Selecting songs for your congregation to sing is not easy. There are lots of different factors to consider in your choice, and sometimes it’s hard to filter through the noise and figure out a perfect set list that will help lead your congregation into worship.
Music as a whole is an incredibly useful tool that the church has adopted to aid our worship. With it though, comes a whole new set of considerations, some of them more practical than others. Music and singing can easily become distractions, and as members of His church, we want all of the attention to be on Jesus. Here are a few ideas to pick your songs so that they best lead people into authentic, distraction free worship.
1. It’s too high (or too low)
Lets get this established from the get go — there is never going to be a perfect key to sing a song in. The incredible diversity of the human voice means that there is no one size fit for our congregational singing. There are however, ways we can make those awkwardly high notes or painfully deep ones more accessible.
When assessing a song, check out the highest note (usually in the chorus) and compare it to the lowest note (usually in the verse). The gap between these two notes shouldn’t be more than 5 or 6 tones, as it’s likely your congregation will not have the vocal ability to sing more than that.
If you find that a particular section of the song you want is unsuitable, consider pairing that section with a similarly themed song, and transpose that section into the other song’s key.
2. Your setting (and instrumentation) isn’t suitable:
It’s a good idea to take your setting into consideration when selecting songs. If you’re in a small gymnasium, you’ll find it incredibly difficult to replicate the massive arena anthems you hear on CD’s. It’s also likely that you won’t have the huge production values and musicians to pull off the multi layered, complex instrumentation of those songs either.
If you feel really led towards that particular type of song, apply the tips from the previous steps — look for the highest and the lowest notes. In big settings, it’s easier to use extended vocal ranges because the volume and space allows people to really let loose. This won’t always be the case in smaller settings, so be mindful of that.
Generally, simple acoustic instrumentation lends itself better to small environments, but it takes discernment and a humble spirit to pick songs that work for the most people.
3. Your set list doesn’t flow thematically:
When you pick songs for a worship set, it’s important to take theme into consideration. Even if it’s small thematic links or shared language between songs, the consistency between songs adds a remarkable amount of flow to your set list.
Sometimes, the theme will be something your pastor or Corps Officer has decided on, which can make selecting songs difficult, as you have a much smaller pool of songs to work from. If you’re struggling to pick songs in this situation, it’s worth sticking to a more general, universal theme.
Themes like grace, the cross, holiness, forgiveness, repentance and the Trinity are broad enough that you can apply most topics to them. Even if your set list doesn’t mesh with the theme your pastor or Corps Officer has set, you’ll still notice those general thematic links, and congregations will too.
4. You’ve got too few or too many songs:
People will come into a Sunday church service in completely different head spaces — one person might have had the worst week of their life and the last thing they want to do is sing. For that person, it might take a couple of songs for them to really give that week over to God and connect with Him in worship. On the other hand, you might have people completely fired up and ready to sing for an hour.
Your song selection is really dependant on how well you can read and relate to your congregations, highlighting the importance of relationships as well as simply choosing songs. Be involved with what’s happening in the life of your church, rather than observing it from the stage.
Song selection can be a daunting task, but with the rich heritage of music in the church, there are songs written that articulate every aspect of the human condition. By using these tips, you should be able to identify the songs that will help your congregation best connect in worship and praise.
What do you think is the most important thing for selecting a song in church? Comment below and have your say!