WELS Hymnal Project

Project Blog

Insights, analysis, techniques, opinions, and experiences from the team behind the WELS Hymnal Project.

In 1993 the bar was set pretty high. Within several years of the release of Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, more than 95% of WELS congregations were using it.

Just eleven at the time, I wasn’t aware of that fact much less how truly remarkable it was. But as I was asked to consider leading the communications committee for our synod’s next hymnal project, you better believe that statistic was on my mind. Ninety-five percent. Is it even possible to repeat that in 2024?

In some ways, we might be at a disadvantage this time around. By 1993 more than five decades had passed since the release of The Lutheran Hymnal in 1941. Many things had changed. I would imagine most people were more than ready for a new hymnal. Will that be the case in 2024, barely three decades since the release of Christian Worship?

In other ways, we might be at an advantage this time around. In 1993 the Internet and email were just emerging as ways to share information. No one even knew what a smartphone, tablet, or Facebook page was. This project’s communication committee can and will make use of some pretty powerful tools to carry out its work.

I suppose more than trying to recreate a remarkable blessing of the past, this hymnal’s communications committee will strive to help the people of the Wisconsin Synod appreciate the gifts that the Holy Spirit continues to pour out on the Church in the realm of music and worship. The other six committees within this project will be carrying out important and exciting work. Those of us on the communications committee will try to give you, the people we serve, as much input and insight into that work as possible. Whatever the next hymnal ends up looking like, it will belong to our entire church body. And that is as true today as it will be when it is released ten years from now. We will strive to make that reality apparent from day one.

During the first few years of this project, the communications committee will focus on research. How are the churches and schools of our synod making use of Christian Worship? What will they be looking for in our next hymnal?

The next few years will focus on education. A hymnal project is a natural opportunity to explore the theology and practice of worship. As the other six committees carry out their work, they will no doubt learn a great deal and be very eager to share it with you.

The final few years will focus on introduction. By that time, many of the decisions determining the content of our next hymnal will have already been made. The communications committee will do all we can to help the churches and schools of our synod grow familiar with what is new or different prior to publication.

Thank you for taking an interest in this important work. Over the course of the coming weeks, the chairmen of the other six committees will introduce themselves and their committee’s work. They, along with all those involved with the project, certainly appreciate your ongoing prayers.


Our church body has taken steps to initiate the production of our next hymnal, a successor to the well-received Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal. With the recognition that a hymnal and a supplement are ultimately intended to be combined, and that the members of our synod have expressed a continuing and rising interest in acquiring and using quality worship materials, groundwork on the next set of hymnal resources has now begun.

It should be noted that the previous sentence speaks of a set of resources. Different than the hymnal release in 1993, the next release of materials is planned to be a simultaneous release of a wider array of resources than the pew edition itself. WELS congregations can look forward to ancillary volumes such as handbook materials and concordance and worship planning resources (some in hard copy and some in digital versions and some in both) and digital music resources and the like becoming available at the same time as the new pew edition. This release is roughly targeted for 2023/2024.

There’s a change in the air when a church body begins a new hymnal project. Hypothetical discussions about future resources and worship issues all of a sudden become much more real as current materials actually come up for review and as real openings are made for new materials to be added.

It is our hope that many will be interested in the project, but it is at the same time our intention to make the process as transparent as possible by inviting people to come along for the ride. To a degree, the work of the seven committees (psalmody, hymnody, rites, communications, literature, scripture, technology) will be observable on this site. Visitors will be able to submit materials and offer opinions and feedback. In these ways and more, scriptural worship education will be receiving a shot in the arm.

The project is predominantly about continuing to make more excellent worship resources available to the congregations of our synod. With the expectation in our day and age that these resources will be digital and downloadable and device-ready, the technology aspect of the project will certainly be receiving our attention. We do recognize, however, that before worrying about the method of media delivery, we have a higher concern about the integrity of the materials – that they are faithful to God’s Word and that they proclaim Christ as Savior and King.

As we bear in mind that we want all the materials of the new hymnal to be very accessible to both worship leaders (for corporate worship) and to individuals (for private devotional use), we very much want to open ourselves up to all who have an interest in these resources. To that end, won’t you please register to receive notifications and updates on our progress? We’d be most pleased if you would. We are here not only to produce materials but also and more importantly to be of personal service to you. God bless our efforts to that end and to his glory!

Pastor Michael Schultz, director
WELS Hymnal Project