There’s no shortage of songs that you could play in worship. The challenge is finding good ones and that’s why it’s important to have a process by which you can objectively evaluate your potential songs. Most people already think we worship leaders just play all of our favorite songs anyway – why make that a true accusation!
So you have a process to evaluate songs, now where do you find them?
You can drive in your car or sit around listening to Christian radio all day and perhaps find some good ones (but remember that not all Christian songs are worship songs.) but that’s awfully time-consuming and not a very efficient way to operate. There must be a better way!
Oh, but there is! Granted, there are lots of different places out there to look, but these are the ones that I frequent the most to find good ones.
In no particular order:
WorshipTogether is a major label in worship music. They’re the primary labels for names like Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Gungor, Tenth Avenue North and and others in the Passion movement. Along with those big names, they also have catalogs of other popular worship music artists.
Number 1 for me is the ability to search for lyrics or by theme/topic/scripture. Sometimes I’m not looking for a particular song but a song about a particular theme and their site makes that easy. You can also listen to the full songs and often download mp3s and sheet music for free.
Second, follow their blog. They regularly post about new worship songs and, most helpful to me, they post lists of songs for various times of the year. Just a couple of weeks ago they posted their list of 10 Free Songs for Easter 2012.
Watch out for:
As I mentioned before, it goes without saying that not every song that’s called a worship song is right for your church. Some of the songs they feature are great songs to listen to and might even be good to do as solo performances during worship. Just because the site is called Worship Together, don’t blindly assume every song should be sung in worship.
Planning Center Online’s Community Songs
If you’re not using Planning Center Online (PCO for short) to plan your worship, I highly suggest that you consider it. Besides being so easy to use and being packed with great features, it makes scheduling your team and distributing music a breeze. They also have a Community section where they post popular songs from the previous months. These are songs that other PCO-using churches are singing – and there are a LOT of churches using PCO. [EDIT: Seriously, two days after I posted this Planning Center changed their site and dropped the old Community Songs page! They did, however, keep the top 30 songs from each week and added it to your Songs tab.]
Again, the ability to search by theme or topic is huge. They don’t have the ability to search by scripture yet, which I think is a much-needed feature. They removed the ability to search for songs, but they added the ability to see what songs were the most popular for each past week AND which ones are popular for upcoming weeks. This is HUGELY helpful around holidays or special times of the year.
They rank songs by how much they’re being used in other churches. I find it useful to skim the first page of songs (songs 1-50) and see if there are any that should be in our rotation. Skimming deeper in the list can reveal songs that are up-and-coming, that haven’t been discovered by a larger population yet.
Watch Out For:
Because a lot of churches use PCO and the rankings are across the board for all their churches, it’s not uncommon to see a song from 25 years ago in the top 50 that I would have stopped using 24.5 years ago. Not all old songs are bad! There are hymns that should still be used today because they’re still relevant and they’re part of our shared Christian heritage. But “praise and worship” music, especially from the 90s generally had a much shorter shelf-life. As with any site, don’t assume because it’s a worship song that it’s the right one for your church.
The Worship Community’s Sunday Setlists
The Worship Community was started a few years ago by Fred McKinnon and Russ Hutto and it has grown tremendously over the years. People who aren’t all caught up in the blog world (know as the blogosphere) might not be familiar with the term Blog Carnival. While there are no clowns or corn dogs involved, it is a place where different bloggers come together to share information or posts around a topic. Here, the topic is everyone’s Sunday setlist – or the songs they played that day. Each week there are anywhere from 30-50 people who share their setlists, reviews of their services and what God is doing in their churches.
Much like in Planning Center above, the helpful thing here is that these are real songs that are being used in real churches. These are reports from the front-lines of worship ministry. Worship leaders often share their insights on what worked about certain songs and what they adjusted. Learning from other’s successes and mistakes is huge!
It’s also a great place to build community. We often don’t get to connect with other worship folks outside of our own churches and by commenting and interacting with them we can build a sense of camaraderie.
Watch Out For:
There’s a tremendously wide variety of styles of worship represented on the Sunday Setlists. Yes, there are a few churches using more traditional formats, but – at least in my experience – it seems that churches on the bleeding-edge of modern worship are most heavily represented here. That’s a great thing for those of us who are also there or trying to be there, but it means that some of the songs might be too “out-there” for where your church is at.
Worship Backing Band
Whilst Musicademy’s sister company Worship Backing Band has generally focused on CCLI Top 100, it does have a few more unusual songs in it’s portfolio. You can listen to a 30 second sample and if all you want is a backing track (i.e. not the functionality of the MultiTracks), you can select the lower price “Split Tracks” which will give you onscreen words and split track vocals all playable via iTunes, Real Player or similar .
There are lots of other places to look for new songs including subscription services, band sites – even CCLI has some helpful tools for finding new music. Wherever you look, remember to properly evaluate your music before you use it. And then reevaluate it. And check it again later, and… you get the idea.
Where do you find your new worship music? Share your thoughts below!