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.

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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!

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