Over the course of my worship-leader life so far, I have probably compiled a million set lists for events, gatherings and conferences! At times I have hungered for a ‘random song generator’ gadget that would effortlessly and instantaneously choose the right songs for the right moment for the right people! (Possibly a future feature for Google Glass?)
I know we have access to theme indexes in songbooks and worship planning software, but I suspect the job of song selection will continue to be primarily a human task, divinely rather than digitally inspired! So, how do we do it? And…how should we do it?
Recently, I was planning an event with the help of a few people and the songs they chose were simply the ones they liked! How often do we fall into that way of choosing songs? Although it’s a plus to play songs you like, it is not really the best way. This can lead to a narrow and predictable song list and not take into account the season, subject or people group you are serving! At another event I was aware that the songs selected failed to have a journey running through them, and so they were very singular and non-connecting and did not really guide or lead people through any systematic encounter.
I am of the opinion that the songs we choose for worship environments are very important. They can add substantial colours to the theological canvas; they can inspire and release thankfulness; they can convey emotion and pathos and they can articulate prayers and laments so very eloquently. As song-selectors we should not merely be guided by our own ‘favourite playlist’ but conscious of the importance of the gathered musical expression, we should aim to deliver a diet that is theological, varied, divinely-inspired, life-applicable, educational and with a hint of transcendence. In fact, a feast so full of nutrients, enabling us all to grow in faith, freedom and community.
More will follow but in the meantime, how do you choose songs for worship?
Sue Rinaldi is a singer/songwriter, worship co-ordinator, observer, creative consultant and author. She blogs at Apocalipstick and WorshipUnboxed.