Selecting the Right Set-List for Worship

Posted on August 1, 2008

There are hundreds, even thousands, of titles to consider. It can become a mind-boggling process. Let’s say you find one with an interesting title this sounds like the message you’re looking for. But the tune is dull and unmemorable, or the words are trite and unlyrical, and the hooks are non-existent. Pass this one up. Your congregation may try to sing it because you ask them to and they’re good sports (after all, they’re a captive audience.) Then again, they may not. At any rate, they won’t remember it, nor, if given the opportunity to vote, will they ask for it again.

But there are some other factors to consider in planning a worship set:

1. What is the Holy Spirit saying to this congregation now?

2. What is the pastor ministering on in this service? (This may or not
be important. Some pastors prefer the songs to relate thematically
to the sermon, while others feel that a good worship experience is all
that’s necessary.)

3. Where are the people in their corporate experience, and what are
they ready for now? Spiritually? Culturally?

4. What songs, and in what sequence, will best lead the people into
an awareness of the Presence of God? Choose songs that move
progressively through the gates, into the courts, then into the Throne
Room. (Psalm 100:4) Avoid mere musical variety for its own sake.

5. Consider using at least one great hymn of high praise, then select
worship songs that relate to its theme.

6. Know where you’re aiming, but be ready to change as the Spirit
leads. A sensitive leader will on occasion go into a song that hadn’t
been planned, because the Holy Spirit is doing something unanticipated
among the people and the leader feels the need to linger on
this theme and let God do his work. This can only happen in cases
where the leader is mature and able to minister and has the trust and
permission of the pastor. But if God wants to do something that we
hadn’t planned for, it would be a shame to tell him, “Sorry, Lord, but
You can’t do that. It isn’t printed in our bulletin.”

Watch your congregation. If half of
them are dutifully clapping to the beat
while gazing around the room with
their mouths shut, that song isn’t

7. The hand-off. What will the pastor do when you finish the worship
time? He may want to continue in an unbroken stream of ministry.
The hand-offsong should be carefully chosen to achieve this.

8. In all your praise and worship writing and leading, don’t forget
Jesus. Not every song needs to be about Him, but with all the recent
emphasis on Old Testament patterns of worship and setting psalms
to music, He sometimes gets left out. But the preaching of the cross
and the name of Jesus are where the life-changing power is. All
the symbolism of the Old Testament altar consisted of types and
shadows of which Jesus is the fulfillment. (But who wants to live in

When you’re putting together a worship service, give some
thought to this. And when you’re praying about what to write—The
church needs songs that:

1. Invoke the presence of God, to minister to and to be ministered to by Him.
2. Declare the glory, authority and power of God.
3. Acknowledge the faithful provision of God in every need.
4. Acknowledge the work of the Cross for reconciliation and access to God.
5. Respond to the claims of the Cross to all we have and are.
6. Ask for God’s blessing and intervention in our nation.
7.  Ask for God’s blessing and intervention in the nations of the world.
8.  Declare our position and authority in Christ and wage spiritual warfare.

Whether you’re presently a worship leader or not, plan a worship
set, considering each of the questions above.

Hymns or Choruses?
Worship songs and hymns generally serve two different purposes. A
worship chorus, with its more frequent repetition and built-in cries, has little
room for more than one or two thoughts, and serves as a prolonged emotional
expression of a moment’s devotion. The great hymns, with their four
or more verses, each treating a different aspect of the theme, are full of richness,
sublime thoughts and doctrine.

A century or more ago it was common
for a Christian to own a Bible and a hymnbook, which he used not only in
church, but as private devotional reading. Many a Christian owed much of
his knowledge of doctrine to the hymns, which hammered the great truths
metrically into his memory. This practice is rare today, and congregations
that are served only a steady diet of short choruses sung over and over are
being malnourished and robbed of a rich part of their heritage.

This article is an excerpt provided by GOD SONGS
How To Write And Select Songs For Worship. Visit to Purchase.
Copyright © 2004 by Paul Baloche, Jimmy and Carol Owens
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without permission.

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