Hymnals: an update, a challenge, and an offer

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Hymnals: an update, a challenge, and an offer


An update

The response to the hymnal project has been very encouraging. We’ve sold most of the copies we printed, and orders are steadily continuing. We’re debating whether to run a second printing; it really depends on a number of churches who are considering purchasing the hymnal for their congregations.

The overall feedback has been very positive. There are several questions that have come up, which I’ll answer in brief:

Why no time signatures?

Simply put, congregations don’t need them. We’ll include time signatures on future instrumental resources, but singers (especially congregational singers) just don’t require that information. Untrained singers don’t notice, and trained singers quickly forget they’re missing. And their omission makes for a simple, clean look — especially when the meter changes in the middle of a phrase.

Why no metrical index?

Our congregation wouldn’t have found it useful. While tune names are slightly more worthwhile (though still not essential), poetic meter designations presuppose that texts and tunes will routinely be interchanged. While our congregation sings some text-tune pairings that are not common (like “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” with BEACH SPRING and “Jesus, Your Blood and Righteousness” with HURSLEY), once the text and tune are paired, I tend to keep them joined for the sake of the congregation’s familiarity. And while the hymnologist in me appreciates poetic meter, I intended this project to edify and encourage our church family in their faith— not primarily to educate them.

Why only 250-ish songs?

Our church sings about 160. I’d like to expand that, but not too much; I want to cultivate in our congregation a deep and lasting familiarity with the songs we sing. Settling on 250 allowed us to keep the hymnal small and light.

Why did you include _[that song]_ but leave out _[my favorite]_ ?

Because from the beginning, this project has been intended for our church. And although there are a great many songs that are universally sung, every church’s hymnal would look different. Which leads to…


A challenge

If you’ve wanted to have a hymnal with all the songs your church family sings (and without all the ones you’d never use), DO IT. More churches need to consider their own hymnal project. The cost is not prohibitive: if you used the same printing and binding materials with the same company we used, you can print a short run of 500 copies for about $8 per copy. And if you print using your CCLI license, you don’t need to pay royalties for copyrighted songs.

The challenge, of course, is time and expertise.  You have to know how to use Finale (or Sibelius), and you have to be committed to the project. Hence…


An offer

I’m happy to make all our resources available free of charge to other churches:

  • Finale template with typesetting guidelines
  • a list of helpful Finale tweaks specifically relating to typesetting hymns
  • the Finale files for every hymn in our hymnal (PS: this is a big deal)
  • a detailed description of all parts of the process, including print layout, materials, and estimates
  • the only stipulation is that you promise to use these materials exclusively in service to the church, not for profit


Technology is great, but books are better. If your church is like ours, you sing songs that are meant to last. Make your own hymnal, put it in that hands of your people, and help them teach these songs to their children.


We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob
    and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands.

Psalm 78:4-7