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Hymns and Dessert (Romans 12, Issue 267)

Romans 12

Issue 267 — February 4, 2016
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Hymns and Dessert

Hymns and Dessert: Let that sink in just a minute. What could be better than diving into the delight of congregational singing when paired with something as delectable as pecan pie or banana pudding? Finding new ways to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) helps make ministry more creative, and Grace Avenue UMC in Frisco, Texas, has found a new way to reach and teach the people in the community.

After spending some time together in retreat away from the church, Rev. Joe Stobaugh, Executive Minister of Worship and Arts, Rev. Billy Echols-Richter, Pastor, and Laurie Hanson Roberts, Minister of Music, made plans for upcoming worship series throughout the year and wondered what more could be done to help the community have a deeper and more meaningful experience with God in worship. Realizing the opportunity of theological teaching through congregational songs planned for the series, the team decided to present a midweek time that is engaging and encourages fellowship and spiritual growth. Thus, “Hymns and Dessert” was born.

In the words of Rev. Stobaugh, the overall purpose of this program is fourfold:

  1. To help teach people the congregational songs the church will use during a particular worship series so people can participate more fully in worship.
  2. Fellowship, fun, and the continued development of community (in its fullness, the church wants to engage people at every age level).
  3. To develop a common core repertoire of congregational singing among the people.
  4. Theological teaching.


The 30-minute event takes place on a Wednesday evening immediately before a new worship series begins, and the choirs provide the desserts. Invited to a creatively designed time of preparation, the community gets a head start on the themes, congregational songs, and theological concepts introduced in the coming weeks. Stobaugh remarks, “Because of the context of our community, our people don’t share a common repertoire of congregational songs.” Building that repertoire is a vital part of the program. Rev. Stobaugh and Ms. Hanson Roberts take turns teaching and leading the songs, and the group adjourns to enjoy delectable desserts for the remainder of the time.

In addition to the discipleship the event builds within the community, the leadership benefits are also evident. According to Rev. Stobaugh, “the dialogue around the selection of the pieces is a great example of a cooperative effort between an elder, a deacon, and a lay person.” Guiding a congregation through this model of musical leadership is a bold step when so many choose to sing only in worship. Other expressions of musical leadership can also take place in board meetings, planning retreats, and other administrative functions of the church. Through the act of singing in these kinds of environments, the presence of the empowering work of the Holy Spirit is sensed in the day-to-day work of the church, and liturgy, “the work of the people,” becomes something much more than speaking aloud in worship.

Grace Avenue UMC has big dreams for expanding “Hymns and Dessert.” Who knows? Being a saxophonist, Rev. Stobaugh just might have the opportunity somewhere down the road to offer a prophetic word with a soulful rendition of “Come Sundae.”

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What are some creative ways your worship team could help your congregation “taste and see that the Lord is good”?
  2. What are some creative ways your church has used to teach the congregation new songs?



Produced by Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church to communicate effective principles and practices demonstrated by congregations that are actively making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

These congregations are marked by:

  • Clarity around the mission and vision of the congregation.
  • Practice of spiritual disciplines, both corporately and individually.
  • Nurture in growth in discipleship through mutual support and accountability.
  • Cultivation of intentional and mutual relationships with the most vulnerable—the poor, children, the imprisoned, the powerless.
  • Consistent concern for inviting people into relationship with Jesus Christ, combined with wise practices for initiating them into the body of Christ.
  • Connectional relationships that facilitate participation in God’s mission of global transformation.
  • Shared clergy and lay leadership.



© 2016 Discipleship Ministries. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy this newsletter for use in United Methodist congregations. This newsletter is provided as a service of Discipleship Ministries and is funded through World Services apportionment giving by local United Methodist congregations.

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