Over the years of planning and leading worship, I’ve learned the importance of leading the congregation on a worship musical “journey.”
Most worship leaders focus on lyrical content (i.e., theme/message and Biblical accuracy, etc.). Many will pay attention to key, tempo, placement in the set, energy of the song, etc. But, while these are necessary ingredients to a good song set, they often overlook the natural flow or “rhythm” of the people they are trying to lead. Congregations enter the worship space bringing with them life experiences ranging across the whole gamut. Some have had a great week. Others terrible. Some are strong, daily personal worshipers. Others haven’t uttered the name of Jesus since they smacked their thumb with that hammer.
Recently, Bob Kauflin (@bkauflin) posted a very good Twitter article about how songs should be used in worship.
He wrote, “The Church needs songs both ABOUT and TO the Lord. Generally, songs sung ABOUT the Lord help keep us rooted in unchanging biblical truths. Songs sung TO the Lord help keep those truths from becoming emotionally dry doctrine.”
I couldn’t agree more. But let me add to this idea:
Worship leaders need to ask themselves, “where do I want to lead my congregation?” Strong song sets will take people on a journey. They will naturally progress along a thematic story line. They will recognize the spiritual dynamic of their people.
For example, one approach is to think of a lyrical set in terms of the wide opening of a funnel to its narrowing exit:
- Use songs that are “we/about” God at the top of the set. They are typically faster, celebratory songs of praise sung horizontally (to each other) about who God is, His goodness and provision, what He’s done for us, etc. They don’t go too deep and introspective, which can exclude people in the audience who don’t know God or new to the church. They also “gather” people in the room and create a heightened sense of community.
- Move to songs with “me/about God” or “we/to God” lyrical content. I often call these “tweener” songs. They are strategically positioned to move people toward a stated objective, can be mid-tempo and a bit more personal. These songs may require a bit more effort in the planning process in order to be effective and sustain momentum. (Note the shift in lyrical direction. “To God” songs changes the object of the lyrics: horizontal to vertical.). I will share my thoughts about how to effectively lead both types of songs in a future post.
- End with “me/to God” lyrics. These are closer-with-God types of songs, and often slower (in tempo, not necessarily power). They allow people to bask in the presence of the Spirit of God, and get into their “2×3 foot” space with Jesus. These songs are essentially personal worship expressions done in a corporate environment.
The above example assumes the song set is at the top of the worship service. If you are designing a set that follows the message or communion, etc., you can/should flip the order.
My point is this: don’t lead your congregation on a lyrically random, poorly thought-through, wild “goose chase” that doesn’t take them anywhere, gives them lyrical whiplash and communicates too many disconnected ideas.