Choosing Songs for Worship

One of the first priorities of a worship director or worship leader in preparing for congregational worship is good song selection. It is also one of the most difficult and, in some ways, complicated. At the basic level, good song selection will facilitate worship that is both robustly congregational (corporate, participatory, edifying) and intensely God-glorifying (God-exalting & -revealing; human-humbling & -minimizing).

The challenges of good song selection increase as the number of your worship leaders and teams increase. So the bigger your ministry, the more intentional you must be. While we shouldn't necessarily expect homogeneity amongst our worship leaders/teams, there are a number of qualities that must be consistent.

The following are a number of helpful resources I came across recently when researching worship song selection methodology. While I wouldn't agree with every detail of each person's approach, there is much in each to commend itself.

This worship leader's list of criteria which his church uses is a great starting point.

This collection of insights from reputed worship leaders is also excellent (especially Matt Redman's thoughts on the "journey of worship").

This list of considerations is helpful as well (especially concerning the edification factor).

Here is a helpful discussion of maintaining a "worship song repertoire." The going consensus is that you should have no more than 150 (sometimes much fewer) songs in your regular rotation, not accounting for holiday music.

Finally, Brenton Brown offers these pointers from his time spent with the senior pastor and one of the worship leaders at my former church, regarding worship flow. Very helpful as a general framework.

Naturally, there are going to be differences of opinion. There is no one right way, or it would have been prescribed in Scripture! What is absolute is the need to be rigorous and discerning in what will facilitate genuine worship in a particular congregation. This means worship that follows the biblical pattern of "R & R", revelation and response. To be faithful to Revelation, it must accurately and vividly communicate who God is. There must be theological thoroughness, revealing the rich variety of God's attributes and salvific actions rather than dwelling on a few. To be faithful to Response, it must help the congregation to engage their hearts, minds, souls and bodies in worship and praise. These criteria will be more cultural and subjective in nature, but they are no less essential. Use discernment and the art of listening to your people to guide you on these.

But don't be afraid to press the envelope a bit, to stretch people beyond their comfort zones a bit. True worship will always involve some degree of sacrifice on the part of the worshiper. A "relaxed, comfortable" environment is never the goal. Rather, in keeping with Psalm 2:11, we must lead people to "rejoice with trembling." Yet all things must be done in order to edify the Body, the worshiping congregation (Rom. 15:1-6; 1 Cor. 10:23, 24, 31, 33; 14:26).

If you know of other resources helpful on the subjects of song selection and maintaining a worship song repertoire, please share!

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