wants,” worship chaplain Rachel Rubadiri (jr) said. “We’re just here to be with Jesus.”
The chapel worship team consists of five bands on rotation. Each band has at least one worship leader who proposes which songs they will perform.
Rubadiri, Assistant Professor of Church Music Dr. Michael Dennis and Chapel Coordinator Jennifer Martin review the list of songs submitted by worship leaders.
The team assesses each song based on a rubric from Dr. Constance Cherry’s book “Selecting Songs for Worship.” The rubric’s three categories include theology, lyrics and music. They either approve the list or make some suggestions.
The topic of introducing new songs in chapel has come up several times in weekly meetings, Rubadiri said. So far, the group is beginning to “lean more towards getting back to the basics.”
“A new song can be great, but it can be hard sometimes,” Rubadiri said. “[People] really enjoy when we do traditional songs as well, and that’s something that we’ve really looked at.”
When the worship team introduces several new songs on one day, it can be “alienating” to students who are unfamiliar with them, according to Ariel Blocher-Smith (jr).
“It’s good to have some more familiar ones to draw people in and … make them feel welcome, especially if we would have students visiting,” Blocher-Smith said.
Showley said introducing the audience to new songs is “really a challenge for us as worship leaders to do.”
Whenever the worship band introduces a new song, Rubadiri said, the intent is to repeat it enough so that the audience becomes familiar with it.
Another challenge worship leaders face is that everyone on campus comes from a different background, Showley said. Sometimes, everyone on the worship team will know a song and perform it, only for the audience to not receive it well.
Showley said the worship leaders are constantly in communication about how and when to introduce new songs.
“We’re students,” Showley said. “We’re learning too.”
Showley said she and Sanders have some new songs they think will be received well. They are waiting for the right time to introduce them.
“We want to create an atmosphere and a space where people can meet with God. That is our number one goal,” Showley said. “If it’s where God’s place is and it’s what he wants to do in that chapel service, then we’ve done our job.”
This semester’s worship chapels fall on Oct. 15 and Nov. 24. On these days, the worship bands will play for the entirety of the service.