Picking songs: It's what we do. Here are a few tips for choosing your next killer set.
1. Pray. I always spend time waiting on the Lord and listening. God, where would you like me to lead people this week? What's Your heart for Your people? What truths do they need to sing? What words do they need to hear sung over them? God knows the hearts and lives of every person you will lead this week—and you don't. But He has called you to minister to them. Let's make sure we are asking Him to lead us before we lead His people.
2. Focus on truth. The most important thing about the songs we sing are the words. We want to sing theology. We want to plant God's timeless truth into the hearts of His people. Pick songs that say something—songs that:
- Teach us about the nature of God
- Help us understand how to walk with Him through the complexity of life
- Are gospel-saturated
- Are about Jesus (you'd be surprised to find how few of our anthems say the name Jesus)
And keep variety in there. Don't sing six songs about the trials of life. Mix it up. Give God's people a good sampling of biblical truth.
3. Keep it familiar. I know—this is a touchy one. I love new songs as much as the next guy. It seems like Hillsong comes out with a new CD every week, and every song is epic. How do we balance our desire to introduce new songs and yet not lose our congregation? This might come as a shock, but most of the people in my church don't even know who Hillsong is. They aren't worship junkies like me. My job is to lead and facilitate worship. I think that's tough to do if they have to read the lyrics for every song off a screen. My rule of thumb is 50/25/25. Most people should be able to sing fifty percent of the songs with their eyes closed. Twenty-five percent of the songs should be relatively familiar. People may need to peek at the words for the verse but once that chorus hits, they are off in worship land. The last twenty-five percent is what I leave for new songs.
4. Know your band. We have the privilege of serving not only our churches, but our musicians. Most of the musicians I work with play at a professional level. However, they are busy. They have lives. They don't do this for a living. I make sure to pick songs at their talent level that I know they can stick to the wall with the amount of time they have to prepare. I want to set them up to succeed. There's nothing worse than a group of talented musicians playing a messy worship set.
5. Know your church. What is your pastor preaching about? What are the themes and topics your church is working through? Find or write songs that put the theology they are learning to melody. Few people leave church reciting a sermon, but songs stick. Our goal should be to wrap a song around all that God is teaching us as a church.
May God lead you each week to pick the songs that change lives.
What are some of your tips for putting sets together?