This past May the Communications Committee conducted a survey of WELS teachers. I’ve taken time to review the results of the survey and consider their influence on the direction of our work as the Technology Committee of the WELS Hymnal Project.
Worship is a part of the daily and weekly schedule at WELS schools. Like academic subjects, the quality of worship in the classroom and in the school is usually proportional to teachers’ effectiveness in planning and implementation. Many of the teachers who participated in the survey clearly put tremendous effort into their plans and practices—God be praised for their faithfulness!
The Technology Committee will consider tools and methods designed to lighten the workload on teachers wishing to include solid worship practices in classroom devotions, hymnology instruction, and chapel services. Useful digital resources will help teachers to be even more effective in their planning and carrying out of worship in WELS schools.
We can offer appropriate technology to assist singing in the classroom
The survey indicated that teachers do not often use digital technology to assist in singing hymns in the classroom. A Technology Committee would be tempted to assume that our goal should be to increase the use of digital technology, but we will resist that temptation. Here’s why: Half of the respondents indicated that they frequently use a keyboard to lead classroom singing. Martin Luther College trains teachers with keyboard skills for good reason. A live musician leading classroom and chapel singing with mechanical technology like the upright piano is a great option for WELS students.
However, for those who do not have keyboard skills, it seems the most frequent alternative is the venerable compact disc player. WELS teachers, however, crave a library of encoded audio files (i.e. MP3, AAC) with high-quality recordings of hymns—both with and without vocal tracks. WELS teachers also envision that such recordings be available for convenient playback on a mobile application.
We can offer additional hymn classification and organization to help teachers find age-appropriate hymnody
As I reviewed the survey data I came across quite a few comments from lower-grade teachers and early childhood directors asking for hymns, rites, and prayers appropriate for little ones. While the matter of simplified English in rites, prayers, and hymns is something other WELS Hymnal Project committees would consider, the Technology Committee certainly envisions the ability to deliver such content, if developed, through a worship planning database.
In our current hymnal, Christian Worship, hymns are categorized under only one set of terms. The hymnal categorizes hymns either by season of the church year (e.g. “Advent”, “Easter”) or topic (e.g. “Trust”, ”Justification”). A paper-based resource can only have one main categorization system. While an index may also provide additional categorization, there is not always room to print multiple indices for specialized needs.
A digital compendium of hymns, on the other hand, can categorize hymns with multiple sets of terms. The more traditional system of church year and topical categorization can function alongside more specialized categorizations. For example, a digital compendium would enable us to categorize age-appropriate hymns for different grade levels, thus giving an early childhood director the ability to generate a list of hymns suitable for preschool-age children.
This is only one example of additional categorization. Themes and scriptural allusions are other categories that the Technology Committee is monitoring as possibilities. We will work with committees like Hymnody, Psalmody, Scripture, and Rites to assist them in building these additional indices of terms and categories. Our vision is to include useful sorting and filtering capabilities in the finished product.
As a pastor of a congregation with an elementary school, I enjoyed seeing the wide range of interesting answers and insights into how WELS classrooms integrate Christian worship into their daily and weekly schedules. Thank you for taking the time to share your remarks with us.