Hi worship leader! I know you have heard these questions from your church family before: “Have you heard that song called (enter popular radio song here)? Can we do that one at church?”
I get excited when my brothers and sisters in Christ feel like they come to me with a suggestion for worship. I want to be a leader who is accessible, who takes the spiritual temperature of her congregation and uses that (along with a strong dose of the Holy Spirit’s guiding) to make decisions about how God wants to move in His church.
At the same time, as the Contemporary Worship Director, I am charged with helping my congregation “honor the LORD for the glory of His name” (Psalm 29:2a NLT). To me, this means to not be satisfied with presenting anything but the most excellent worship. Excellent in its preparation and in its execution. Worship leaders ride a fine line here because the pursuit of excellence can by overtaken by the sin of pride….but, that’s another blog post:-)
I could actually write a whole book about how to decide whether a song is right for corporate worship and hey, maybe I should! But for now, I want to let you know some questions that I ask myself when looking for a congregational song. Of course, there are songs that can be done as a musical offering/solo/duet/small group thing but, that’s not what we’ll deal with here.
So, how do I know if I should introduce a song to my congregation?
Here are some questions I ponder:
1. Text – what does it say about who God is? What scriptural ideas are used and can I find actual bible verses to back these ideas up? Is there anything said in the song that doesn’t match with what my church does (example: “I lift my hands to you” when the congregation is not a lifting-hands bunch)? Does it match the doctrine of the church I belong to?
2. Melody – is the song singable? Singable=in a range that only spans 8-11 notes. (I personally use G below middle C to the C above middle C as my guideline. Remember, transposing is your friend!) Singable also=a catchy tune that is repeated. The verses should be roughly the same notes each time. The chorus should be pretty simple – especially if the verses are more complicated. The bridge can be a little trickier, since it is usually shorter and followed by the chorus which would build back singing confidence. Or, if the bridge is too tricky, I sometimes leave it out.
3. Accompaniment – can the band/guitarist/piano player/whomever is on that week lead it well? If it is a major Hillsong anthem, can you find an example on YouTube of the “acoustic” version that may match more of the actual instruments you have on a Sunday morning? If there is an awesome lead line done by an electric guitar and you don’t have an electric guitarist (this is the case at my church), do you have a piano player that can do it instead? And will it sound good like that? Will the church appreciate your paired down version of the real thing or will it seem lacking?
My congregation doesn’t know that I spend a ton of time weeding through the popular songs of the day to find just the right one to introduce to them. For instance, yesterday I looked through 10 songs to see if they’d be right to introduce. Only 1 was worth putting in my “songs to do” folder. I love this process, I love caring for God’s people in this way. It doesn’t feel like a chore to me…in fact, it feels like a privilege.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:10-11 (ESV)