Three thoughts on song selection

Posted by Emily Fiore on 30 September 2013

Not too long ago I joined a team of people who volunteered from different churches to lead the worship at a monthly worship/ministry/teaching evening. It has been fun. 

The people who are coming along to the meeting are from the kind of churches were you get a little teaching, some dusty worship but not much ministry.  So we talked a lot about song selection at the start, and all agreed that we needed to keep it simple, not stretch people too far beyond what they were used to, but still introduce them to some fresh sounds and songs. Because they were happy with In Christ Alone, we introduced them to 10,000 Reasons. We sang Light Of The World and Faithful One - simple songs with good words, easy melodies and not a lot of ‘woooooahs’.

Then, just the other day, someone suggested adding in a whole load of new songs. Break Every Chain. Jesus Saves. And a whole lot of others with plenty of ‘wooooahs’ in them. And it got me thinking…

1. Just because we love a song it doesn’t make it right for everyone...

These are good songs, and much more fun to play that the old faithfuls that we’ve been bashing out for years. They’re new and they’re fresh and they’re the kind of songs that many of us who play are really connecting with on our own. But will they work in a room full of people who still spend their Sundays with a hymnbook in one hand? Are we asking too much of them to sing these new ones? And who are we choosing songs for anyway; us or them?

2. Not every church should sound the same...

I read on here a while back that ‘worship is the meeting place of culture and theology’. The culture - and I suppose too the theology - of the churches from which these songs have come are so very different to the culture round here. There’s something great about the way these people are exploring and expressing worship in new ways. They don’t jump about or fling their hands in the air. There’s not much in the way of big displays of emotion when they sing. But they chew on the words and sing with such volume and conviction that the whole atmosphere in the room ramps up. It’s not cool, but it is authentic. 

3. Sometimes the term Worship LEADER isn’t all that helpful...

Leaders are out front, blazing the trail, giving the rest of the followers something to keep up with. Is that really the way we’re supposed to be acting? Is it fair - or even possible - to ask people to make the leap to sing songs which they don’t connect with? And if they don’t join in with the latest songs, are we going to be disappointed with them? Is our job as worship leaders and musicians to fast track everyone to the type of worship that works for us? Or are we meant to be travelling by a different map? 

There have been a lot of questions in this piece already, and I’m a little bit sorry for that. I think we could all benefit from wresting with a few more questions.

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