How I Pick Worship Songs

Featuring Jachin Mullen Posted on June 11, 2008

Every week as I prepare to lead God’s people in worship I have to pick a song list. I am sure many worship leaders have many different ways that they process picking songs for their church, but I would like to share how I do it and hopefully it will help you in your process.

First of all I like to worship (what a novel idea for a worship leader). Sometimes it is sitting down with a guitar but often it is in my car or in my home around the house. Often there will be one song that week that I find myself singing all the time. That song often becomes the centerpiece of the worship set for that week. Why? Because If I am not engaged as a worshipper, I won’t make much of a worship leader. I always remind myself that God has to be first to me, even as I am leading others. If a song or a line of a song connects deeply to me it will probably reverberate to everyone else.

As I am preparing, I need to remember that worship leading is not a popularity contest, it’s not about the latest, coolest song, or the coolest new sound or style. It’s about the presence of God meeting us and touching our lives forever. However I want my church to be culturally relevant and current so that people that have never experienced Christ would be captivated by the sights and sounds and eventually be captivated by the deeper spiritual connection to God that happens when we worship together.

When I eventually find that first song (the centerpiece of the set) I note what key it is in as well as a general theme and lines of the song that really stick out to me. Let’s say that song is “My Chains are Gone” by Chris Tomlin in the key of G. The obvious themes are freedom and grace. I have written a song called “More Than Amazing” that is in the key of F and modulates to G so I would put that song ahead of “My Chains are Gone” so that there would be a smooth transition as well as a constant theme. And just for fun we would end with “Freedom We Know” by Joel Houston. It is a upbeat fun song that declares our freedom in Christ. I am not the type that likes to end the same every week. Every set should have dynamics just like a single song should have dynamics. It should have dynamics that make you feel the tension and the release of that tension. A set of songs should not be one giant build, it should be a mountain range of feelings and moods that make you want to continue to participate.

A common mistake that worship leaders make is to start at a 10 and stay at a 10 for too long. Soon, a 10 feels like a 2 and everyone’s ears are done and the people begin to disengage not because they want to but because their bodies and ears physically just can’t deal with a 10 for too long. In continuing to build this set, I would begin with a new song I wrote called, “Giving My All”.  It is a rock worship song.  The words are like a ballad but it is rock to the core. It is very engaging and hits a 10 right now with our church. After, “Giving my All,” which is in the key of D, I would stay in that key with a song like, “This God,” by my friend Tommy Walker. This is a feel good song that is a bit more laid back and has a easy to sing “Hallelujah” bridge. The song is full of scripture, it talks about who God is and builds our faith. This set would be about 25 minutes in length and would be energetic yet amazingly worshipful. It would go from, “Giving My All,” in D to a easy transition to, “This God,” it would then become very worshipful and transition to the key of F for, “More Than Amazing,” and build to a modulation to G and, “My Chains Are Gone” and end in energetic praise with, “Freedom We Know”.

Of course, I would put a lot of prayer into worship for that day and I would also be ready to change ANYTHING if it just didn’t feel right. Even to the last minute. In conclusion, you gotta know that my thought is to make the worship service amazing but the most important part is a reverence and sensitivity to the presence of God. That is by far the most important thing we are looking for as we prepare to worship Him together.

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