A few months ago we talked about how to choose songs for your setlist. Now we have five more things to consider when planning your worship set:
Not every church gathering is going to have a theme or even a subject focus. Many pastors I’ve served under are still forming their sermons on Thursday for the coming Sunday. However, if you do have a theme, it’s powerful to plan songs with the same theme to create touch points with the sermon. For example, if the sermon is on grace, at least a couple of songs with a grace theme, like “Your Grace Is Enough”, will help connect worship to the teaching. You can search for songs by theme at www.WorshipTogether.com.
TEMPO & DYNAMICS
A worship set should have some sort of dynamic flow. This is usually created by planning songs of different tempos in a way that takes the congregation to your chosen destination (see point 5). It’s very boring to sing four songs of similar tempos, so variety is the key. There’s no rule for whether to sing faster songs at the beginning and slower songs at the end. I’ve seen this done very effectively both ways. If you want to end your worship time in a quiet, reverent manner, plan your upbeat celebration songs at the beginning of your set. You can search for songs by tempo at www.WorshipTogether.com.
Along with different tempos, it’s good to sing songs in different keys for variety. The “key” to song keys is: (a) picking keys that the congregation can sing, and (b) thinking through how you will transition from one song to another (see point 4).
A good rule of thumb on keys for congregational singing is to keep the lowest note above a Bb and the highest note lower than an Eb. This will ensure that everyone can sing along. Just because Chris Tomlin can sing an F note on “How Great Is Our God”, doesn’t mean your church can. Be sure to choose keys that push the top register and not the bottom. Singing songs in too low of a key will kill the energy. You can search for songs by key at www.WorshipTogether.com.
The difference between a great or awkward worship set are the transitions between songs. Periods of unplanned silence, while your band looks for charts or you take a drink of water, will make your congregation feel uneasy. During your rehearsal, think through how you will get from song 1 to song 2 with minimal disruption.
If song 1 is in the same key as song 2, you can easily transition to the new song without stopping playing. If you are changing keys, you can have a keyboard player transition into the new key with a pad sound. If you can’t transition musically, then think about transitioning with a Scripture or encouraging the congregation to worship.
I touched on this above in the Tempo & Dynamics section. You need to decide where you want your congregation to be when the music finishes. Do you want them in an atmosphere of awe and reverence of who God is and what He’s done? Do you want them to be celebrating God’s mighty works? Is there a certain song that your Pastor would like sung right before the sermon? If the music is after the sermon, do you want people to leave church on an upbeat, celebration tone or quiet and somber?
Asking yourself these questions will help determine how to plan your songs to achieve your destination.