As the worship leader at two good-sized churches, I am tasked with choosing what worship songs to play each week. The process of organizing the materials needed and sending the information to the worship team, church leadership and office, hinges on this one action. I consider both new songs that the worship team has not played before as well as the current catalog of material. There are certain filters that I run all the potential ideas through before I arrive at a decision.
Will the congregation sing this song?
There are so many good songs on Christian radio but not all of them lend themselves to a congregational sing-a-long. I avoid any song that has lots of vocal runs and ad-libs. Complicated melodies are also something to watch out for when choosing songs. Remember that most people in the congregation are not musicians. The worship songs need to be easy enough for the average person to sing.
Does the song fit the topic or theme?
This may seem like the most obvious reason to select your worship songs for the week but it can also be very tricky. There are some scriptures and sermon topics that line up perfectly with some well-known songs. On the other hand, sometimes it is near impossible to find something that seems to fit. You may need to go with a more generalized theme like forgiveness, love or kindness and work from there. If you are still having trouble then I would go with general worship songs that express the tenants of our faith. Remember that each week there may be people showing up that have never been to your church or any church for that matter. What is the message you want conveyed on a weekly basis? You cannot go wrong with songs about faith, hope, love and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Is the time invested worth it?
With the exception of Christmas songs I avoid learning songs that I do not think the band will play on a regular basis. The chemistry it takes to be a truly good band relies on familiarity with the material and time spent playing together. Your worship band will never become a musically tight unit if you are learning brand new songs every week. I am very selective about which new songs to add to the rotation. The worship band members usually have limited time each week and so I want to maximize the time they spend learning new material. When the band performs a song they have never done before I usually put that in as an offertory song. The following week I may play it in the opening set and after that it goes into the regular rotation.
Can the band pull this song off?
Some of the popular worship bands today have a ton of musicians and singers on their recordings. Are you going to make your worship band sound like Hillsong with 4 people? There are lots of vocal effects, harmonies and trippy keyboard noises on most modern worship songs these days. Certain worship songs with gigantic choruses just do not lend themselves to a smaller band. Your worship leader will have to use discretion when trying to pull off these type of songs. There is also nothing wrong with playing a stripped down version that works with your instrumentation. The slippery slope is in decided whether or not your congregation will go for it or not.
What personnel will you have this week?
Not every member of your worship team is interchangeable. Sometimes it is necessary to select songs based on the make-up of the band that particular week. Certain singers have more ability or a different range and it is unfair to expect one singer to mimic someone else’s strengths. Keep a short list of songs for each singer that accentuates their particular voice. The same thing applies to all members of your team. You shouldn’t expect a beginning guitarist to tackle a complicated guitar solo or riff just because you are dead set on a certain song. Inspire the band members and push them but don’t ask them to play or sing beyond their capabilities. Choose songs you know that your band is completely capable of playing at a high level.
There are many factors that go into choosing the songs for worship each week. It is not as easy as some people on the periphery might believe. Ponder all the different things you need to consider and then make your choices. Over time you will get better at choosing songs and have more faith in your abilities to choose the right songs.
Kelly Vaughn is a Worship Leader and Contemporary Christian Recording Artist. Visit him online at www.kellyvaughn.net.
Like this article? Sign up for our newsletter and get updates on every new article that we publish!