Each Sunday morning, worship leaders have the amazing opportunity to ask their congregation to act out Psalm 69:30.
I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
But in order to ask that of the people, worship leaders have a very important role to play first… choosing the songs of praise. Worship setlists are more than just a list of songs, they are songs meant to draw emotion and praise out of God’s people.
Song rotation is like a crop. Only through constant care and attention can it produce a bountiful reward. We here at Worshipflow prefer to view song selection in three categories: Past, Present, and Future.
These are the golden songs (and hymns) – a cheat code for instant warmth and comfort for the congregation. New is good (and we’ll get there), but never neglect the tried and true. Some songs simply never go out of style, such as 10,000 Reasons. If the arrangement you’re familiar with feels too dated, worry not, there are updated, modernized versions out there that your congregation will love. Which songs fit in this category depends on the church, and they won’t necessarily be ancient hymns. Whichever songs create instant excitement in your people even years after being in rotation, hold on tight to those songs. Ideally, you will have enough of these golden songs in your bank to rotate one or two in each week.
These are the songs currently resonating with your church. They may not be as established as the golden songs of the past, but they draw similar engagement and excitement never-the-less. These songs may be fads, or their lyrics may simply be landing like a dream in your church’s current season. Whether they stand the test of time is not important; they are the soundtrack of your church’s present journey, beautifully chosen by the members of your church. So, keep playing them, and just remember to monitor reception; some will climb to golden song status, others will fall by the wayside.
Introducing new songs to the congregation is important for a few reasons. An obvious one is that it keeps things feeling fresh; we don’t want members rolling their eyes as we play the same sets on rotation month after month. A less obvious reason comes from Scripture itself. Psalm 96, 98, and 149 all begin by telling us to sing a new song to the Lord. New is good; it can provide new outlook, or new appreciation. Still, new can be dangerous. Too much of it can be uncomfortable, and it also brings unknown waters.
Remember these two questions when deciding on new songs to try: is it Biblical? And will my congregation relate to this? Don’t expect a great response every time, but keep your ears perked for songs with potential. Introduce something new once a month and see how your congregation responds.
Give song selection the time it deserves. Finding a healthy balance in our three listed categories yields wonderful fruit. You’ll love seeing higher engagement from your church, and your church will love taking part in more genuine worship.