Let’s be clear, we’re not talking about being a worship jukebox or request cover band that plays any and every style imaginable. We’re not even talking about having your older worship team members put on backward baseball caps.
We’re talking about reasonably selecting music and crafting worship se lists that are on mission. Songs that serve two primary purposes: Love God and Love People.
Finding songs that allow us to express our love to God is fairly easy. With modern worship writers churning out hundreds if not thousands of songs per year to choose from, we’re in a wonderful era of access. You can find a song that supports any and every theological theme you need to reinforce from Sunday to Sunday. You can find a song that conveys the specific attribute of God’s character that you want to focus on.
That being said, finding songs that serve the congregation well is more about learning the heartbeat of your people. Do your people like wordy, traditional hymns? Do your people like simple, repetitive choruses? Does your faith family like high-energy, expressive praise? Does your congregation like orchestrated arrangements?
Dig into what your folks respond well to and use it to serve them well. Many times, our congregations will have one, maybe two primary stylistic preferences that lean into. Whenever we craft a setlist that has good, old fashioned Hymns or Gospel songs, we get a LOT of great feedback. At the same time, whenever we do anything that is high-energy and faith-building we also get great feedback. Typically, those two sets of feedback are coming from different ends of the age spectrum.
We feel like it is best to view our musical worship experiences through a multi-generational lens. We want our folks to know and understand that they are there to LOVE GOD and to LOVE PEOPLE. Many times, people feel like they can love God best through their preferred styles and song choices. The stretch comes when we remind them that there are also gathering together to SPEAK TO ONE ANOTHER with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. This allows us to encourage them to rare back and sing their hearts out whenever “their” jam comes up in a setlist, but to also be mindful and intentional about being present when the music is NOT their jam!
Choosing a diverse song set (or building a diverse repertoire from week to week) should be done intentionally. The purpose should be defined. We don’t do acoustic sets, rock sets, bluegrass and country-influenced sets to show off our range, we do them because our people respond well to them AND they are within our reasonable and appropriate skill set.
We are able to use different vocal leaders to also bring different “flavors” to each setlist. Sometimes from song to song you can “feel” that a new spice has been added to the table, but the whole spread is still the same.
Be intentional about serving your folks with your setlists. Pray about song choices. Ask your people to give you input. Craft your setlists so that people can be excited about participating.