Leadership

Song Selection: 6 Must-Ask Questions to Create a Worship Set

Creating a worship set every week is hard. Selecting the right songs can feel like a painstaking experience. Here's 6 must-ask questions to help you get ready.

Song Selection: 6 Must-Ask Questions to Create a Worship Set
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Creating a worship set every week is hard.

Selecting the right songs can feel like a painstaking experience.

When I sit down with our weekend experience team and we begin planning out the upcoming services for the month, we always make sure that everything points to Jesus:

It’s all about Jesus.

We want our weekend experience to create an environment that helps people respond to what God has done in their lives and in the life of our church.

Today, I want to share a few questions to think about every time you select songs to create a worship set

I’ll only touch on things that can apply to any church. It doesn’t matter what your style of worship music is—whether it’s more Elevation Worship and Hillsong, gospel, or choir and orchestra. These questions will help you to focus your worship set and church on Jesus.

#1. What is God saying?

Philippians 4:6 says to not worry about anything, instead, pray about everything.

Before I even step into our service planning meeting, I make sure that throughout the week I’m in prayer and listening for what God is trying to tell me, because we cannot lead people where we have not gone ourselves.

#2. What is your pastor saying?

I serve and listen to God first, but I also follow the vision of my lead pastor.

It’s essential to be in step with your pastor and the leadership above you. I always make sure I know what our pastor is teaching about and what direction the service is going.

Here are some questions I like to ask:

  • How is he going to end his sermon?
  • Is there room to select a song for a response?
  • Are we talking about pain or sorrow this week? If so, what worship songs have that theme?

I want the whole service to connect and not feel fragmented. We are purposeful with making sure that every aspect flows and fits together—from the worship, announcements, preaching, and the response.

#3. Is it catchy but also, more importantly, deep?

We want people to keep singing the worship songs from our weekend experience throughout the week—when they are at work, or dropping their kids off at soccer practice, or waiting in line at Starbucks. This means that the songs we select do need to be somewhat catchy, but they first and foremost need to have theological depth, revealing who Jesus is and what he has done for us.

We strive to choose songs that have practical analogies, created to help people understand the love of God or the grace of the Father. We never sing worship songs that do not talk about who Jesus is or what he has done. There are a lot of “fluffy” worship songs with no real meaning, and even some that could be just another pop love song if you replaced the word “Jesus” with something else.

We have a mandate as pastors and worship leaders to choose songs that are theologically deep and point people toward Jesus. Worship should never just be glorified karaoke.

#4. What is God doing in the life of your church?

What is the sermon series about or what is the message about this week? What has been going on in the life of your church? These are questions that we ask every time we start to put a worship set together.

There is power in singing songs like “It is well with my soul” in a time of pain or loss, “Oceans” in a time of uncertainty, or “Good, Good Father” to remind us of the love of God.

#5. Is it singable?

Choosing singable songs is about more than the key that the song is in—it’s the range of notes in the song. I’ve traveled and lead worship at different churches and conferences and I always find that there are just certain songs that I can hear people singing louder and that’s because those songs are all more singable.

We have to choose songs that everyone can sing—young to old, men and women.

Some songs that I’ve found to be most singable for all demographics are:

  • “What a Beautiful Name” (Hillsong)
  • “Good, Good Father” (Tomlin)
  • “O Come to the Altar” (Elevation Worship)
  • “Lord I Need You” (Redman)

Most fast worship songs with lots of energy tend to not be as singable because they are typically at the top of your range, and that’s why a lot of your congregation doesn’t sing it loud.

I’m a millennial and have a rather high range, but when I choose songs, I always choose the keys and songs based on what people can sing, not what I sound best in. We don’t want to take away the joy of singing unto the Lord.

#6. Does it tell a better story?

When we choose songs, we look at the whole set as one sentence or story.

To create a seamless theme, I like to ask these questions:

  • What’s the theme of each song?
  • Are we switching up our dynamics throughout the set?
  • What are the keys and tempos of each song and how can we create seamless transitions between songs—especially the slow songs?

I always try and connect the last two songs so there is no abrupt ending of one and a count off to another. I either make sure both songs are in the same key or a relative key. You want to eliminate as many distractions and transitions during the worship experience as possible.

3 resources for song selection and worship sets

To create a worship set for your church, you don’t have to do it alone.

Not only can people in your church help, but there are three practical resources you can use to select songs and get your worship set ready for the weekend.

#1. CCLI Songselect

Every church is required to report what songs they choose to CCLI and I’m sure that you do this as a church. But CCLI Songselect is also a great resource to get chord charts for any and all worship songs.

The biggest reason I love CCLI Songselect is that I can get chord charts for any songs in any key that I need in two seconds.

#2. Tithe.ly Church Management

The most important resource for your volunteers is a service planning and scheduling software. I’ve used both Planning Center Online and Tithe.ly Church Management and both are great, but Tithe.ly Church Management is so much cheaper for my church that we switched over to that.

I use the services module and its great. We connected CCLI Songselect so that it automatically pulls over lyrics and chord charts for all the songs we do, which is the biggest time saver.

It allows me to spend more time service planning and developing resources instead of doing admin work.

#3. Multitracks

Depending on your church and the style of your worship, Multitracks can be an awesome way to go.

We always leave room for God to do what he wants in our services, but when it comes to the actual worship set, every transition and sequence of a song is planned out. We line up the Multitracks and plan out every transition to make it seamless. For us, it helps eliminate any distractions with transitions.

Another use for Multitracks is that we actually import individual songs into Logic or Pro Tools and boost individual instruments for practice tracks. That way, if a new guitar player wants to learn the song, we just boost the guitar part that we want him or her to learn and he or she can practice playing along to it at home. We upload these files into the services module in Tithe.ly Church Management and it works out great for our volunteers.

Ready to select songs and create a worship set for your church?

These are some of my thoughts when it comes to selecting worship songs and resourcing your volunteers. Create the best worship sets that you can by listening to God and your leadership, and keep your congregation in mind when selecting the songs.

Some of the best worship experiences that I’ve been a part of is when I don’t think it went well. It’s our job to prepare well and then get out of the way to let God do his thing.

Eric Bryant serves as the implementations team lead for Tithe.ly. He has spent the last decade in the local church as a creative pastor. He lives in Seattle, WA with his wife and two dogs.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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Song Selection: 6 Must-Ask Questions to Create a Worship Set