I am amazed by how many worship leader/planners put together the times of corporate worship without a comprehensive song list, which I consider a critical tool for planning. As I mentioned in an earlier post:
I often refer to songs as a vital part of our worship vocabulary–it helps us express our worship to God. As long as we are singing songs we know, we are able to worship without the hindrance of learning new melodies and rhythms.*
When we plan worship out of our head, we tend to focus only on the songs that are most familiar to us–perhaps missing out on some great gems that our congregation knows. In the days that we only used one collection of songs (a specific hymnal), this task was much easier. You could look through the one book as you planned the service. This method still left much to be desired, however.
A Better Way
Worship planning goes so much better if you have at your hand a list of all songs that the congregation knows well enough to be part of their vocabulary of worship. As you seek out specific songs for the worship experience, you will have in one place all possible songs that you can use (except the new song that you may introduce). This is especially helpful when you have songs from several sources and in several keys.
How to Put Together the Resource that Can Revolutionize Your Worship Planning
Here are some steps to getting your song list compiled into a tremendous resource:
- Collect all the books, charts, notebooks, etc. that contain the music your congregation uses in worship.
- Join with your senior pastor and key worship ministry personnel to prayerfully meet together especially for this task.
- Go through your resources and determine which songs are well known by our congregation. Just because you sing the song once or twice a year does not mean that your congregation knows the songs well. Which songs are TRULY a part of their worship vocabulary? This will be a time you may wish to lift up the great songs and let some mediocre ones “not make the cut.” You can always add songs later.
- Once you select a song, then write down the name of the song and all the keys that (1) you have music to support, AND (2) that are in a singable key for the congregation (the lowest note the congregation will sing is a Bb or occasional A. The highest note should be a D or Eb. More on this here). So, if you choose a song that you have charts with options of the key of G, A, and Bb, but the singable keys of these are only G and A, then you will list the song with only the keys of G and A as possibilities. In addition to the name of the song and the keys, I would also list the source of the song–what book it is in, or if it comes from LifeWayWorship.com or PraiseCharts.com, etc. This will make it easier for you when you try to get the music together for your musicians.
- When you have a song that can be done in more than one key, list the song separately for each key. Let’s say that the song referenced above is Mighty to Save. Then you should list Mighty to Save as the title and G (A) as the key in the first entry, and Mighty to Save as the title and A (G) as the key in the second entry. The G (A) lets you know the song can be done in either key, but listing it twice as shown will allow your spreadsheet to sort by key, which you will see can be very valuable in your planning. Here is an example (PC is shorthand for PraiseCharts):
- Put all of this information in a spreadsheet, such as Excel or Google Docs Spreadsheet. As I mentioned, this will allow you to sort by key.
- If a song has a written modulation, then list all the keys in the song’s progressions, such as C-Db-D. Here’s an example of a congregational arrangement of Holy, Holy, Holy from Word’s Hymns for Praise and Worship:
- Keep your list to a reasonable number of songs. If your list is really long, it will take newcomers to your church much longer to learn your songs, especially if you sing many songs that are not as common among churches today (see this post for more). Probably 100-150 songs is a good goal.
Take a look at this sample song list that we use in the Worship Leader Boot Camps to get a better feel for this. Song List Sample
In later posts, I will talk more about how to use this song list in some incredible worship planning uses. For now, it is important that you begin this process to prepare for better informed worship planning that will lead to better participation in worship and also prepare churches who wish to transition their worship (more next week on this). Having a song list is a great resource for visiting worship leaders so that they will know what songs they should select for the majority of the congregational music.
I welcome your comments.
*That post and its follow up deal with how to properly introduce new songs–if you have not read them, please take a look. Once a new song has been properly introduced (with the repetitions needed), you can add it to your song list of “known songs.”