I’ve discovered anew how important choosing the right songs is when leading worship. I think it’s probably one of the hardest things to do consistently well, especially when you’re working with different musicians and different congregations. I think there are a few levels where song choice is crucial:
The Lyrical Content of the Song
This is a pretty obvious one. Don’t pick heretical worship songs. I wish it were just that simple, but it’s not. Some songs are simple, and that’s appropriate for the congregation at the time. Some are mournful, and that’s needed for this season. Some are cristocentric, and that’s exactly what will help the congregation connect better with the sermon and video that are happening later. There have been huge debates on using “I” in worship songs instead of songs that are all about God. I think both are appropriate in moderation – too much “I” and we forget why we’re worshiping, too much “God” and we can lose a connection to what we’re singing. (though the too much “I” is a MUCH bigger problem than not enough if you ask me)
What the Band Knows
It’s hard to lead a song well if your band can barely play it and your singers are struggling to learn the melody. For some people, this isn’t an issue, but for most people in most churches it’s something that needs to be considered more. Along with this, you need to consider…
What the Congregation Knows
The band will always learn faster than the congregation – they’re musical. Young people usually learn songs faster than older people because younger people consume music differently – they’re always listening to something on their Ipod and they’re used to more syncopation and fluctuation in vocal melodies. One of the hardest things to do is get a really good read on what a congregation knows and how they connect with songs – especially if you’ve never led in front of them before. A congregation tends to be more forgiving of a guest leader because there’s an understanding that neither party knows each other, but when a regular worship leader gets up in front of a congregation and plays mostly new songs, chances are the congregation won’t connect very well. We as worship leaders need to remember that although there are tons of new songs out there with with truths that can help people see and connect with God, sometimes those songs need to be put on the backburner for an older, more well known song. The truth is worship is interactive and the congregation is most helped by having mostly well known and some fresh songs.
The trick is that every group will connect differently with different songs. The young adults here respond differently than Sunday morning than the youth group than does a retreat weekend for any of those crowds. Get to know the congregation and spend the time to really think through what’s best lyrically, musically and corporately.
This is a work in progress, so this post may see some editing down the road as I figure out how to articulate my thoughts better…