The best hymnal for your local church is one that you produce yourself. It has all the songs your congregation knows and loves, and it leaves out the songs you know you’ll never use.
Most church leaders assume the cost of a custom hymnal is much higher than purchasing an existing publication. But for mid-sized congregations or larger, the reverse is actually true. Here’s how the process works.
Step 1: Plan the project
If you’re a church leader that values hymnals and loves hymns, your congregation probably does as well. It’s likely you already have a list of perhaps 100-150 songs that you use.
In the preparation phase, you and your church leaders begin to firm up a list of songs to be included in the hymnal. And I work with you to establish a “house style”—a list of choices regarding fonts, layout, and filler material that gives your hymnal’s printed page the exact look you want.
I’ll help you consider factors you may not think of, like staff size, note size, music fonts, and other elements.
Step 2: Choose from a list of already-prepared songs
This hymnal service is first and foremost a ministry to churches. I’ve already typeset around 400 songs for other hymnals. If you want to use my existing formatting and style, I’ll include those songs in the hymnal with no charge for the typesetting.
If you want to change the style, formatting, or part-writing of any existing songs, there’s a per-song charge, but it’s still much cheaper than starting from scratch!
You can view the list of available songs here:
Step 3: Add your own songs to the list
Every church sings a unique list of songs. If there are songs that aren’t on the list above, I’ll typeset them for you.
I can typeset songs from existing hymnals, or part-write newer songs from a lead sheet (or even transcribe by ear, if needed).
Step 4: Editing, layout, and indexes
This phase is the biggest part of the project. I typeset the songs you’ve chosen, and you and your team check them for errors and changes. The editing and proofreading phase is a great opportunity to include members of your congregation in the project.
I’ll put the structure in place for you to find and flag corrections. It’s typically best to collaborate using a shared spreadsheet, which allows you to keep track of how many editors have looked at each song. It’s time-consuming, but it’s a rewarding process. And it makes it possible to have a printed hymnal that’s free of errors.
Step 5: Printing
The world of print production has changed significantly in the past two decades, and there’s an increasing focus on self-publishing by individuals and smaller organizations (like churches). But there’s one principle that is unchanged: the more copies you print, the cheaper they are. NOTE: Hymnworks contracts with printing companies that use high-quality materials and a professional printing process, so the minimum order we recommend is 500 copies.
How many copies should you print? A good rule of thumb is to print double your average Sunday attendance. So for a congregation of 500, you should plan to print 1000 copies (which is not much more expensive than printing 500!). You can also sell copies to your church members to help recoup some of the cost.
Page count is a big factor as well. Remember, you’re focusing on the songs your church sings. So a hymnal of 150-200 songs is a very manageable prospect.
It’s up to you to work directly with the print company, but I can make recommendations based on my experience with past products, so you can be confident you’ll get a printed hymnal that looks and feels professional and is built to last.