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:
- The worship
- The testimonies
- The stories we share
- The church announcements
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 or old hymns 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.
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.