A great worship set does not just consist in the type of songs you choose, though that is crucial. A great worship set must also have space for the Holy Spirit to do what He wants to do. I understand that some reading this post may come from an evangelical tradition that is more liturgical in form and not so contemporary. I hope we can all benefit from these tips:
- The best songs are songs that are God-centered – songs that magnify the glory of God (Songwriters who do this well: Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Steve Fee, Stuart Townend, Reuben Morgan).
- Choose songs that are simple and easy to engage with. If a song is too complex (thematically or musically) it will be confusing and difficult for a congregation to worship to.
- The goal of worship music is not to be progressive musically. I encourage and love creativity but it really is not the goal. The goal is God’s presence in our midst and our congregations experiencing God.
- It’s more important how you internalize the song than how you perform it. Do you mean what you say? Are you living the truth you are declaring? That’s the good stuff.
- I try and include one song per set that is theologically rich and more complex lyrically. This can include hymns. I don’t recommend an entire set like this all the time because it encourages more spectating than participation; however, singing Biblical truth through hymns is so important.
- Write your own songs that reflect what God is doing in your congregation; however, just because you wrote it doesn’t mean it’s a good song that’s good for the church to sing. Make sure it is ready. You need to write a lot of awful songs before you write a good one.
- Plan to have a ‘prophetic moment’ in your worship set. Planning a prophetic moment doesn’t mean you KNOW what will happen, but you are focusing your faith on that moment. For most of us, we are not leading worship for an hour at a time. Typically it is 20-25 minutes. It’s OK to move from song to song, but I typically plan a lingering moment to allow the Holy Spirit to do something. If you do this after every song, the set can drag like crazy and you lose everyone. I plan my ‘prophetic moments’ around a certain song or a string of short, familiar, and engaging songs in the same key.
- Remember that your worship planning needs to be more about ENGAGEMENT than about EXECUTION. Executing great songs with cool arrangements feels really good, but if no one was participating it wasn’t successful.