3 Vital Pieces of Our Weekend Worship Sets
Every week our music staff works to put together engaging worship services that not only sound good and are fun to play, but also tell a story. Having a set of guidelines for our service architects ensures that our church gets a consistent worship experience that helps introduce them to the real Jesus.
When it comes right down to it I believe there are three basic elements to consider when putting together a successful worship set: story, artistry, and authenticity.
I read a blog recently where someone said the Lord’s Prayer can be boiled down to four words: hallelujah, hosanna, maranatha, and amen. Basically, that translates to the following story arc:
- God is great
- We need a savior
- Jesus came to save us
- We believe
This works as a perfect plot line for our worship narrative and it’s our goal to include each of these ideas in every worship set. To proclaim the greatness of God without acknowledging our need for Him, or to talk of our human condition without laying out story of what Jesus did on the cross does not present the whole story. Here’s an example of a set of songs that accomplishes the narrative:
- Your Love Awakens Me — God is great
- Beautiful Surrender, Jonathan David & Melissa Helser — We need a savior
- I Stand Amazed (How Marvelous), Traditional Hymn — Jesus came to save us
- Ever Love You, Leeland — We believe
Obviously many songs contain multiple ideas, but the goal is to have a well rounded “conversation” about who God is and what He’s done for us. Hint: Hymns do this well!
As artists, the sound of our music is important to us—or at least it should be. We’re always on the lookout for new musical vibes and ways of pushing ourselves creatively. But let’s be honest: The reason many of our churches don’t have engaging worship services is because the music is out of date. There are a lot of good worship songs out there but they aren’t engaging musically. They’re either poorly written or they just don’t connect with that artistic antenna inside us.
We challenge ourselves each week to find songs that make us smile, make us nod our heads, or make us emotional. Our executive pastor Whit George has said many times, “The sound IS the song.” As artists it’s our duty to create music—sounds—that make people perk up and take notice. If the song doesn’t move us musically, we don’t play it.
You’ve found songs that tell the right story and the sounds are tasty, but do they fit your church, and do they fit you? Here are a few things to consider when it comes to authenticity:
- Are you in your 50s (like me) leading a song written by an 18 year old?
- Are you in your early 20s (and have so far lived a relatively sheltered life) leading a song about suffering and loss?
- Can you picture your church singing this song?
- Can you picture your pastor singing this song?
- Do the lyrics and style of the song match the theology of your church and the season your church is in?
It’s important to your development as a worship leader to train your instincts and ask the tough questions about the songs you’re choosing. Authenticity is the trump card you must play each weekend. I’d rather have one mic and one acoustic guitar on stage and sing the right songs than to have a killer band and amazing arrangements and sing the wrong songs.
The bottom line is that we typically have 20–30 minutes every service to engage our audience and to share Jesus with them in a way that is both enlightening and memorable. By focusing on the story, the artistry, and our authenticity we give our church a great opportunity to have a real face-to-face encounter with God!