Ask the Expert – Master song list for use in small churches

Vicky MacArthur, who goes to a small village church in Oxfordshire, is hoping to start a monthly service called ‘hands free’ with a small band and informal style. She emailed saying “It would be great to have a list or suggestions for some of the simple songs that you use with your congregation.  We are just starting out so will need to start very simple!”

I thought that was a great idea so I’ve dug out a master list of songs I was using for a church I was involved with a couple of years back. Generally there were about 30 adults aged between 30-60, and just accompanied by a singer with a single instrument. So I deliberately chose songs that they were likely to know, some new but some from 10-20 years that they probably hadn’t sung for while and so would seem fresh again. It wasn’t just a nostalgia fest either. Lots of the older songs are generally simpler, crafted more to be vocal rather than band led with fewer sections that can more easily be repeated, segued into other songs spontaneously started by the congregation. Basically songs that are straightforward to play and encourage community singing with. Crucially though, if your church doesn’t know these, most of this list should be easy to pick up and learn.

This church was very southern English and Vineyard influenced so many of the song choices reflect this heritage too. Nearly all of these people had been Christians for some years too and familiar with nearly all of these so with a list like this, I would stress its important to keep the song  choices rolling and not do to death your own personal top 10 favourites if you are leading week to week. Putting people on worship autopilot through over familiarity with a song just breeds boredom.

Also I’ve included a few hymns because these guys were much more familiar with choruses and a few hymns would hopefully be thoughtfully and lyrically refreshing. If your church is actually trying to get away from traditional hymns then just uses the choruses that sound fresh and inviting to you.
I’ve taken some time to list the writers with the songs too so if you don’t know some of these, a little bit of research on Google and YouTube should bring you up to speed. If you need charts I’d suggest your church gets a CCLI licence and uses their Song Select program which will give you the chord charts and lyric sheets in any key you like. This is much easier than manually pulling lyrics, chords and tabs of the web and will save you time and money in the long run.

This is by no means an exhaustive list so if anyone else has helpful song suggestions that works with criteria that a small start-up church needs then do chuck some ideas in.

Amazing love – Kendrick
Arms of love (I sing simple song of love )
Beautiful saviour  – Townend – hymn like song
Befriended – redman
Be lifted up – Paul Oakley 12/8 use with rhythm
Better is one day (How lovely is your dwelling place)
Come let us return – Prosch
Come now is the time – Vineyard
Create in me a clean heart
Faithful one – Brian Doerksen
Great is the Lord and most worthy – Steve McEwan
Heart of worship – Redman
Here I am to worship – Hughes
Holy holy holy Lord God Almighty – hymn
How deep the Fathers love for us – Townend
How great is our God – Tomlin
Humble King – Brenton Brown
Hungry – Kathryn Scott
I exalt thee (for thou oh lord art high) – Pete Sanchez Jr
In Christ alone – Townend
I love you Lord and I lift my voice – Laurie Klein
I will offer up my life – Redman
Jesus be the centre – Michael Frye
Jesus Jesus holy and anointed One – John Barnett
Jesus name above all names – Naida Hearn
Jesus we enthrone you – Don Moen
Lord you are more precious than silver – Lynn DeShazo
Lord you have my heart – Martin Smith
Majesty (Delirious)
Nothing but the blood – Matt Redman
Pour out my heart – Craig Musseau (vineyard)
Offering – Paul Baloche
Oh lead me – Delirious
Oh Lord you’re beautiful – Keith Green
Once again – Redman
Refiners fire – purify my heart – Brian Doerksen
Send revival start with me – Redman
Surrender – Marc JAmes
Thank you for saving me – Martin Smith
The Lord is gracious and compassionate – Graham Ord
The wonderful cross – Tomlin
What a friend I’ve found – Martin Smith
You are God in heaven – let my words be few – Redman
You laid aside Your majesty – Noel Richards
Your love is amazing – Brenton Brown
Your love oh Lord reaches to the heavens – Third Day

Abide with me
And Can It Be
All creatures of our God and King
All Hail The Power Of Jesus Name
Amazing grace
Before the throne of God above
Be thou my Vision
Great is thy faithfulness
Holy holy holy Lord God almighty
How Great Thou Art
I surrender all
It is well with my soul
Love divine, all loves excelling
My Jesus, I Love Thee
Praise to the Lord the Almighty the King of Creation
The old rugged cross
To God be the glory
When I survey (Trad or James Taylor Water is Wide version)