Much of worship today can be characterized by a free-flowing praise model, which consists of one or more continuous sections of one type of activity. For example, sustained praise singing could last 10-45 minutes. Sustained sections of congregational singing require more planning, more skill, and more insight in order to carry them out than singing single songs interspersed throughout a service.
The free-flowing model works well in a service where you want to create a seamless flow from the beginning to the end, creating an environment that helps people encounter God and encourages participation in worship.
I have seen many churches that try to emulate the idea of sets of music in worship by trying to see how many songs they can pack into a 5-8 minute segment-perhaps singing three of four songs with just one verse or chorus from each. It creates a feeling of anxiety, disjointedness, and fragmentation in worship due to the perception of rushing through each song to move to the next. People barely have time to engage with a song before they are rushed off to the next one. If you have people in your church that do not know the music you do in worship (did not grow up in the church), not providing any repetition in the songs for worship will further drive them to be non-participative in worship.
Free flowing praise in songs of worship should not be rushed. People should have time to fully immerse themselves in each song, moving on to the next at the appropriate time with intent and purpose, each song building on the other to create a wonderful time of worshipping our God.
If you have only 5-7 minutes to sing, for instance, two songs (depending on the tempo and depth of the song) would be the most you would include in most cases. It is far better to do one song well than rush through several songs for the sake of doing a “song set.”
When done well, sets of music should connect songs through appropriate textual and key relationships, should not stop between songs– creating a seamless flow. This will help your people engage their heart and mind in worship. (The mechanics of this are taught in our Worship Leader Boot Camps).
Providing great song sets in a free-flowing model requires much preparation and rehearsal to do it correctly. Don’t shortchange your church by taking the easy road in planning.