What is the worship like at your church? As worship leaders, it is a question that we are often asked, and a question that others in the community are asking about us.
So how do you answer that question? What is worship like at your church? Perhaps the most obvious aspect of our worship starts with the songs themselves. The songs we sing and the way we sing them go a long way in defining our worship.
When people walk into a church service on a Sunday morning, their first impression will be based in large part on the music, and at the heart of the music is the song itself. The songs we choose are often the most visible aspect of our worship experience.
Here’s how you can choose songs that will create a meaningful worship experience:
Spend time in prayer. The first and most important part of choosing the right songs happens before we even look at songs! Before we go to our repertoire and start selecting music, we should first lift our services up in prayer, and ask God to create a clean heart in us personally before we lead our church. Making time to pray with our worship team before each service and at each rehearsal is also a priority. It reminds us what we are all about, and keeps us focused on the One who is worthy of our worship.
Spend time in Scripture. It goes without saying that we can’t lead others where we haven’t been ourselves. As a worship leader, spending time in the Word of God is a priority in creating a heart of worship. When we are actively engaged in daily worship, we will be much more effective in leading our community on Sundays.
Be on the lookout for new music. We are blessed to live in a time when there is great new worship music regularly being written. That makes it easy to regularly seek out new music that could be a great fit for your church. Don’t try to find a spot in your service for every great new song out there – you’ll never learn them all – but do spend time listening to music that is God-honoring and will work well for your congregation. Even if you never use a new song in church, it may lead you to a place of personal worship, making you more effective in leading others.
Know your people. Sunday mornings are often the one time in the week that our church will gather together as a body and worship corporately before going back to whatever Monday holds for us. Don’t overlook singability and familiarity. This is our chance to lead those who love singing and those who don’t! In order to engage such a diverse group, choose songs with easy-to-learn melodies and put them in a key that everyone can sing in. Our job is to create an environment that allows anyone and everyone to engage in worship! As we seek out new music, also be sure to include old favorites that people know by heart and can sing without thinking. People sing with more confidence when they know the songs. Learn what your people do and do not respond to or engage with. Be mindful of who is in front of you, and thoughtfully mix old songs and new songs, reflective songs and energetic upbeat songs.
Plan ahead. It can be all too easy to get stuck in the rut of planning Sunday-to-Sunday. This will limit our creative options and lead to burnout. For example, we all know Christmas and Easter are going to come around again the same time every year, so why not have a basic outline in place for each a few months out? Work towards having a detailed two week plan, a solid one month plan, and a three month outline in place.
Know the theme and ask for input. Too often, we can find ourselves at odds with our pastor, who may not ‘get’ music or what we are trying to accomplish by using certain songs in worship. Knowing this, it goes a long way to set a time each week to discuss the worship set, how the songs are effective for worship, and discuss any changes that need to be made. This gets everyone on the same page, and allows the pastor to have input and suggest songs/topics that will relate to the theme of the message. When we know the theme of the service and have input from others, we can to create a truly unified worship experience, and not just a list of songs that we enjoy singing that may or may not relate to the message.
Know your theology. There are some great sounding songs out there that have a pretty shaky message. If a song has questionable theology, don’t be tempted by its catchy melody! As we said before, there are lots of songs out there, so there is no need to include a song that will have our congregation singing something weird, awkward, or just theologically inaccurate. Be wise and discerning in what message a song sends.
When we follow these guidelines, we create an environment where we can successfully lead our church in worship.