As East City Church begins to move towards a unified style of worship, there needs to be much attention given to the formation of a list of songs that will encompass the best of traditional songs and a great variety of contemporary expressions that will work in their setting.
First, several people need to be selected to create this important list. East City Church currently has a traditional and a contemporary service. Key people from each service should be selected to be a part of this group. Of course, the pastor and worship leader should be involved. Keep the group to a smaller number, say 5-7 members. In East City’s situation, the majority of the church attends the traditional service and most of the attenders of the contemporary service are knowledgeable of the songs sung in the traditional service, therefore, more of the modern songs selected for this list should be considered somewhat new to the majority of the congregation.
The newly-formed team should work through the following steps:
Create a comprehensive song list. Instructions for doing this are found here. As you create the list, be sure to narrow down the enormous selection of hymns to the ones that would be considered the best known songs of the traditional congregation. Looking at hymns on PraiseCharts.com or hymns with contemporary settings on LifeWayWorship.com will give you insights into many of the hymns that are seeming to connect well with the more contemporary styles of worship. As you select modern worship songs for your list, be sure to spend much time considering songs written in the last several years. I wrote another article on finding new songs; read the article carefully and dive in to that challenging, but enriching, project. Many churches make a terrible mistake of beginning with songs written in the 80s. Be sure to consider music written in the last decade as well.
I see so many churches that are seeking to transition by starting with the praise and worship choruses from the 70′s and 80′s and ignore the great, rich songs coming from this decade. To ignore the great music of this decade ignores how God is active in the church TODAY. Also, in general, the music of this decade is much more rich in theology than the 70′s and 80′s. The songs of the earlier period are often the ones that are referred to as “7-11″ choruses–songs with 7 words that you sing 11 times. Some of those songs are very useful, and they certainly were pivotal in our worship transitions of the last century, but I urge you to not use that era of songs as your main diet for adding new songs to your corporate worship services. The vast majority of the songs in the top CCLI lists do not come from the earlier era. Also, the songs of the earlier era don’t necessarily speak in styles that are comprehensible by the non-churched community as well as more recent compositions.
Identify resources for each song. As mentioned above, part of the song list includes the source for the songs. Now is a great time to look at some new arrangements of many of the songs. Consider some new arrangements of older songs at LifeWayWorship.com or PraiseCharts.com. (Be very careful of the keys for the arrangement. LifeWayWorship generally has great keys for congregational singing, whereas, PraiseCharts.com often has choices of very bad keys for congregational participation.) For instance, your song list may have several entries of one song representing differing arrangements and differing available, acceptable keys. If you struggle with having adequate instrumentalists for leading worship, also consider Musicademy’s Worship Backing Band options
Purchase arrangements needed for song list. For any new songs, you will need to acquire music for your instrumentalists. Also, you will need to secure new arrangements of older songs that have been selected. Musicademy has a growing repertoire of “super” chord charts which are legal and way more helpful than a standard chord chart.
Make sure to have all your song and accompanying information in a spreadsheet that can be sorted by title or key. This will make it easier for you in worship planning later on. As mentioned in the referenced post on creating a song list, you should spreadsheet all the songs, their acceptable congregational keys, and their sources. For songs from the top 100 CCLI list, check out the resource for acceptable congregational keys.
Set a timeline for the introduction of new songs in a systematic fashion.First, never introduce more than one new song in a single service, otherwise, you greatly risk interrupting the flow and momentum of worship. Second, the number of new songs you should introduce in a given month will depend upon your congregation’s level of new song “tolerance.” Each congregation is different as to the number of new songs they can process in a given amount of time, so be sensitive and watch for signs of new song “burn-out” (e.g. significant drop in the level of participation). For some churches, one song a month may be enough, for others, 2-4 a month is reasonable. As East City begins the renewed service, I would recommend a fast track approach initially with much attention to the next point.
Plan ways to breed familiarity with the new songs among church members prior to introduction in worship service. I will cover this point thoroughly next week.
Kenny Lamm, senior consultant for worship and music for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, is a frequent worship conference leader with a strong focus on equipping leaders in North Carolina (USA) and Southeast Asia. His blog, Renewing Worship, features posts that explore ways to renew–impart new life and vigor to–the worship in the local church.