Are you playing the same 20 to 30 songs all year long?
While repetition has its merits—like familiarity to the congregation—it also has its weaknesses.
For one, the psalmists repeatedly tell us to “sing a new song” unto the Lord. There are so many wonders of God to proclaim, it’s unlikely the same two or three dozen songs cover them.
Second, it can get boring.
Here are five tips for breaking out of the worship song rut to explore the breadth of biblical themes and engage your congregation’s imagination.
1. Take inventory of the songs you’re singing
Get a sense for your church’s practical repertoire: the songs you are regularly singing. If it’s been over two years since you’ve sung “Revelation Song,” it’s effectively no longer in the rotation.
To come up with that repertoire, go back a year or two and move through each Sunday until you have a master list of every song you’ve sung with any regularity. Drop them into a spreadsheet with columns like, “Dates sang,” “# of Times sung,” “Primary theme,” “Secondary themes,” “Traditional or Contemporary,” and “Tempo” (slow, medium, or upbeat).
This helps you get the most out of your list. You can identify gaps in your repertoire in a number of important categories, then take steps to fill them in.
If you don’t have time to keep a spreadsheet updated (who does?), let Faithlife Proclaim do the work for you. Proclaim tracks the songs you sing during each on-air session, allowing you to look back on past services for future inspiration.
2. Match your songs to the sermon theme
A great way to force your own hand toward variety is to match your songs to the sermon theme or text. You can even have a song or two you play repeatedly throughout a sermon series.
Proclaim has 11 different types of service items so you can tailor each part of of your service to fit a sermon topic or theme. Service items include songs, on-screen Bible verses, video, and more. Each service item may include one, or multiple slides depending on its content.
One benefit to this is service cohesion. When your songs reinforce the sermon, you leave people with one strong impression of a particular topic or theme.
Another is that it keeps you exploring a variety of biblical themes or attributes of God. Rather than naturally gravitating toward love, freedom, power, etc., you let Scripture lead you to themes that get a little less air time in most worship songs, like lament or gratitude. Then your congregation grows in a more robust understanding of the Christian life. You can even order your songs to make the service a journey, say from sin and rebellion to salvation and new life.
3. Get input from others
When one person is in charge of choosing songs, he or she ends up dictating the style of worship for the whole congregation.
But getting input from others will help you branch out to styles that may not match your preferences exactly. Start with your worship team, as it’s a great way to cultivate a sense of shared ownership. Then invite your staff and even the congregation as a whole to offer input. The more perspective you can have the better.
4. Host periodic worship nights
Whereas most worship leaders introduce no more than two new songs over the course of a month, a worship night—where you may sing a dozen songs or more—allows you to introduce two or three songs in one night.
You can also get a sense for how the songs catch on. Perhaps multiple people tell you they really liked the new song, and you decide to play it again the following Sunday. Not only can expect others to take to it, but you also have a contingent already familiar with the song, so it’s no longer entirely new.
5. Switch up your band structure
Like matching songs to sermon themes, matching songs to your band makeup can increase variety.
If you are always playing with a large band, you may gravitate to more drive-y songs. But if you strip it down and play with just a guitar and vocalist, you will probably gravitate to slower, more contemplative songs. You may rediscover some oldies that have wonderful staying power and can become a regular part of your rotation again.
We can all get in a rut, but any of these simple tips can pull you out and help you choose fresh songs that fit your congregation and represent the wealth of themes woven throughout Scripture.
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