It’s time to sit down and work out a plan for the worship portion of this Sunday’s church service. As a worship leader your job is to guide a congregation into the presence of God in order to express His worthiness. So where do you begin in selecting just the right music to accomplish this principle task?

We have included ten important steps in picking out an appropriate mix of songs for your worship service:

1. Pray and seek God’s guidance
Spend time waiting on the Lord in the days and hours leading up to corporate worship, so that God can prepare hearts for what He wants to communicate. He will help with the song choice when the time is made to listen.

2. Rehearse the true meaning of worship
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it” (Psalm 24:1). We worship God to acknowledge His worth and give Him the glory due His name. God initiates worship by revelation of Himself and promises to commune with those who respond. Having the right mind about worship is essential in constructing a meaningful worship experience. Reviewing what the Bible says about worship can help you with this step.

3. Choose songs that are biblically accurate
Scripture says to “worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23). Ignorance and true worship are incompatible. It is important to know the God you worship, therefore immerse yourself in the scripture that reveals Him. This doesn’t mean that every song has to quote the written word of God, but the content should square with what the Bible says about Him. Be sure that the music you select rightly represents the truth of who He is, not the mere image of who He is thought to be.

4. Choose songs that prepare
Just like a farmer who plows the hard earth to sow seed, a key responsibility of a worship leader is to spend time breaking up the fallow ground of the worshiper’s heart. In the perfect world (or the perfect church, for that matter) your congregation would arrive prayed up, joyful, expectant, and with ready hearts to receive from God’s word. Certainly some people will do that kind of heart work, but chances are most people are still recovering from a hectic work week. Many others find the morning exercise of rushing around and getting the family to church on time is preparation enough for an hour of peace from the chaos. Lead them from the cares of the day, to the greatness of God.

5. Select songs which are relevant.
Don’t be afraid to teach a new song that really expresses what God is doing in the greater body of Christ –one with a fresh perspective, but don’t overwhelm them by teaching too many songs at one time. One at a time is a good rule of thumb. Or dust off an old favorite as a reminder of a well-known truth; try it in a new style or musical arrangement in order to breathe new life into it

6. Choose God-centered songs over “Me” songs
There’s certainly a place for songs that say we’re going to do this or that, but we are primarily there to worship God in the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s celebrate who He is, what He has done and what He is still doing through His Holy Spirit. God will not share His glory with another and we should sing songs that call attention to His glory (not ours).

7. Support a theme
What has God been speaking to you and to your church? Is it a time of joy and celebration or mourning or somewhere in between? It’s always a good idea to run things by your lead pastor and work as a team. Ask what this week’s message will be. Also, the pastors will most likely be in tune with what the church is going through. Does the church need: hope, joy, healing, reconciliation, or understanding? Support the theme you have chosen, but don’t be bound by it.

8. Choose songs that Invite participation
You can have the most polished, amazing band and hot vocals, but if your style or song choice doesn’t invite everyone to get involved what good is it? It is not a concert. Enjoy the Lord in front of them and they will want to get involved. Make it easy to do so by choosing songs that are sing-able. Leave room by not filling every space with instrumentation and vocals, then people will naturally feel more comfortable and willing to sing along. Worship is not a spectator sport.

9. Evaluate the setting
The environment will have an impact on the songs you select. Will the music you are considering perform well in a small group, or is it best to be delivered to a larger audience? Can it be lead by one person or will it be best delivered by a team?

10. Look for songs with a clear message
The message of the song must be clear and appropriate without creating monotony. For a younger group, make sure the songs use words that are understood and appropriate to their age.

Enjoy this article? Check out these 20 Bible passages on worship. We’ve put together short commentary for each passage, to help guide your exploration.

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7 Responses

  1. Angela

    hello my name is Angela. I have recently joined a new church with under twenty members or less, but we have no musicians. I did praise and worship at another church and I feel an urgency to have praise and worship at my new church. I have been praying, seeking dogs and also writing the lyrics for simple praise and worship songs. When is the right time t go to the pastor to discuss how I’m feeling about this. I strongly feel that God is leading me to do this. Please help.

    • Samson

      You said that you recently joined. First – make sure that you have understand and believe in the spirit of the church. After that, pray and go to Him in the right spirit. Furthermore, the Pastor, will probably welcome you to help.

    • JCB

      Hi Angela,

      I encountered much the same situation 6 years ago at my church. I arrived with my family at this small church plant with 30 or 40 people and they were having worship services by singing along to CD’s each week. A couple of people were standing at the front of the church with microphones singing along, leading the congregation. Having background in worship leading, I immediately saw the need and wanted to fill it, but I was also quite burned out from previous experiences. I needed to sit with my family for a while and make sure that I was following the Lord’s leading and not just my own. After about 7months, I spoke with the Pastor and offered to lead worship. He gratefully accepted and now 6 years later, the team has grown and while it has been a huge challenge, I know it was the right thing to do. God’s given us all gifts and abilities and we use these to bless the Body of Christ. One word of warning though: make sure that if you’re going to commit to it, you are willing to stick it out for the long haul.

      God bless,

  2. David Correa

    Choosing songs for a worship service is different than choosing songs for a personal time of worship. For me, choosing a song for a worship service to put into a congregation’s mouths to sing to King Jesus is very important. Anyway, this is an excellent stuff on selecting songs for worship. The offering of worship through song should be a minimal to non struggle for everyone.

  3. Sonya

    Responding to JCB singing with CDs.
    What do you do when you have nothing but CDs and/worship leaders to lead them? Is there something else we need to consider? We have instrumentals, which at times hinder the flow of the spirit. However, not sure what we can do.
    Thanks for any suggestions


    • JCB

      Hi Sonya,

      That was the challenge for us as well. The instrumentals, the song suddenly ending etc. Personally, I feel we make too much of the production end of things in worship. If we were to follow the NT model strictly we’d have a much different looking service than what we do today. I would have almost preferred hymns accapella than trying to follow along with a CD. 🙂

      That aside, have you heard of Terry Macalmon? I’ve found in my own personal worship times that playing his worship CD’s have been a huge help. His songs are mostly live in a worship service setting which allows the listener time to enter in because it doesn’t cut to the next song after 4 or 5 minutes. He’s not the only one out there like that either. Perhaps finding some of your favorite worship recorded in a live worship setting would help you and the congregation enter in.

      Another idea would be to put together a playlist of worship songs, and then just have that playing while you have the congregation sit, kneel, walk around, in an attitude of prayer. If you did this for 20 or 30 minutes without having anything on the overhead, people would be encouraged to just begin worshiping the Lord with the music as an aid. The worship leader doesn’t have to be singing along (which can also be a distraction, because as much as we may try, we can’t come off sounding as polished as the singer on the recording), but can be worshiping near the ipod/stereo whatever you have, and if a certain song pops into his/her head, they can have that one play next. I tried this during an all night prayer meeting at our church once, and people were really able to enter in and worship and seek God. What’s most important is that you and the congregation are hungry to worship God.

      Hopefully some of that can resonate and maybe help you and your congregation. Continue to trust God for a music team. He knows what your people need most at this time. 🙂

      God bless,

  4. Ashley

    One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was this: The need doesn’t necessarily constitute the call. If God is truly calling you to do this, there’s nothing wrong with jumping in with both feet! But make sure you’re being led by the Holy Spirit and not just your emotions. When you can’t tell the difference, maybe fast and pray to seek God’s answer! God bless you as you step forward in faith and serve Him all the days of your life!

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