Every Sunday at Resonate, we sing songs in worship of our Savior. Here are some things we think about when putting together our set lists each week:
We do our best to consider the message of the sermon. What is the theme of the content, and the intended response from the congregation? We choose songs that communicate the same truth, to present a unified message and support our pastor. This opens up creative room for our team to work together to increase the impact of the service as a whole.
Our desire should be to lead our church into God’s presence, to a greater knowledge of and meditation on His character, and to engage with His glory. We seek to resist the temptation to choose songs that are our favorites to play or sing, or songs we have memorized best. Rather, we aim to choose songs that relate the truth of God’s Word in a compelling way.
If it is a communion week, our goal is to follow the sermon with a more meditative song, to allow our people to partake in the Lord’s Supper in a spirit of remembrance and focus. This often will be a more mellow song as well, in order to not overwhelm the congregation with a song that is loud or distracting as they come forward to participate.
We put a great deal of thought into the order and flow of the service. We choose songs that pair well together, focusing on similar aspects of God’s character or the gospel. Song selection based on musical style and key signature can be helpful, but should be secondary to theology and content. We do our best to connect songs using one of a variety of transition techniques.
It can be helpful to begin the service with a song that is upbeat and lively, for it often engages the congregation (at least in our collegiate-focused church) more effectively. Doing this signals the beginning of the service and invites people who are still in the lobby to come inside and begin worshiping.
When we introduce a new song, we will often sing it repeatedly for several weeks close together so our people can learn it more quickly. We want our church to be familiar enough with the songs we sing to engage in worship rather than simply try to keep up. We want them to be able to close their eyes if they wish, meditating on the meaning of the content rather than being focused on reading words from a screen.
Most of all, we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to use us in a way that effectively ministers to the hearts of men and women in our church, connecting emotion with truth and Creator with His creation. Bob Kauflin addresses this principle well in his book, Worship Matters:
“Every person walking in on Sunday has unique needs, specific sins he or she is battling, blind spots, and a tendency to forget the gospel. We have the awesome privilege of pointing everyone to the greatness, goodness, and grace of Jesus Christ. We need the Holy Spirit’s power to be effective, as we’ll never outgrow our need for his help.”
Ultimately, our goal is to lead our people to connect with God. There is no “right” style or tempo or version when it comes to choosing songs. Content is always more important than musical style, so focus on theology before you focus on sound. As Michael Hamilton says, “We need to welcome any worship music that helps churches produce disciples of Jesus Christ.”
We hope that these tools can help you lead people into God’s presence in a very powerful way. May your song selections bring your church to a greater knowledge of and engagement with the Lord.