Praise-and-worship music draws youth to services
By Rose French
By Rose French
FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Sunday mornings at the People's Church look more like a rock concerts than traditional worship services.
A couple on stage leads about 3,700 people — many of them teenagers in blue jeans — in contemporary worship songs, accompanied by guitars and drums. Lyrics roll across a large video screen.
"Music is a big deal in our church," said Randy Elrod, creative arts pastor for the church. "We have a band. We're very contemporary in style. I'm influenced more by what is culturally relevant."
Thousands of churches like this one in suburban Nashville have moved away from singing hymns to "participatory music" — and that's meant a change in music publishing, too.
Christian Copyright Licensing International Inc., the world's largest provider of Christian music licensing, makes it possible for churches to legally copy and distribute praise-and-worship music to their congregations. Based in Portland, Ore., CCLI works with about 200,000 churches around the world and tracks the most popular songs used in contemporary church services.
Churches can't legally project the lyrics on a video screen or reprint them in a bulletin without permission. But instead of negotiating with music publishers individually, churches can pay a blanket license fee to CCLI, which funnels royalties to the songwriters.
In the past decade, the group has nearly doubled the number of U.S. churches it licenses to 140,000, said EMI CMG Publishing President Eddie DeGarmo, who's on the licensing company's advisory council.
"This growth reflects the acceptance of the songs," DeGarmo said. "Modern worship songs are exploding on a global basis. They're in a style that relates to a younger audience. They're easy to sing and sound like something you'd hear on the radio."
Many Protestant churches began to phase out hymnals and put song lyrics on overhead projection screens in the 1980s. The old-fashioned music was replaced by pop-influenced singalongs known as praise-and-worship music.
Praise-and-worship songs are "congregational, not necessarily performance-based, someone performing on stage," he said. "In other words they're participatory. Modern worship has really struck a nerve in that way. It's still growing. The churches are the avenue for these artists to get played."
Founded in 1984, CCLI now makes upward of $20 million a year in revenue — the majority of which is a percentage of the licensing fees, which are determined based on the size of the church. Annual fees range from about $100 to $1,000. CCLI surveys which songs are being sung and ranks the top tunes.
One of the leaders in praise-and-worship music, Chris Tomlin, garnered the most nominations for this year's Dove Awards, the gospel music industry's equivalent of the Grammys. Tomlin, 33, said he believes his music is popular with listeners who want to communicate with God.
"Music connects with the soul," Tomlin said. "I think it's the quickest art form to the soul.
"What bigger music scene is there in the world than the church? It's vital to the world and to culture."