While music isn’t the only way we worship, it’s an important one. There’s something about music that helps people break down their internal walls and actually focus their attention on God.
Our moments of musical worship are more than just an ice breaker. They’re more than just a song service or entertainment. But sometimes it just feels like that. It feels like the people in the seats are unengaged.
A lot of that comes from the way we structure the worship set. If we just string together a set of our favorite songs each week, that’s what people will perceive. But I believe when we structure our worship sets with intentionality and a bit of wisdom, we can reclaim our worship music time to become more than just a song service.
Here are five questions that can help you structure your worship sets with more intentionality.
1. How is God wanting to connect with His people this week?
The first step in creating your worship set is to pray. But pray with intentionality. Ask God what He’s wanting to accomplish this week in the hearts of His people. What does He want the worship to feel like?
Also, this is the perfect time to talk to your pastor. There’s a good chance God has been speaking to him or her all week too, so they probably have an idea of what the service is supposed to look like. Your pastor probably has a theme or a direction they want to take the service.
Will it be joyful? Solemn? Thoughtful?
If you follow one, what about your?liturgical calendar? What themes are you wanting to introduce into the service? Let God lead you. That doesn’t mean, if the theme is “gratitude”, that every song needs to be about gratitude. It might be more of a feeling you’re going for, which leads to the second question.
2. How?should the emotional/energy arc of the worship set look?
The average CCM worship song has a similar energy arc. It goes like this:
- Big: Intro
- Soft: Verse
- Building: Pre-chorus
- Big: Chorus
- Soft: Verse
- Big: Chorus
- Bigger: Bridge
- Soft: Chorus
- Big: Chorus again
- Big: Outro
And if it’s a song from Jesus Culture, Bethel, or Hillsong, there’s probably an “epic” part in the song too. That’s great for an individual song. But you aren’t just leading disconnected songs. You’re creating a set.
In order for your set to not be utterly exhausting, you might need to customize the songs a bit. Maybe you want to start big, drop down softer, then slowly build bigger until the end. That’s a great emotional/energy arc that feels like it’s going somewhere intentionally. It’s not just a hopscotch set of songs.
3. What’s the level of engagement you’re looking for throughout the set?
It used to discourage me every time I came back from a worship conference. After spending a few days worshiping with a group of fervent worshipers, it was depressing being back with my church who couldn’t even clap their way through a whole song. But that’s the way it is; your church will never have the same energy as a room with 1,000 worshipers at an event filled with expectation.
Your folks are weekly attenders, showing up to church after having dealt with traffic, arguing with their spouse, and trying to wrestle the kids into the car. The level of engagement just won’t be there. Plus, they aren’t trained musicians ? clapping and singing at the same time is hard for a lot of people.
So you need to determine what level of engagement you’re looking for during the set. How much do you want them to sing? To clap? To close their eyes?
Use your songs to get to that goal. If you want them to sing at the top of the set, don’t introduce the new song with a complex melody. Or if you need to do that song, maybe build engagement slowly and choose to look for engagement at the back end of the set.
4. What musical ability do you have in your arsenal this week?
Practically, it’s important to know who you’re playing with on a given Sunday. Unless you play with studio musicians each weekend, certain members of the band will be able to do things others won’t. Choose songs that highlight your team’s skill level. More than that, choose songs that will feel effortless so you and your team can focus on leading instead of playing the right lead line.
Some weekends you might be able to pull out the complex songs. But other weekends you might need to stick to simple G, C, D progressions.
5. What hurdles do you need to clear?
Finally, it’s important to think through different things that might be hurdles for your congregation. Here are some potential hurdles that might present themselves:
- A song with lyrics that might be confusing. For instance, Oceans is a great song, but if you don’t know the story of Peter walking on water, it’s pretty cryptic. To overcome this, you might briefly mention the story so people make the connection.
- A forecasted?rainy, overcast Sunday morning. People might come in distracted and glum. To clear this hurdle, maybe you need to address the elephant in the room and help people move past it.
- Something new and confusing on the stage. If there’s a new stage prop or design that doesn’t make sense when you first see it, you might just mention that it’ll make sense later in the service.
Identify any potential distractions and help lead your congregation through them.
Worship should be more than just a string of great Christians songs we put together. By being intentional with your planning, your worship set can take people places.