The wonderful thing about worshipping in small groups is that there is so much more opportunity for everyone to contribute or ‘bring an offering’ to the worship time and so much less pressure to be ‘the professional worship leader’. Where many people come unstuck is by trying to do things that are too complicated or lead worship like they like they are in a much larger venue than they really are. Noel Richards once relayed a story where he had led ‘stadium’ worship in a house group and it didn’t quite translate!
On a practical level, you may want to take songs down at least a tone from the original key perhaps even more in the mornings or change it altogether if you have a single sex group. For instance a stereotypical mans voice is in Eb whereas a stereotypical woman’s range centers around Bb. Quite a difference, but look at some of the worship songs written by women, many are in Bb, e.g. Shout To The Lord. So perhaps in that scenario think of songs that are written in the keys of A, B or C. Not a fixed rule, but a good start. Also I’d probably not choose anything too rangy in a small group either.
Also it’s amazing how much we rely on the projector these days and forget even the most well known lyrics. If you haven’t got that luxury in a small group then choose songs with familiar words and don’t be afraid to constantly cue the words of the next line out loud before they happen. It really does inspire confidence in your worshippers and they will sing more loudly!
As far as which songs to choose, many people graduate toward older songs for smaller groups. Far from just trying to be nostalgic, there is often good sense to this as many of our more recent songs are built around a band sound with long pauses between words, anthemic choruses that need lots of people singing loudly to make them really fly and a big sound that doesn’t necessarily translate to a single acoustic instrument or even just voices. So if you choose simple, memorable songs that are possible to sing without any instruments at all, then the voices should carry it and any accompaniment you ad is a bonus.
Small groups are a great opportunity to get everyone involved and a wonderful antidote to ‘spectator sport’ worship. It may take constant encouragement to get people to contribute if ther are not used to it, and gives them opportunity to listen to the Lord and ‘bring an offering’ in a supportive environment.
Lastly, if you have no musicians and don’t fancy a capella singing, take a look at our Worship Backing Band DVDs. They can be viewed on the TV and were designed with house group worship in mind.