Effective Service Playing: The Partnership between Organist and Congregation

Presented by David Kriewall

In this resource, principles of orchestral wind playing and communication between conductor and players are applied to the organist’s tasks of playing hymns and liturgy. We’ll consider topics such as phrasing, tempo, articulation, cueing, and registration, and apply them to tough spots in a sampling of hymns. Although geared toward organists, the session will be useful to anyone who wants to understand the organist’s musical goals or to improve singing in worship.

This resource is an online masterclass for organists, delivered by a video and a PowerPoint file. (Those who can’t view the PPT file can use the PDF version instead). This masterclass is like a group lesson that seeks to deepen knowledge of musical choices and to improve performers’ ability to play in a way that best supports congregational singing. This video invites organists to explore a variety of issues related to effective service playing. It’s valuable both for those who have had years of lessons and for those who are largely self-taught. It’s not a video to view quickly in one sitting. It’s something to study and ponder with hymnal in hand and trying out some of the performance examples during a practice session.

David is a member of Calvary in Bellevue, WA, where he has served as organist for over 30 years. He studied horn at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, and organ in Germany as well as at the University of Washington (Seattle), where he received his MMus in organ performance in 2014. He has played horn professionally with orchestras in Germany, Chicago, and Seattle. He is serving as editor of Christian Worship: Musician’s Manual, part of the WELS hymnal project.

Other helpful resources, including Organist 101, are available in the Musicians: Organ and Piano section of the worship resource center.

W004 – Worship Led by a Modern Ensemble

This module demonstrates the potential of leading worship with an ensemble consisting of piano, guitar, bass, hand percussion, and various solo instruments. The focus is on songs of the liturgy, psalms, and hymns – some of which will be included in the new WELS hymnal. Interviews with pastor and musicians also give a rationale for their approach.

For more on sound systems, see Worship the Lord vol. 100 – Audio, Acoustics, and Video in the Worship Setting – Part 3: Sound System Layout and Setup.

The worship folder for the service in the video can be found under the “Downloads” tab.

We plan to provide some study guides in the future. But until those are available, the video speaks for itself quite well.

W004 – Worship Folders

Are you interested in upgrading your worship folders? If so, you’ll think through two issues: 1) content to include and 2) matters of design.

What’s best to include in a worship folder?

  1. An outline and the weeks announcements
  2. The flow of the service, with texts of choral music
  3. Number 2 plus hymns

A Worship the Lord issue (#73, July 2015, page 4) urges the second option above. “Printing the entire service every week allows for great variety in an accessible format.” Jumping around, using only the hymnal, “is nearly impossible for a first time visitor without pedantic instructions….”

What is good worship folder design?

For assistance from a professional graphic designer, see material by Ian Welch. Pages 1-3 of the article above are also useful.

Numerous examples of worship folders are available online from the Commission on Worship. These were originally provided as resources for worship variety. Some of them also serve as good examples of worship folder design. (See “Sample Service Folders” under Planning Resources.)

Listen to a sample sermon – God so Loved the World

Advent resources from C18 are available for those interested in using them this year.

W002 – The Liturgical Framework

This module demonstrates how within the framework of the Western Rite, an infinite amount of options are available. It lays down some guidelines for adding liturgical variety in an appropriate manner.

*This module is still a work in progress. You will find some useful examples of variety in the worship folder samples found on the worship resource center. Some, but not all show good design principles. See also “Worship Folders” for help with good design.

W003 – Explaining Worship Customs and Traditions

This module demonstrates why it is important to explain what we do in worship. It offers suggestions for how this can be done well.


*The module is a work in progress. Helpful resources are currently located on the worship education page of the Worship Resource Center.

W006 – Planning Lutheran Worship

This module lays out a process for comprehensive worship planning. It demonstrates how a congregation can plan worship series without abandoning the pericope.

This module is a work in progress. Current information can be found in the following resources:

W008 – The Role of the Choir

This module allows worship leaders to discuss various ways to use the choir, beyond the choral anthem. It demonstrates how the choir can be used to introduce new music or assist with the liturgy.

This module is a work in process. Information can be found in the following resources:

To the Ends of the Earth–Special

This group of materials includes:

  • Personal Reflections – a guide to help individuals as they consider the messages and topics addressed in the To the Ends of the Earth movie.
  • Advent by Candlelight – designed especially for these special women’s events. The program focuses on lessons learned from Lydia (Acts 16:3-15).
  • Mission Vignettes – Pictures and stories about WELS mission work around the world.

To the Ends of the Earth–Children and Teen Lessons & Devotions

Resources for WELS Schools, Early Childhood Ministries, Sunday Schools, Home

Dear Christian Friends,

“To the Ends of the Earth!” What an overwhelming and exciting goal! Following is a summary of some of the resources that have been developed to supplement the new movie, “To the Ends of the Earth.” The materials were written by WELS teachers and members for a variety of ages from preschool through teens. Also included is a set of devotions for teachers. The materials were created for use in the classroom, Sunday School, or by parents in the home with their children. May the Lord bless and guide each of you as you share this message of God’s grace that we seek to share with the world, including those near us.

May the Lord bless you and those with whom you share these materials!

“To the Ends of the Earth” Bible Lesson for Early Childhood

This lesson shares the account of the conversion of Paul and his work in spreading the gospel in many places. It includes the story of Lydia and an encouragement for each of us, even little children, to be witnesses for God. Also provided is a cover page with activities, the story page that includes a song, prayer, and section for parents. There is also a coloring page that highlights Paul’s conversion, his witnessing to many, and Lydia’s baptism. This lesson is prepared with children in preschool through kindergarten in mind.

“To the Ends of the Earth” Bible Lesson for grades 1–4.

The story of Paul is a dramatic one filled with a variety of people with whom he shared the gospel. This Bible lesson is written for students in grades 1–4. It highlights Paul’s journey to Macedonia, meeting a little girl who was demon possessed, and his imprisonment. Each part of the story illustrates God’s hand in the work of Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke. The materials include telling the story, retelling the story, and application. There are several extension activities such as writing, illustrating, songs, poems, and scenarios to practice telling others about Jesus.

“To the Ends of the Earth” Bible Study for Middle school/Teens

Middle school and high school students will dig into Scripture to learn more about Paul, an enemy of the gospel turned disciple. Using the Power Point slides, student pages, and leader’s guide, they will delve into the power of the gospel and apply it to their own lives. Students will be led to discuss and reflect on their opportunities to share God’s Word, trusting in the power of the gospel.

“To the Ends of the Earth” Devotions for Children

A set of five devotions are written for school age children. The author uses everyday objects and activities to engage students and connect them with the Word. Through the theme of power, students will consider the power of the gospel to save, to clothe us in Jesus’ jersey, to tell others, to combat fear, and to live our faith. Each devotion includes several questions to help students dig a little deeper and apply it to their own lives.

“To the Ends of the Earth” Devotions for Teachers and Staff

“To the Ends of the Earth” focuses on four individuals: Saul/Paul, Lydia, the demon possessed slave girl, and the jailer. This series of devotions looks at each individual and reflects on their story and the power of God’s grace and love for each of them. While each devotion makes application to us as teachers, the final devotion zeros in on each of us and our role in “taking the gospel to the ends of the earth” in your calling. Each devotion also includes several questions for deeper reflection and application.

To the Ends of the Earth–Adult Study Resources

Jesus came not just to benefit one type of people. Jesus was God’s answer of love for people of every culture or background. The message of Jesus is a power that changes even the most unlikely hearts. It gives truth to the seeker, hope to the hopeless, and freedom to the oppressed. God sends messengers to share the life-changing story of Jesus to the ends of the earth.

There are two Bible studies based on the movie:

  • Adult Bible Study: the objective of this Bible study is that each viewer of the movie, amazed by the grace of God, embraces how fully accepted they are in Christ; how powerful the gospel is for others; and captures the passion and urgency to share it with people of different lifestyles and cultures. Six lessons.
  • Small group study guide: Materials especially designed for small group, family, or individual study. This course helps us see the need for the gospel in our lives that we treasure and trust it as we strive to live according to it and seek to share it. Four lessons.

To the Ends of the Earth–Worship Resources

The Conference of Presidents has designated October 21, 2018 for this year’s Mission and Ministry Sunday. Another Sunday might be preferred in some congregations.

With its focus on missions, the movie is a great resource for this Sunday. The following worship materials serve to expand on the main message of the movie—taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.

  • A sermon outline on Acts 13:38-48.
  • A newly commissioned hymn of four verses with a refrain. The stanzas mention dying souls, doubting cynics, and drifting neighbors—and our Lord’s desire that none perish. Musical options encourage the use of instruments beyond organ or piano and stanza(s) for choir or soloist.

A children’s song suitable also for unison choir or vocal soloist. Available for purchase as a digital download (full score, choral score, mp3 and MIDI accompaniment tracks) at:


W015 – Children Making Music

This module encourages the next generation of musicians. Three videos address three different audiences: children, parents, and church/school leaders. The videos show youth participating in what Martin Luther called “an outstanding gift of God,” second only to theology. They can help children and parents gain an appreciation for music as a vehicle for  proclaiming the Gospel. But the focus isn’t only on church music. Studies point to a link between music education and academic achievement. Children involved in music tend to be more involved in reading and other academic pursuits. Belonging to a music group can also help children strengthen self-esteem and friendships.


C18–Worship Resources

The Commission on Worship is providing worship resources, including worship plans, sermon helps, worship folders, and newly commissioned music, for Advent and Christmas. The theme for our Christmas Eve service is A Light in the Darkness, which will stress how Christ is the answer to any stressor or fear one might be experiencing at Christmas time, or anytime. The theme for Advent Sundays is He Comes, Bearing Gifts.