If there's one tool worship leaders use more than any other, it's songs.
Songs are our currency. We listen to songs, rehearse songs, lead songs, study songs, write songs and oftentimes have entire conversations using song lyrics. Songs are what we do.
I'm not here to bash worship songs. I'm not here to say worship isn't about songs.
Actually, it is. Of course, worship isn't only songs. That's like saying water alone keeps us alive. Actually, we need more than that. We need breath. We need food. The definition of worship isn't songs, per se, but it's a massive part of worship, particularly corporate worship.
No other art form unifies like singing. No other art form engages the whole person—intellect, emotions and physicality. Singing helps us feel the truth. As John Piper has said, the glories of God are not just meant to be studied and debated. They are meant to be felt and sung.
The problem with worship songs is that we end up just picking them. We scan the CCLI top 10 and string together a bunch of hits. Little thought goes into what my friend Zack Hicks calls the "theological diet" of our people.
Little thought goes into answering the questions:
- What is God doing?
- What do we need to be singing?
- What are our people going through?
- What facet of God's character do we need to emphasize?
Because that's just it. Setlists created for concerts are meant to entertain. Songs picked for worship are meant to pastor.
There was a time when I picked songs based on how they made me sound. Or I would choose a certain song because it would look impressive to others.
There were times I'd be more concerned with a congregation that was "into it" than us declaring what is true.
The 8-Week Setlist Challenge
So I'm presenting an eight-week challenge. Get ahead on your weekend setlists by eight weeks. And don't just pick songs haphazardly. Prayerfully determine what your people need to be singing.
- Joy in the midst of suffering?
- Lament in the face of loss or pain?
- The centrality of the cross?
- The beauty of God?
- The work of the Spirit?
- Simple "call to worship" declarations?
Not only is it good to think about the current season of what God's doing in your church, but also to strategically find songs that emphasize important truths throughout the year. Don't just pick what's popular. Pick what will magnify the glory of God in people's hearts and minds.
Maybe you need opening songs that are simple and more lighthearted to help people ease into the morning. Maybe you need more songs of confession. Maybe you need more calls to worship.
Pray through where God has you and outline the next eight weeks.
Don't necessarily commit to all these songs in the planning center yet. This can actually be a valuable touch point to have with your lead pastor about the upcoming worship song diet of your church. Get his input. Anticipate upcoming weekends and what songs would work best with service flows.
Compile them in a Google Doc. This is a very practical way to move beyond Sunday in your planning. You're not just maintaining songs one weekend at a time. You're looking at the big picture.
Worship leader, are you up for the challenge? Comment below and we can collaborate on some old and new songs you're planning to do.
David Santistevan is a worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For the original article, visit davidsantistevan.com.
Leaders are readers! Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Ministry Today, Charisma and SpiritLed Woman all for $24. YES - I'm a leader!
Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.