Planning Sunday's Songs-Plan Progressively
Featuring Bob Kauflin Posted on January 6, 2011
I've downloaded some great sermons to my iPod. But sometimes after listening to a message for about twenty minutes I'll think, This guy isn't making sense. I can't understand his flow of thought, and his transitions are nonexistent. Then I'll check my iPod. Oh. It's set on shuffle. That means I'm hearing five-minute tracks of the message out of sequence. No wonder I'm confused.
That's how some of us lead worship—on shuffle. We sing great songs, but they're unconnected and in no discernible order. That's why we need to plan our songs progressively.
By progressive I don't mean cutting edge.I'm referring to how things fit together, how a theme develops, how different portions of the meeting connect. Some people call it flow.
I know God can use even the most disjointed meetings to minister topeople. He's certainly done it enough times when I've led. But a clear and connected progression of thought helps people fully benefit from our time together.
Since God hasn't given us in Scripture a detailed order for all our meetings, the progression can look different from week to week. We may evenhave multiple progressions in one Sunday.
The Revelation-Response paradigm is one approach. We determine at any certain moment whether God is speaking to us or we're responding to God.
Another helpful progression model is Exalt, Encounter, and Respond. Weexalt God's greatness at the start, encounter him in our hearts and minds, then respond in appropriate ways.
Many churches follow the fourfold order of Gathering, Word, Table, and Dismissal.
Others find a basis for liturgical forms in passages such as Isaiah 6 and Psalm 95. Following the Psalm 95 emphasis, we enter with joyful thanksgiving, move on to reverential worship, then encounter God's voice.
Whatever pattern we follow, the church needs to know where we are at the moment and where we're going. That's planning progressively.
Once the songs or elements of a meeting are connected conceptually, we need to think about transitions—helping people understand how different elements connect.
Spoken transitions generally work best when they're brief and personaland are used strategically. You might explain why you're singing a certainsong or point out the connection between two songs. Comments can bring clarity, inspire faith, sharpen focus, establish rapport, and teach. But if we don't think in advance about what we're going to say, we can sound aimless and confusing. And we almost always end up saying too much. Our words can become filler to cover up feelings of awkwardness or uncertainty. We gushwith emotion but don't have any substance.
For years I printed out what I wanted to say on one page in 18-point bold Arial. That helped me be clear, biblical, personal, and brief, but it often lackedpassion. It sounded like I was reading (because I was). Now I plan my comments in my mind and rehearse them until they're clear. That may take me thirty minutes. But I figure if I can't remember what I'm going to say, no one else will either.
Noticing how songs begin and end lyrically is another aspect of transitions. A word or thought that's repeated from one song to the next can build a sense of continuity and minimize the need to say anything. For instance, the last verse of “How Deep the Father's Love” ends with “his wounds have paid my ransom.” You wouldn't need to say anything if youfollowed that with the chorus of “Jesus Paid It All.”
Other questions to consider when thinking about lyrical transitions includewho is being addressed (Father, Son, Spirit), whether we're talking to or about God (second-or third-person language), and whether the pronouns are individual or corporate.
Transitions can also be musical. Although a whole team can play a transition, using only one instrument provides greater flexibility and dynamic variation. A number of times I've watched a team flawlessly execute a transition they'd rehearsed. But because it was too long or excessivelycreative, the congregation became distracted and disengaged. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that worship in spirit and truth is dependent on musical interludes. They're tools, not masters.
Good musical transitions require a good understanding of tempos, keys,and mood. There's a common misconception associated with each of those.
First misconception: Playing a song faster will make people worship God more passionately. Not necessarily. Usually it just means they'll have a harder time thinking about the words. Try recording your version of an up-tempo songand comparing it with the recorded version. You'll see what I mean. Speed doesn't equal spiritual impact.
If you're not playing to a click track, take your time setting the tempo. The wrong tempo can hinder a song's effectiveness. Singing the chorus to yourselfis usually a reliable way to remember how fast a song should be sung.
Second misconception: For the best flow, songs need to be in the same key. Again, not true. It's great when a song is in the same key as the previousone. But musical goals should serve, not dictate, spiritual goals. When two songs are in different keys, that just means we need to figure out how to modulate from one to the other. We typically use some variation of the V chordin the new key (for the key of D, that would be A, Asus, or G/A) or repeat a rhythmic phrase or harmonic progression from the old key in the new key. It's also possible just to end one song and sensitively start the next song in a newkey. For slower songs, it's usually most effective to let one instrument carry the modulation.2
Third misconception: We're trying to create a “worshipful” mood. Wrong again. We're seeking to help people actually worship the Savior. They can dothat with a loud song, a soft song, a fast song, a slow song, a modern worship song, or a hymn. However, we should be sensitive to the musical moods ofsongs and lead people naturally from one to the other. If I'm going to follow a quiet song with a rocker, I should be sure people know why and not simply allow the music to move their emotions.
Tempo, key, and mood are important in transitions. But unless we focus onthe biblical truths we're seeking to communicate and respond to, they candistract us from the truth God wants to sow in our hearts.
Other Posts Featuring Bob Kauflin
- Why Confession Is Good for Your Soul and Your Church with Bob Kauflin
- Planning Sunday's Songs-Plan Contextually
- Focus on Projecting Lyrics
- Music Should Display Variety
- Hearing Familiar Words in a Fresh Way
- Planning Sunday's Songs-Plan Selectively
- Planning Sunday's Songs
- Selecting Sunday's Songs-Plan Creatively