Song selection and set planning are critical pieces of worship leadership. As someone once put it, we're literally putting words in peoples' mouths. I wanted to share some of our thought process in evaluating potential new songs at LPOT, vetting them for introduction to our repertoire. These thoughts will be a part of a "Worship Manifesto" we are working on, but I wanted to share them on their own for your consideration.
- Our primary goal with songs is to help people "sing and make music to God;" for songs to be a vehicle for corporately worshipping God
- Secondarily, songs will sometimes be more "presentational," meant to be observed and digested rather than participated in; in this case, they'll pretty much always be piggybacking on the Big Idea.
- We use worship-centric songs at something like a 5:1 ratio with presentational songs (some songs blur the lines, which is fine, so long as we find the right time/place to use them)
- When we introduce a new song, we try to do it at least three weeks in a row, or three out of four weeks, in order to help people get familiarized (thus, introducing new songs affects everybody)
- Worship Leaders submit new song ideas at least to me, or to the whole team, for consideration
- This is an art, not a science :)
- 1. Is the song true?
- Is it faithful to what we know about God?
- Is it faithful to where we are at as a community, or where we want to be going?
- 2. Does the song contribute to overall balance in our repertoire, balancing...
- Old with new (roots and wings)?
- Theologically dense songs with personal, emotional ones?
- Long, slow, building songs with upbeat, energetic songs?
- Songs about us with songs about God? (heavier on God songs is better)
- Will singing these lyrics resonate authentically with our collective hearts?
- Is it likely to have broad musical appeal?
- Is its tessitura (total pitch range) an octave or less?
- Does the melody have large intervals or difficult runs?
- Is it easy to harmonize with?
- Is it catchy?
- It may be new to us, but it could be well known through radio or widespread tradition
- If so, then it’s highly likely the learning curve will be lower. Especially if it’s a CCLI Top 100 song
- Will it require major re-arranging to pull it off? (electric-guitar heavy songs can be difficult to pull off if we don't have them on any given week)
3. Is the song a good fit for us, for the personality of our leaders and congregation?
- 4. Is it singable?
- 5. Is it well known?
6. Is there a high-quality recording/arrangement we can use as a template?
Answers to these questions all need to held in balance with one another. Other than the first question - whether a song is true or not - an answer of "no" doesn't necessarily rule a song out, but the more "no's", the less likely a song is going to be a good overall fit. There's obviously a fair amount of subjectivity in a lot of these, too, which is where the strength of our collective and collaborative judgment comes in.